Road Safety Amendment: Operator Onus Bill

Written on the 29 November 2012

I am pleased to rise to contribute to the debate on the Road Safety Amendment (Operator Onus) Bill 2012. I am pleased too that the Minister for Roads, Mr Mulder, and the government have made a commitment to close the loophole that the bill addresses. It is a quite glaring loophole when you look at the detail of what has been occurring over a number of years, with a number of individuals, companies and others having been able to get around a very serious issue. As has been highlighted by a number of speakers, road safety is of paramount importance to all governments of all persuasions.


Just before coming into the chamber I looked at the Transport Accident Commission website for last night's road toll figure. It is still far too high, at only two less than it was at this time last year. Last night it was 256 and it was 258 or thereabouts last year. That is still far too high a number. It is difficult for all the families and friends of those people who have been involved in those sad fatalities to have to deal with. As we come into the Christmas period, it is even more important that dangerous drivers are taken off the roads. This bill is another initiative towards ensuring that those who should not be on the roads because they are driving dangerously are taken off the roads.


When I was researching this bill I found some news articles from last year. One in particular, in the Herald Sun of 23 December, states:


''In the past three financial years, there were more than 158 000 cases of drivers dodging demerit points from speeding and red light fines. Company drivers are also using the loophole.'



'This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of demerit point rorting', the police source said.'


Before that, an article in August 2011 highlights:

  • 'Records showed a solitary cabbie was responsible for 98 separate driving offences over a two-year period.
  • That driver amassed an astonishing $17 300 in traffic fines, not including late-payment fees.
  • But further inquiries revealed the elaborate scam -- 65 law-breaking cabbies were transferring their demerit points to the one licence.'


From those articles you can see what has been going on and that there has been a scam. The government and the Minister for Roads have identified that.


I note that considerable consultation was undertaken to address this significant loophole and that wide support was received from VicRoads, the Department of Transport, the Department of Justice and Victoria Police to ensure that the loophole was closed. Again, the minister should be commended for taking up the issue so promptly and closing this loophole.


Some issues have arisen for Victoria Police, and it continues to introduce road safety measures. I note that the Victoria Police annual report for 2011-12, on which I spoke yesterday, includes reports on a number of initiatives and various operations. The report outlines the work of Operation REBUS, which was using intelligence to support road policing, and states:


'The operation ensured 24 674 vehicles were scanned, with 186 offences detected, equating to a strike rate of one offence detected every 3 minutes -- many of these offences being for serious unauthorised driving offences.'



A lot is being done in policing, and this legislation will back up the very good policing that is undertaken to ensure that our road safety measures are getting out there and that those people who are driving unlawfully are dealt with. The bill makes changes to further discourage companies from failing to identify their drivers if they are engaged in such unlawful behaviour. Those driving offences obviously include running lights and speeding. The bill closes the current loophole and will ensure that the person who last has possession or control of the vehicle may be liable for any offence and that there can be no transfer through the demerit system, as has been pointed out by other speakers.


The Minister for Roads and the government should also be commended for the work undertaken on other aspects of road safety, specifically around hoon driving. I know that there are hoon driving areas with particular problems along Dandenong Road in Oakleigh, for instance, in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region.


It is telling that within the first three months of the antihoon driving legislation coming into play last year record numbers of hoon drivers were being taken off the roads. Those people are also given to running red lights. This bill will assist in identifying people who may not be caught in the act, but I am confident that Victoria Police and the antihoon driving legislation are having an impact on those offences.


I am pleased that members opposite are supporting the bill. As I said, governments of all persuasions have prioritised Victoria's safety by introducing road safety measures. This state can be very proud of the road safety initiatives it has taken over many years. As I said at the outset, the road toll is way too high. We need to do more work on that. This important bill further strengthens the protection of Victorians from those who should not be on the roads and those who have been rorting the system in the past. Now they will be scrutinised and dealt with accordingly.


It is important that loopholes of this nature, that allow those who can afford to pay and transfer demerit points, are closed so that those motorists do not get off scot-free when they are breaking the road laws that are in place for all Victorians. Along with my colleagues and those opposite, I commend the bill to the house.

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