Fines Reform Amendment Bill 2017

Written on the 28 November 2017

28 November 2017


Second reading 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)


I want to make a short contribution to the debate because this is actually an important debate that we are having this afternoon in relation to the Fines Reform Amendment Bill 2017. I say that because the bill recognises recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Recommendation 112 is:

The Department of Justice and Regulation investigate whether the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) should be amended so that, if a perpetrator of family violence incurs traffic fines while driving a car registered in the name of the victim, the victim is able to have the fines revoked [within 12 months] by declaring:

  • they were not the driver of the vehicle at the time of the offending.
  • they are a victim of family violence as evidenced by a statutory declaration, a copy of a family violence safety notice or family violence intervention order, or a support letter from a family violence worker, general practitioner or other appropriate professional.
  • they are unable to identify the person in control of the vehicle at the time for safety reasons.

At recommendation 113 the royal commission goes on to recommend:

The Victorian government amend the Infringements Act 2006 to provide that the experience of family violence may be a special circumstance entitling a person to have a traffic infringement withdrawn or revoked [within 12 months].

As has been stated by previous speakers and also by the Leader of the Government in his second-reading speech in relation to what this bill will do, the bill will amend the Fines Reform Act 2014 to establish a scheme to assist those persons who are victims of family violence and who come into contact with the infringements system. As was heard throughout the course of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and has certainly been heard from others who have talked about their experiences, there are circumstances where infringement notices are issued in the name of victims when actually they may not have been, for example, driving the car. These are very significant issues and can cause an enormous amount of stress.

Obviously we know that family violence comes in various forms. It can be physical, emotional, sexual, psychological or economic. This bill addresses part of what I see as both economic and psychological abuse in relation to how these infringement issues play out. Very clearly reform is required, and I know that even the shadow Attorney-General in his second-reading speech spoke about reform of the fines system and what has been happening over a number of years in various jurisdictions and here in Victoria in terms of us reviewing some of those infringement notices and issues that arise for those people who are in circumstances not of their own making and are particularly disadvantaged.

This bill not only goes to those recommendations that have come out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence but also is looking at other aspects. As the explanatory memorandum states:

The bill will make amendments to support the introduction of the new fines recovery model by enabling the courts to refer to the director, Fines Victoria, and empowering the director, Fines Victoria, to deal with fines that are the subject of hearings for a person defaulting on an order.

I just want to mention that because the bill is really designing a system that is enabling those people that need to access it a lot easier, and then it will obviously be able to manage the non-payment of fines. It is my understanding that Fines Victoria will be established in the Department of Justice and Regulation, or the process will be there.

An element in the minister's second-reading speech was in relation to the Victorian infringements enforcement and warrants (VIEW) model, which has been spoken about by my colleague Mr Rich-Phillips. As noted by the minister, the bill will make a range of amendments to support the implementation of the VIEW system to assist with operation of the new fines management model. It was scheduled to be aligned with the default commencement of the amended Fines Reform Act, which was to be 31 December of this year, but due to a number of issues the default commencement date has been extended to 31 May 2018 to allow for these issues that have arisen.

Mr Rich-Phillips knows about this because he was the responsible minister that came in to fix up the many IT bungles of the previous Labor government prior to 2010, and of course when we were in government he did a very thorough and extensive job in understanding the billions of dollars that were wasted in terms of those many IT systems that were put in place under the former Labor government. The government has a history of not getting right IT systems and management of such systems, so I think it is prudent that those issues be taken into consideration by the default commencement date, as has been highlighted in the minister's second-reading speech. I do hope that we can be confident that the actual issues will be sorted out by that time.

The VIEW model is designed, as I understand, to be a single point of contact, so it will be that centralised point of administration. I think also what needs to be taken into consideration is how it will operate in practice. Those issues have certainly been highlighted by other members in relation to applicants to the scheme who might apply to have their fines reviewed or revoked. Again, the community needs to be very confident that those people applying are legitimate in terms of their actual requirements. I do not mean that in a derogatory sense in any way, because I think there are many, many people that actually do need this very valid and worthy system to have fines which have nothing to do with them sorted out. Clearly that form of abuse, which I spoke about earlier, is no fault of their own. What we do not want is there to be an ability for others to abuse this system. That would then set the community up to have no confidence in the system. To understand that and to have the ability of that nexus, as Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips spoke about, is very, very important I believe in this bill.

I note that Mr Rich-Phillips spoke about Ms Pennicuik's amendments, which refer to this issue in terms of the eligibility of a person in division 2 of new part 2B, dealing with the determination of family violence scheme applications under proposed section 10T. Ms Pennicuik's proposed amendments remove the word 'substantially'. I think that is the point in terms of why we will not be supporting Ms Pennicuik's amendments. The community really need to have that confidence in terms of understanding that the applicants who are applying for these schemes are eligible and will not be abusing the scheme.

The other point I want to make in relation to that, as is pointed out in clause 3 of the bill, is in relation to eligible offences. The infringement offences that will be eligible within the scheme do not include such serious infringements as non-registrable infringement offences and drink-driving, drug-driving and excessive speed offences. The clause then goes on to talk about other offences, to which section 95 of the Transport (Safety Schemes Compliance and Enforcement) Act 2014 applies. Those areas are around what many, many people who will apply for this scheme will want acknowledged. They should be able to have those infringements reviewed and dealt with in a timely manner. I am hoping that this bill, once it has had issues sorted out through the IT component and is understood to be working to the best of its capacity, will see that those people who apply through this scheme will have their fines dealt with in a timely fashion.

I, along with Mr Rich-Phillips, will not be opposing this bill, because of the elements that I have spoken about, but I will not be supporting Ms Pennicuik's amendments in relation to that very important issue around eligibility.


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