Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (23:50): I rise to speak briefly to the Road Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. We know that politics is personal; it is something that we often say, but it is true. Like many in this chamber I pay my respects and extend my sympathy to the people in the gallery—Jeynelle Dean-Hayes and Josh Hayes—for the loss of their son Tyler. This bill is born out of that tragedy, and not just that of Tyler but Chloe Dickman as well as many others. It is often the case and it is sad that often our response and our legislation in here is reactive; it is not proactive. We hope to be proactive. We hope to save more lives. But so often it is the loss of a life that leads us to make changes in legislation so that another life may not be lost under the same circumstances.
I remember when I first got behind the wheel of a car. Jesus, it scared the living out of me. Sitting in that car—and it was a very old Cortina of my parents; my parents would not let me drive the new car—I just thought, ‘This could kill me’. Then what actually struck me as even worse and even more frightening was: ‘I could kill someone with this. This car is a weapon’.
And that is what this bill goes towards. We will expand the legislation to recognise that sometimes cars are used as weapons—and they are large weapons, and they certainly can kill. I am not going to speak in too much detail about this—I think so many speakers before me have been so eloquent on this—but this legislation expands the definition of a serious motor vehicle offence for the purposes of the sentencing act and to permit the court to make orders on drivers licences.
In some ways it is surprising that if someone has been charged with murder, attempted murder, gross violence, kidnapping or carjacking their licence was not automatically suspended prior to now. I am very pleased that it will be from now on, and in my view this amendment to this legislation is appropriate. I know that there are other speakers who would like to speak tonight, and I know that it is getting late in the evening. I would like to move amendments to this bill, which I would like distributed now.
Fiona Patten’s Reason Party amendments circulated by Ms PATTEN pursuant to standing orders.
Ms PATTEN: Under the Road Safety Act 1986 it is an offence to drive whilst impaired by alcohol or a drug, and in terms of the hierarchy of drink or drug driving offences driving whilst impaired is far more serious than blowing .05 or testing positive for a drug. It is where someone’s actual control over a motor vehicle is affected by their level of intoxication. Now, this offence would normally be detected by erratic driving behaviour either observed by the police or directly reported by members of the public. In order to establish impairment after the police intercept the driver, an officer will note observations of the driver’s presentation—slurred words, incoherence. They will probably ask that driver to perform a sequencing test not unlike what we have seen on television—walk a straight line, that type of test. But essentially if you do not have full control of your body, you certainly do not have control of a car.
Now, my concern is that section 49(3B) of the Road Safety Act provides a defence to driving whilst impaired for people who are impaired by prescription medication. Let me just repeat that: if you are driving while impaired, that means you have not got control of your vehicle. If you are on a prescription medication, that is a defence to driving while impaired. In other words, this allows some people to be on our roads while they are impaired by a drug. Now, the view of the Reason Party is that no-one should be able to drive when they are impaired, because they pose a significant risk to other road users, pedestrians and the public.
So I would ask members of this chamber to reflect as to whether they think it should be lawful for an intoxicated driver to be swerving all over the same roads that our children are crossing to get to school. It is a loophole that should not exist, and we should take this opportunity to close it today. My amendment is straightforward. It simply deletes this defence from the Road Safety Act and makes some consequential technical changes. I hope that the chamber can embrace this, because there should be no defence to driving while you are impaired on the road.
Now, I support the intent of Mr O’Donohue’s amendments, and how they stand in New South Wales I think they work very well. I will be happy to listen in the committee process and ask more questions, but it seems to me that the structure of our road laws is different from New South Wales, which means that these laws will have unintended consequences. So Mr O’Donohue talks about the immediate suspension in the case of hoon offences, and obviously I have no issue with that. But unfortunately I do not think these laws would just cover hooning because the section that Mr O’Donohue has imported into the definition of relevant driving offences captures a lot more than hoon driving. The section criminalises any loss of traction, so if you did a U-turn and your wheels spun a bit on a white line or you were stopped at traffic lights or you were on an upslope in the wet and your wheels spun a bit, my understanding is that this could also lead to an immediate suspension and could flow on to possibly the inappropriate exercise of discretion by police. I will listen during the committee process about that.
I will also listen to Mr Quilty and listen about his amendments. I must say: the thought of people having absolutely no speed limit while overtaking a car at great speed concerns me greatly. I cannot see justification for that, but I will listen to Mr Quilty’s arguments. I commend this bill to the house. I appreciate the patience of some of the people in the house today. Thank you. I apologise that it is so late for you, but I hope that this does bring you some closure in something that will never be closed in your heart.