Thursday 26th June 2008
Minister for Police – Hon Jim Cox MHA
Accident reduction and road safety

Mr FINCH - Having a look table 10.7 on page 10.9, the financial figures look very good.  There is a steady increase year on year, which is always good to see and the performance targets look good too, but more always needs to be done on road safety.  We might have touched on some things concerning road safety for the coming year. If not, please tell me about some priorities for the coming 12 months.

Mr HINE - There are a number of priorities, as you recognised.  We are looking at every opportunity to improve road safety through the traffic secretariat.  We are a member of the Road Safety Taskforce and members of the task force are coming to our traffic secretariat so we can coordinate our strategies better.  In pursuit of high visibility, mobile patrols are always going to be an issue for us as they get police officers out on the roads.  To coordinate across districts, we will continue our statewide lockdowns where we have in place numerous a police interventions.

We have communication strategies with members of the public to give the message that if you break the law you have every opportunity to get caught.  Intelligence-led traffic policing is something we are going to concentrate on, as well as gathering information where people had their last drink, where hoons may be gathering or members of the public are breaking the law.  We are going to have a much more intelligence-led focus on traffic policing.  We will be looking at various laws we can have input into to explore opportunities.

We will also be working with partners including the Road Safety Council, the task force and various local government areas as well.  We will also continue to look at the causal factors of serious injury and fatal accidents and how we can better target those issues.  That is a very quick thumbnail sketch of some of the things we are going to concentrate on in the next twelve months.

Mr FINCH - You mentioned hooning, I want to talk a more about that.  I am curious about the parameters that the department operates within in respect of reporting hooning.  Guide me here, does a police officer need to be the person who sees an offender hooning for that case to come to court and for the car to be confiscated through?  What is the procedure?

[2.15 p.m.]
Mr HINE - There are a couple of procedures.  If a member of the public witnesses hooning, as in the spinning of the wheels, racing, sustained loss of traction, it still is an offence and it can be reported by a member of the public.  We can only confiscate the vehicle if a police officer has witnessed that hooning and then we can confiscate the vehicle within 10 days.

If a member of the public witnessed the act and reports to the police, we do not have the power of confiscation but the offence is still committed and if that member of the public is willing to go to court, we can still take that matter to court.

Mr FINCH - Is there any suggestion that the legislation might be changed to allow video evidence or if somebody has a mobile phone and can capture that offence?  Could that be used as evidence and allow the police to confiscate a car?

Mr HINE - That has been discussed at various forums.  It is not in legislation at the moment but we continue to have those discussions about what is effective, what is not effective, where there is an opportunity where a police officer is not involved to set the situation up, where it might not be quite as difficult because you have it on a mobile phone - you have to look at the legitimacy of how that was captured and all those issues.  We have not advanced beyond discussions. 

Mr FINCH - Particularly in rural areas, the police cannot always be in situ to see the offence take place but members of the public who are awakened at night and harassed by hooners are probably looking for methods by which they can take some action, perhaps through recording the offences that take place.

Mr JOHNSTON - Mr Finch, we have done that.  At a couple of country towns, we have put in covert cameras to catch them doing that, for the purpose of prosecution, not for the purpose of seizure of vehicles.

Mr HINE - But the person who captured that still has to give evidence.  If they come to us with the film, we can prosecute that offence so it is great evidence, but we still need the person who captured the film to come to court and say, 'Yes, this is what I have', so we can prove that in court. 

Mr FINCH - Good, because it is the next step, isn't it, in this hooning.  Obviously the legislation was good and it has caused a crackdown on people doing it; and we have had the offenders punished and the best way is to take their car away from them.

Mr COX - Mr Finch, can I say I must apologise because I was going to defer this to a later time - because I think your question was pinched.

Mrs JAMIESON - I think so too.

Mr FINCH - Yes, sorry, I did go through the chair though, to get permission.

Mr COX - I will take the blame.

CHAIR - I am doing my best but I cannot anticipate every member's question.

Mr COX - No, I was the one who did that, Madam Chair.  Can I say, on the survey that was done, 90.1 per cent of the Tasmanian population believed that there is a speeding or hooning problem.  If it is that high then obviously it is high on the police radar.  They need to do something and they are doing it.

I want to give you a couple of stats to give you an idea here.  There are 834 vehicles that have been confiscated, 80 were motor bikes, 23 of those 80 motor bikes were unregistered - and that is another problem and we know that -

Mr DEAN - I had the question here but anyway.

Mr COX - I thought you might.  Of the motorcycles 15 were trail bikes, one motorcycle was a pocket rocket and if you think that the age group is restricted to those in their teens then the range is from 10 to 75.

Mrs JAMIESON - Hey, there is still time for me.

Mr COX - So there is still a chance for you, Mrs Jamieson.

Mrs JAMIESON - Thank you.


Mr COX - However, the majority of those offences - in fact 700 of them - were 16 to 26 year olds.  It is a priority for police, it is a priority for the people of Tasmania; it is not one that is easily fixed for the reasons that the deputy gave.

Mrs JAMIESON - Is there a way of breaking down the speeding offences when you are driving, say 11km over the speed limit when we have had so many speed reductions and people get caught out, inadvertently sometimes, even though there may be a sign. You may drive through and think, 'Oh, yes, that is still a 60km zone', when in fact it is 50km.

So do you have a breakdown of the range of speeds?


Mrs JAMIESON - Okay, could you take it on notice.  I would be interested to know how many were in that lower range, who were 10km over or whatever.

Mr JOHNSTON - The vast majority are in the lower range -

Mrs JAMIESON - Which raises the question with the general public:  is this a revenue-raising exercise?

Mr JOHNSTON - It may be but the reality is they are breaking the law and they should be attentive enough to know what speed they are driving at although we all - and I emphasise all - make mistakes.

Mr COX - We will move right on from that point, Mrs Jamieson.  Just on that : the 50 kilometres has had an effect -

Mrs JAMIESON - I am not saying it -

Mr COX - It may be the lower end but I am sure if your grandchild, niece, nephew or daughter ran onto the street, and was hit by a car doing 50 instead of 60, they would be more likely to survive.  That is why we did what we did and, again, I was responsible for doing that and I am proud of it.

Mrs JAMIESON - When you are looking at the cause of accidents and fatalities in particular, do you separate what is a suicide or a potential suicide or clearly a suicide?

Mr COX - Yes.

Mrs JAMIESON - Do we have those statistics?

Mr COX - We may not be able to do that.

Mr HINE            - They have to go to the crimes court and if they are then deemed to be suicide they come off the fatal statistics.

Mr WING - But you want to know how many say in the proceeding 12 months?

Mrs JAMIESON - Yes, the proceeding 12 months or two years ago when they went to court.

Mr HINE  - Those figures are available but we do not have them here.

Mrs JAMIESON - Could we have that on notice then?  It would be interesting to have an indication of what are suicides and clearly have been determined as suicides.

Mr COX - I will find out whether I can give you last year's stats for the State and let you have a look at them and see what caused what and why they occurred.

Mrs JAMIESON - If there is a clear indication that there is an increase, one has to ask what you can do about that.

Mr COX - I think this ties in with a comment I made earlier that if you see what caused accidents, sometimes they weren't accidents.  If you see how those fatalities occurred I think you would be quite shocked, horrified actually.  So I will get you a copy of that and we will also get you stats for suicides.

Mrs JAMIESON - Thank you, very much appreciated.

Mr WING - In terms of deterring and detecting hoon drivers, can you give me some idea of the number of police officers on duty in the CBD in Launceston on an average night between about 8 p.m. and midnight?  It seems to mean that there are very few we hardly see any but there is plenty of hooning.

Mr JOHNSTON - It is a difficult question to answer in the context of the CBD of Launceston because the shifts that come to work in Launceston of course will work more broadly than just the CBD itself.  The days of having dedicated beat police who walk the Brisbane Street beat or the St John Street beat or whatever it might have been do not happen any more although we do have a very heavy emphasis on the delivery of beat policing in Launceston.  On the Launceston shifts, allowing for the general uniform personnel, the traffic personnel, the public order response team personnel on, say, a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the hours that you are talking about, I would be surprised if there are less than 20 and probably even more.

Mr WING - That is surprising.  I do not know where they get to because from my experience say after the theatre at 10 o'clock or 10.30 it is very seldom you come across a police officer but very frequent that you see examples of hooning on a regular basis and I think those who engage in that feel there is very little risk of detection. 

So there are probably two possible ways of handling that:  having more uniform officers on duty to deter hooning or alternatively have you considered having plain clothes officers on duty? 

Mr JOHNSTON - That has been done. 

Mr Wing, can I make a couple of observations being someone who lived and worked in Launceston for a long time?  This is a problem that existed in Launceston over 30 years ago and I do not think that it has abated at all in the period since then and that is the people doing the blockies in and around Launceston.  I know the former commissioner on one occasion was sitting outside the hotel in the corner of St John and York streets having a meal on a summer's evening and was astonished because he had never had that experience in Launceston that you and I and I know Mr Dean have had over that period of time.  So it is something that we regularly talk to the northern commander about. We want them to focus on it because as the minister said so many of the community are concerned about this issue.

Mr WING - It probably needs a task force if previous methods have not abated that.

Mr COX - I think it is almost a Launceston tradition and I can take that back many years.

Mr FINCH - But it was also a Hobart tradition, too, and I could go back many years.  It is interesting to note that it was stopped in Hobart.  If that is not occurring in Hobart -

Mr JOHNSTON - It is in Hobart.  It is slightly different because in Launceston, if I recall correctly, the route is constant.  You and I know exactly the corners they are going to turn around.  Mr Wing and I were talking earlier about this and one of the major problems - and again this is an issue of perception - a lot of these people are not breaking the law.  What they do is accelerate from zero to 50 kph but they do it quickly, so they are not breaking the speeding law but they give the impression that they are speeding.  Their driving, in my view, is significantly inappropriate.  A lot of them make a bit of noise but, in doing that, comes that subjective evaluation of 'was it undue noise?'  Then the police officer who heard that has to take the matter to court and has to establish beyond reasonable doubt.  Back in my day the courts were extremely positive in accepting the evidence of a single police officer, but that is not so now.  The reality is that the world has moved on a little.  These people are not necessarily breaking the law but they are taking the law right to the very nth degree and that causes public concern.

The final point, Mr Wing, is you are talking about a task force.  Our public order response teams are there to tackle this issue in big numbers.  They are supposed to be highly visible, they are supposed to be on the streets of Launceston on a regular basis at the times when the community expects to see them.

Mr WING - It is not terribly apparent.

Mr JOHNSTON - I am more than happy to take your observations back to the acting commander of the northern district and ask him to address that issue.  I will also take them up with the newly-appointed assistant commissioner and ask him how he got promoted if he has let Launceston get into such a mess.

Mr WING - Allow it to continue to be in such a mess in that respect, but that respect only.

Mr COX - Mr Wing, on a positive note, there has been a 23 per cent reduction in the vehicles that were confiscated so the message is getting out to them.  It is very embarrassing to lose your motor vehicle.

Mr WING - I am not sure, there probably needs to be an increase to get rid of the problem.

CHAIR - There appears to be quite a bit of pushing the envelope here this afternoon.