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Tuesday, 9 November 1976
Page: 2474

Mr MORRIS (Shortland) -The Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill is the first major amendment to the principal Act since its passage in 1960. The almost total lack of information in the scant speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on 21 October when introducing the Bill belies the impact on motorists of the proposed amendments. The paucity of information is further evidence of this Government's growing contempt for the parliamentary process. I note that the Minister is not in the chamber for the passage of this Bill. While we acknowledge the necessity for some procedural amendments which are proposed and which will relate to changed parking control equipment, the Opposition does not accept that the Minister has justified the heavy increase in penalties proposed such as the introduction of multiple infringements for a single offence or the confiscation and disposal of a person's motor car on the simple authorisation of the secretary of the Department. The Opposition is therefore opposed to the Bill.

The Bill in its present form is heavy handed and ruthless in its attack on motorists. It offers no solution to traffic problems at airports, other than more of the same; that is, heavier penalties which will be, in effect, the means of increasing revenue to this Government. Again the motorist will be slugged hard by the Fraser Government when this Bill becomes law as undoubtedly it will, given the Government's majority in both Houses. -Briefly, the Bill amends the principal Act as follows: Parking fees become recoverable debt to the Commonwealth. Fines for illegal parking and vandalism are increased from $40 to $ 100. Continuous parking, longer than the permitted period, is a separate offence for each period equal to the permitted period. Vehicles parked illegally may be removed and owners, corporate or individual, will be notified by registered letter or newspaper notice. If the owner does not pay the expenses incurred in removal within one month the secretary may sell by public tender or dispose of the vehicle in such a manner as the secretary of the department thinks fit. The proceeds of disposal will go to Consolidated Revenue and the owner may claim the remainder above liability. The Bill removes the right of the owner to action for damages for loss or damage not wilful or negligent. It will be a defence to a parking prosecution if the vehicle was stolen or not in control of the owner. Parking fines in relation to meters are increased from $4 to $10. An authorised person may require the production of a licence. The penalty associated with this matter has been increased from $40 to $100. The penalty for failure to comply with directions from authorised persons is increased from $40 to $100. The attendance of Department of Transport officers shall not be required in undefended prosecutions.

Having in mind the continual refusal of the Minister to supply information I have repeatedly sought in the Parliament when discussing the estimates for the Department of Transport, the succession of secret inquiries and reports which this Government has commissioned, and a Cabinet decision of 9 October 1976 that legislation should not be introduced to the Parliament when the same objectives can be achieved by regulation, it is worth recalling that the purpose of the principle Act, the Airports (Surface Traffic) Act 1960, was to give legislative form to powers over parking at airports previously exercised under regulation 3 15 (c) of the Air Navigation Regulations, made under the Air Navigation Act 1920-1950. At that time the Minister for Civil Aviation was the late Senator Paltridge. He pointed out that the Commonwealth had power under section 52 of the Constitution to make laws with respect to places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes such as the estab,lishment and operation of airports. Unlike the present Minister the late Senator Paltridge presented in some detail the background to and the necessity for the principal Act. At that time the Opposition did not oppose the legislation. It drew attention to the severity of the penalties proposed for parking offences when compared with penalties levied by State governments for similar offences under State jurisdiction. The then Opposition recognised that the purpose of the legislation was to enable the then Department of Civil Aviation, now the Department of Transport, to control parking and to levy fees and fines for parking offences and vandalism at Commonwealth airports.

I turn now to the 1 50 per cent increase in penalties provided for in this Bill. Parking fines will be increased from $4 to $10 as provided for under clause 4, while maximum penalties for court heard offences rise generally from $40 to $ 100. The Minister has given no reason for these massive increases, other than to suggest that they will restore the deterrent value of fines and penalties. If $ 100 is a deterrent then surely $40 is a deterrent. Can the Minister advance some sort of justification or differentiation between the deterrent value of a $40 penalty and a $100 penalty? The Parliament has not been told anything about the frequency of offences, the costs involved in policing parking areas at airports or the difficulties which may have developed since 1960 in controlling traffic in the vicinity of airports. All this information is relevant. Unfortunately no information is available on the breakdown of the costs involved in the ground services provided by the department, in association with airport facilities. The latest statistics available to me on parking offences are found in the department's annual reports of 1973-74 and 1974-75. 1 seek leave to nave incorporated in Hansard a table setting out the prosecutions, the fines imposed by courts, the number of penalties paid and the penalties paid in lieu of court action.

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