Hansard of the Estimates Committee B (Cox)
Thursday 26 June 2008

Vehicle licences and New Technology
Mr FINCH - It is interesting how, in this circumstance, you can go back over history and recall some of the things that have occurred in the past.  In talking about technology, I remember the debate that we had about mandatory carriage of licence, and I remember some evidence given by the current commissioner - before your time, Minister -

Mr COX - No, I was the one who introduced it.

Mr FINCH - Right, okay, it was too.  The argument that was presented to me that came through strongly was that it was a method to catch people who were not licensed and to assist with insurance circumstances.

Mr COX - A combination of reasons, yes.

Mr FINCH - I think the argument that I put forward during that debate - and I might say I was the only one who spoke against that legislation - that I thought there should have been technology made available to police to punch in a person's and get all their drivers licence and identification details.  The assurance from the commissioner was that that technology was some five years away and this could be seen as an interim measure.  Is that facility available now to police officers?

Mr JOHNSTON - How many years did I reckon it was away?

Mr FINCH - Five years.

Mr JOHNSTON - How long ago was that?

Mr FINCH - About three years ago.

Mr JOHNSTON - I think it was around four years ago.

Mr COX - It was four going on five.

Mr FINCH - Next year?

Mr JOHNSTON - The minister was about to tell you they have just started to introduce that technology in Queensland.

Mr FINCH - And in Tasmania?

Mr COX - Before the commissioner tells you the story, and there probably will be a story, there is technology that is being used in different things.  Stepping away from that one for a moment, this comes back to what I was saying to Ms Ritchie a minute ago.  Technology is changing all the time.  From my previous role with DIER I am aware of a system to check truck logbooks.  Members would be know that log books in trucks are not always exactly the most truthful things and quite a few operators have two log books, or so it has been suggested.  There is now a system whereby with a swipe card all the information that they have is now available so an inspector can stop and conduct a random test.  The information is held in a very small black box that goes in the truck.  The reason I tell that is because it is emerging technology, it is just ongoing.  Now the system that you are alluding to is currently in Queensland.  My information on that - and the commissioner may correct me - is that it is not that successful.  There are some problems with it.

Mr JOHNSTON - The first comment I make is that it is unfortunate that we live in a federation sometimes, because some jurisdictions do things on their own when it would be far better for us to have exactly the same systems throughout the country.  One of the big deficiencies of our using the Queensland system is that in Tasmania we do not have the means of reading the technology that they are implementing.  A Queensland driver can come down here and we would have trouble reading the information stored on the licence.  At one stage they were not going to put any information on the driver's licence, it was all going to be on the barcode or on the metallic strip.  Unfortunately if someone came here we would not be able to identify even whether it was a current driver's licence or not.  We are going through some protocols with Queensland to try to work through the difficulties that that causes.

Mr FINCH - At that time I told a factual story about a chap in my electorate who took a tractor out of one paddock and into another paddock.  A police car behind him was able to punch in the registration number of the tractor and book him for being on the road on an unregistered tractor.

Mr JOHNSTON - The convergence of technologies now is fast going towards the use of greater biometrics and I do not think there is any doubt that in four years from now we will be sitting here talking about people simply needing to put their fingerprint onto a scanner and that will tell whoever is reading it the information that they are entitled to read about that person, be it a driver's licence, criminal history, the existence of warrants to arrest them, et cetera.  That is where the technology is clearly heading.

Mr COX - The technology has changed.  At the moment, as you would be aware, the whole process has changed as to how we get our licence, where we do it and what is on it.  That is a process that is about to come on line, I think.