Mr ODENWALDER (Elizabeth) (11:09): I rise to speak on the Road Traffic (Evidentiary Provisions) Amendment Bill 2018. I indicate that I am the lead speaker on this bill for the opposition and, indeed, I will be the only speaker as I am advised that no-one else on this side intends to speak on this bill in order to ensure its very speedy passage through this house.
The SPEAKER: Thank you.
Mr ODENWALDER: We were advised late last week of the need for this bill. I will not go over the reasons for the need for this bill as the minister has outlined them. I agree with them. I agree entirely with the minister's reasoning and with the reasoning of the police, and that is why I agree with the police assessment that this is an urgent measure that we need to take. As a result, I will be extremely brief in my comments.
Clearly, it has become impossible for SAPOL to prosecute these offences. These judgements have made it clear that, because of this technical loophole in the certification process of these devices, any future prosecutions under the current legislation are extremely unlikely. That is why I agree with the measures outlined in this bill, the measures sought by SAPOL, and I agree with the urgency of this measure.
I also echo the minister's view that there is no reason at all for us to believe that these devices are in any way inaccurate. There is nothing in any of these judgements that I could see that even suggested that these machines were accurate. This is a purely technical loophole in the bill which needs to be addressed and should be addressed very quickly. We need to pass this bill very quickly so that the police can get on with doing their job of keeping our roads safe.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Premier, Attorney-General) (11:11): I rise to speak on the amending bill to the Road Traffic Act 1961 to deal with the Lidar traffic speed analysers. I do not think I have actually ever seen one of these, but I understand that we have 190 of them in South Australia and that they are used to aid and support the detection and ultimate prosecution of speeding users of the road. That is not to say that I am not without some fault in this area. I am probably South Australia's worst driver, so I will not be talking about driving records.
I was rather disappointed to hear the lead speaker for the opposition indicate that he was the only speaker. I was looking forward to hearing the member for West Torrens, who is the sort of king of road traffic offences, the lead foot from the west. Nevertheless, it seems as though we are going to be without his wisdom in relation to this.
I am a little disappointed to hear that there is not going to be—or so far—any contribution from the opposition. As much as I welcome the indication from the lead speaker for the opposition that they are supporting the bill, I would have thought that, whilst we are certainly looking forward to the passage of this bill through both houses of parliament, let's not forget that the former government over two years, having been alert to this problem, did nothing about it.
I am a little concerned that the opposition, under the guise of having to deal with something quickly, is not coming to the parliament to perhaps explain why the former government had done nothing since 2016, especially as the Leader of the Opposition is now in this parliament and able to make a contribution on this. As the former police minister in the former government, he should make a statement about why we did not need any legislative reform to deal with the defects that were identified and highlighted back in 2016. The other thing I would note for the record is how sad I am—
The SPEAKER: Order!
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: —that the Hon. Bob Such is not here in this parliament to hear this debate finally. Those of us who have been here for some time—I know the Clerk of the House has been diligently working here for a long time—can remember the passionate speeches, many of them—
Ms Bedford: From that very spot.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: And the member for Florey, of course, would remember from about six metres left of her in the chamber was the Hon. Bob Such plaintively pleading for justice in respect of a speeding offence which he had received and for which he was seeking some redress. All he wanted at the time was the opportunity to have the speeding device analyser produced for the purposes of expert examination and testing. He was never granted that. He was certainly passionate in his pleas to us in the parliament to do something about it. I am very sad that he is not here to finally see this day come after a litany of litigation about these matters, including his own case, which I think is meritorious to review.
As the lead speaker, our Minister for Police pointed out that this is not a piece of legislation that is coming to us to remedy any defect in the speed detection analysers that we are talking about, these Lidar guns. It is all about the certification and a process, which was introduced by the previous government, essentially to try to minimise the cost and inconvenience to police as prosecution witnesses in these types of cases. That is meritorious, obviously, to present a model which will try to minimise costs but, when it is deficient from the point of view of providing compliance with the principles of the law, then obviously we as a parliament have to revisit it.
In this case, the Commissioner of Police announced last Thursday that, on the advice they had received, he was withdrawing 190 of these devices from use in the detection and prosecution process for those who were allegedly committing speeding offences and that, as a result of the deficiency in certifications, he would be recommending and requesting that the parliament initiate some statutory reform. Consistent with that, I commend the Minister for Police for promptly advising the parliament, and thereby the public of South Australia, of what we were facing and what needed to be remedied.
As quickly as possible, he alerted the public to the fact that this government would institute a statutory remedy to ensure two things, most importantly. Firstly, although some pending prosecutions would be lost, there will be active re-use of the guns with that certification, with a new certification procedure to ensure that it could continue; secondly, and most importantly, to make sure the public is aware that this government takes road safety very seriously. We need to ensure that we act as soon as practicable, particularly as we have the holiday season approaching, which seems to attract a higher level of injury and death on our roads, and we have.
In that regard, we welcome the opposition's prompt consideration of this matter in advance of what would normally be the process of delay to enable consultation and the like. The bill before us has the blessing and approval of the Commissioner of Police. I want to mention that because last week, when the commissioner announced the need for statutory remedy, he sought additional clauses to deal with the remedying of this matter, which at first blush seemed to be a reasonable request.
He requested a further amendment to section 175 to permit the prosecutor to tender a certificate that the traffic speed analyser was used by the respective police officer in accordance with the appropriate Australian standard and, if there is no appropriate standard, in accordance with the manufacturer's specification as proof of the facts certified in the absence of proof to the contrary. This was deemed later to be unnecessary under review of the Crown Solicitor's advice.
SAPOL had also requested an additional amendment based on section 141—that is the rebuttal of evidence concerning traffic speed analysers—of the Road Transport Act 2013 (New South Wales) to designate that evidence in court that contradicts or challenges the accuracy or proper operation of a traffic speed analyser (that is not a photographic detection advice) may only be admitted from a person who has relevant specialised knowledge. Again, this was identified as being unnecessary in respect of the process of reforms.
I think it is fair to say that whilst one tries to close every loophole, with legislation, sometimes by repeating what is already the case or what is a different process can cause confusion, and the last thing we want to do is create a situation where there is a process in respect of admissibility, burden of proof and/or the obligation as to what the terms and conditions of a challenge would be if they are inconsistent with another process.
That is the last thing we want to do: create another problem that would challenge the court's capacity to operate. Again, I commend the Minister for Police for acting on the matter and place on the record my appreciation of the very prompt work undertaken by the Crown Solicitor's Office in the Attorney-General's Department to try to ensure that the terms of reform are going to be the most appropriate.
I would like to say something about what happened in July this year because Justice Peek of the South Australian Supreme Court handed down three judgements: Police v Hanton  SASC 96, Police v Miller  SASC 97, and Police v Henderson  SASC 98. All three judgements, as identified by the Minister for Police, dealt with the question of operational police using traffic speed analysers, the Lidar device, in relation to speeding offence detections.
At the trial, prosecution and the officer of the police—that is, of the rank of inspector or above—tendered a certificate pursuant to section 175(3)(ba), under Evidence, of the Road Traffic Act. Members will know how that reads; it sets out a certain documented procedure for the proceedings of an offence against the act in the use of these devices. Justice Peek, in these judgements, held that the prosecution was not entitled to prove the accuracy of the TSA through tendering the certificate. Obviously this brought into question the capacity to successfully prosecute in those cases and in a number of others.
Without revisiting those, because I think they are well known to members, there are two things I want to place on the record. One is the police procedure as best I understand it, what they have been doing, because I want it to be clear, and I think the parliament is entitled to appreciate, that there have been existing practices in terms of how these things have operated. My understanding is that SAPOL, in accordance with the Australian standards and the manufacturer's handbook for the two approved traffic speed analysers, requires operators to test their particular traffic speed analyser unit before and after commencing operations every day.
Current testing processes used by SAPOL involve the operator conducting a series of field tests. These field tests are described by Justice Peek in the decisions I have referred to as the five-step test plus calibration check. They comprise: (a) a visual test, which is checking for damage to ensure the calibration is current and seals are not damaged or missing; (b) a self-test of the internal circulatory unit by pulling the trigger or turning the button on the check for an error code; (c) the display test, checks the in-scope and rear panel display segments to ensure they are working; (d) scope alignment test to ensure the scope is aligned with the transmitted light beam; and (e)fixed-distance zero velocity test confirms the unit's ability to accurately measure time and calculate distance and speed.
The fifth test, the fixed-distance zero velocity test, involves measuring the velocity of a stationary object from a fixed and known distance away. For example, the speed gun is trained on a stationary target 20 metres away and returns a reading of zero kilometres and 20 metres distance. If the speed gun returns a reading within plus two or minus two kilometres of the true velocity zero, and a reading within plus 20 or minus 20 centimetres of the true distance of 20 metres, the speed gun passes the test.
In accordance with the Australia Standards, a speed gun must be laboratory calibrated every 12 months. This involves testing the device using the simulator method prescribed in appendix A of AS4691.1 to ensure that the speed measurements are accurate within a range of plus 2 or minus 3 km/h and range measurements are accurate within a range of plus 0.3 or minus 0.4 metres. A certifying officer under section 175(3)(ba) receives information confirming that the speed gun has passed the five-step test on the day of the detection, and a certificate confirming the speed gun has been laboratory tested within a period of 12 months prior to the detection.
There is a certain process of the evidentiary form to be completed. That process preceded, I suppose, what has been the then reliance on the certificates, on the face of it, to determine that the burden of proof shifts then to the defendant to establish to the contrary rather than the evidentiary burden of proof on the police.
Apart from being disappointed that the former government did not fix up this mess and Justice Peek having to deal with a number of these matters, I think it is important to appreciate that this is not something that the former government would have been blind to, because there have been previous cases. Let's just be clear: Justice Peek concluded in his determinations that if a defendant can point to sufficient evidence in the case that the averred specified tests did not occur at all or, if they did occur, they were not capable of establishing or did not establish the specified level of accuracy, the main presumption may, ipso facto, fall to the ground.
Both before and after the Young case, there were a series of cases in which the appellant failed to adduce sufficient evidence to discharge the onus. One, in Such v Police—that is, the Hon. Bob Such —it was argued as a matter of logic and science that a test involving a fixed object could not give rise to a valid result of plus 2 or minus 2 km/h because the test described did not involve measuring the accuracy of the speed gun against a moving target.
Those tests were incapable of resulting in a measure of accuracy of speed assessment which could be assessed as plus 2 or minus 2 km/h. The Full Court concluded in the absence of evidence having been adduced at trial that no conclusion can be reached by this court about the suitability of the fixed-distance check to assess the accuracy of speed measurement.
In the case of Young, the appellant tendered evidence regarding how the fixed-distance test should be conducted. The evidence established that the measured distance used by the other officer to conduct the fixed-distance test were measures to be slightly more than prescribed. The attempt to impugn the test failed. The appellant called no expert evidence as to the meaning and significance of the factual matters upon which he sought to rely. There was sufficient evidence to constitute proof to the contrary.
In the case of Wyatt, the magistrate concluded that, as a matter of common sense, the tests do not show the accuracy of the device and clearly not within the purported limit of error. Justice Kelly in that case held that simply raising questions about the testing process in cross-examination did not prove on the balance of probability that the tests were incapable of showing the accuracy of the device.
In Butcher No. 1, which has been referred to, the defendant submitted that the presumption was displaced because the certifying officer only had before them a notebook containing the words 'test' and 'two times'. It was submitted without evidence of the actual test performed and the results of those tests. The certifying officer could not be satisfied of the matter certified. In a passage that was implied but not adopted by Justice Peek in the Hanton and Miller cases, Justice Stanley stated:
A submission that the police officer could not as a matter of fact have been satisfied with the matter certified in the document misunderstands the very intent and purpose of the statutory provision. The purpose of the certificate is to establish a statutory presumption without regard to the facts. In effect, it reverses the onus of proof. It shifts the onus to the person to discharge the evidentiary burden of disproving the facts certified in the document. That is not achieved by pointing to the absence of sufficient evidence of the facts certified before the relevant police officer.
Butcher No. 2 was also a decision of Justice Stanley in 2016. Much has been said about that case, particularly by the former minister for police, Mr Malinauskas. I am disappointed that we have not heard from the opposition as to why all these matters were left unattended to, but let us be clear: we are sorting the mess out. It is another Labor mess. I am very proud of our Minister for Police in getting onto this immediately, and we will ensure that this is remedied as quickly as possible.
Mr TEAGUE (Heysen) (11:31): I rise to commend the bill to the house. In doing so, I want to observe at the outset that, as South Australians, we comply with the law. In complying with the laws of our state, members of the South Australian community have every right to do so with the requisite confidence in the system, particularly in relation to summary offences and the police matters that are the subject of the bill.
This is not an occasion for a debate about the relative merits of enforcement measures in place to ensure road safety in this state insofar as the cameras that are the subject of the bill relate directly to the detection of speed. It is also not an occasion to look at other compliance measures that police on the roads are engaged in enforcing, including the use of seatbelts, the recognition of the effects of alcohol and drugs and other matters contrary to the interests of safety on the roads.
Insofar as we are concerned with the efficacy and appropriateness of the use of speed cameras for road safety, we have committed to and are prosecuting an audit of speed cameras. It was an election commitment that we are pursuing to ensure that speed cameras are used in the interests of road safety so that we can have maximum confidence in the system. I understand that work is well underway.
We come to debate this bill in circumstances of some urgency in a very narrow frame, particularly in an evidentiary context. I am pleased to hear that the opposition supports the hasty passage of the bill in both houses, as I would observe is appropriate and welcome. The bill should proceed without delay. It is appropriate to note at this time that the bill before the house and the amendment that is the subject of the bill come against the background of three recent decisions of Justice Peek.
More fully, they really come against the background of those three decisions of Justice Peek and the 2016 decision of Justice Stanley in the case of Police v Butcher. To be even more particular, the three decisions that were published by Justice Peek on 19 July are really two matters that came before him in May this year, and the third matter, Police v Henderson, was one that came before him a year ago and was only the subject of reasons more recently because the problem had persisted.
I will walk through those steps because it ought to be clearly understood that, in the matter of Police v Butcher, the decision of Justice Stanley, handed down on 17 August 2016, was a magistrate's appeal. It was a matter in which the magistrate had made the observations that are, relevantly, now the matter that is being remedied in the bill. This really all stems from the vindicated observations of the magistrate before the matter came before Justice Stanley in Police v Butcher, which related to speeding charges that were alleged to have occurred in 2012.
As the Attorney-General has observed, this is a matter with some history, not just in recent weeks and months but over a period of several years. It may be apposite to observe that the minister for police between 19 January 2016 and 18 September 2017, now the Leader of the Opposition, was minister for police at the time that Justice Stanley made his decision in Police v Butcher and so was in a position, I expect, to be fully apprised of these matters over at least that time period and in all of the time since.
Before fast-forwarding from Police v Butcher, I want to make observations about the way in which these matters are routinely dealt with. I observed at the outset that this is a matter of summary procedure in which the confidence of the community of South Australia is very important. As many of us know, and some of us have experienced, the vast bulk of offences that are the subject of charges under the Road Traffic Act are dealt with by way of expiation notice, that process being one in which a bargain of sorts is struck between the police and the recipient of the notice, with a view to minimising procedural cost and ensuring that a matter is expedited.
In the vast bulk of these cases, a person who is issued with a notice effectively admits guilt and pays the fine, and the matter is disposed of in that way. In the event that a person does not admit guilt, the matter goes to trial, and in all these cases that are the subject of recent appeals it will be heard at first instance by a magistrate. The magistrate will need to determine whether or not the charges are proved by evidence.
It is at that point that there is a further opportunity, at the evidentiary level, for there to be, for want of a better term, an evidentiary shortcut, a procedural convenience. That is made available to police, as the act currently stands, in accordance with section 175(3)(ba) whereby police are afforded the opportunity to tender in evidence to the court a certificate that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, will establish that the machine that was measuring the speed was doing so accurately.
It is in the circumstances of that procedural shortcut that the focus has turned when it comes to proving charges that are often initially the subject of an expiation notice and then find themselves needing to be dealt with in the courts. The person responding to the charges is then, by virtue of the certificate, placed in a position where they have an onus, unusually, to establish that the certificate ought not be relied on.
As the minister has pointed out, we are dealing not with circumstances in which the camera used to detect the offence is inaccurate or that any of the elements of the offence have not occurred, but a process by which police are able to conflate and shortcut the procedural burden of having to prove all those things. As Justice Peek has recently observed, the police have for some years gone about the process of preparing a certificate according to a five-step test, and it is that which has been impugned, and it is with a view to remedying the appropriate effect of tests that are used for the purposes of the certificate that the bill now sets out to amend.
I want to make the further observation that Justice Peek has been moved to deliver what are exhaustive reasons, particularly in relation to the two recent matters of Hanton and Miller, against the background of having handed down judgement in Henderson. It is important to note that Henderson is a case that came before the Supreme Court on appeal around a year after Butcher. Unlike in Butcher, where the magistrate had found the problem and Justice Stanley upheld the correctness of the magistrate's decision in finding that the certificate could not be relied on, in Henderson it was the other way round.
In Henderson, the magistrate had found that the charges were proved. When the matter came before Justice Peek on appeal, Justice Peek pointed out that the magistrate had erred and prosecution withdrew the charges, so there was no hearing at the time and no reasons handed down at the time. There were some observations made by Justice Peek on handing down those reasons a year ago to counsel who appeared on that occasion, effectively pointing out: 'Hang on. A year ago at that time, we had Justice Stanley's decision in Butcher. I,' that is, Justice Peek, 'have had to correct the decision of a magistrate based on the same authority. Prosecution has noted that and the matter has been dealt with, but you're on notice. How are you going to respond?'
Some reference to that context is set out in the reasons of Justice Peek at paragraphs 5 through 13 of his reasons in Henderson; I will not read those out. Suffice to say, Justice Peek is really making the observation that in fast-forwarding to Hanton and Miller—the matters that came on before him earlier this year—he has moved to deliver reasons in Henderson, it would appear, because in his observation the message does not seem to have got through and so here we are. I hasten to note that each of the decisions involved somewhat different circumstances but, importantly, all of them involved speeding at some considerable margin above the relevant speed limit.
I think in Hanton, a matter involving speeding on a motorbike at Greenwith, the defendant was alleged to have been travelling at 126 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. In Henderson, a matter involving alleged offences by a driver on a probationary licence at Murray Bridge, speed of 76 km/h in a 50 km/h zone was involved, and in Miller allegations involved speeding at Waikerie at 94 km/h in an 80 km/h zone, all of which involved relatively substantial speed in excess of the speed limit.
The issue of the certificate being used, and the need to do so, arose because the charges required proof specifically of the extent to which speeding exceeded the speed limit. It is important to note that these offences require proof with the degree of specification that the cameras are perfectly capable of providing. Absent the certification process being accepted as evidence of that specific speed in excess of the limit, the charges, or some of them, particularly charges in relation to section 45A of the Road Traffic Act, cannot be made out.
Faced with what we understand a matter of days ago to be advice from the Commissioner of Police that these devices, approximately 190 of them, would be withdrawn from use, absent a legislative change, we get on with it and make that change without delay. Obviously, we want to ensure that flow-on consequences are not in play any longer than absolutely necessary, all with a view to ensuring that, in legislating in this area—and as I fully expect will be the matter of debate when the results of the audit come to light—we do so with a view to ensuring maximum confidence in the system and, in all things, maximum effort applied to ensure that our roads in this state are as safe as they possibly can be.
The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (11:51): I rise to support the bill, and I commend the Minister for Police for bringing it to this house in such a speedy fashion. This is something that we need to get on with and fix. This is not something to dillydally about. It is pretty straightforward, it is pretty simple and we just need to get cracking on it. I urge the opposition to support this very straightforward bill.
Mr Hughes: We are.
The SPEAKER: Member for Giles, do not interject.
The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: No, thank you, Speaker. They have just confirmed that they will, for which I thank them.
The Hon. L.W.K. Bignell: We did it an hour ago.
The SPEAKER: Member for Mawson!
The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: The mistake I would hate them to make is not to appreciate the fact that I have acknowledged that they are doing that. It is an important thing to just get on with and do. We cannot have 190 of these Lidar laser speed detection units out of the system in coming months over the busy Christmas, new year, summer holiday and school holiday period. That would be a dreadful mistake.
I know that the vast majority of South Australians drive as responsibly as they possibly can. I know that none of us is perfect. There is not a person I am aware of who could ever say that they have not accidentally drifted over the speed limit, but the vast majority of people do the very best they can to drive safely and responsibly.
But it is well worth saying that one of the reasons that the vast majority of people drive safely is that they know the reality is that, if they do not, they might get caught and they might get an expiation notice or go to court and they might lose their licence or get demerit points. There are all of those possibilities, but, even worse, they might hurt someone.
There are a lot of reasons why people do the very best they can to be responsible on the roads, but why would we be foolish enough to think that police presence, and enforcement of the laws, is not one of those very good reasons? Of course, it is one of those very good reasons, so the minister brings this to the house to try to get things fixed. Police have done what they could to find a remedy outside of parliament. I went to the briefing last week—I think it was Wednesday lunchtime—and they explained to us the things they have done to try to get this matter fixed. From their perspective, this is really a bit of a last resort. They would have liked to be able to just arrange it themselves, which would have made sense, without taking up the parliament's time.
Of course, one of the things that must be stressed is that there is no suggestion that these Lidars are or have been operating inaccurately. There is no suggestion that the motorists who have been pulled over and expiated or have gone to court were not actually guilty of the offence of speeding. The suggestion is that it has not been possible, on a few occasions, for police to prove to the satisfaction of the court that the Lidar's accuracy had been certified properly. That is really all we are trying to do; all we are trying to do is fix up that issue.
When this came up a couple of years ago, in 2016, when the now Leader of the Opposition was then the police minister, and more recently when it came up last week, I thought of the former member for Fisher, Dr Bob Such, who, as most members will recall, put in an enormous amount of personal time and an enormous amount of his professional time as a local member of parliament, and I am led to believe an enormous amount of his own money as well, into trying to get to the bottom of issues such as this.
Back in 2016, I suppose in some ways he was vindicated at least to the point where the court said that it was not possible to be satisfied about the certification process. It is totally separate, as I say again, from the issue of whether they are actually genuinely operating accurately; that is, the certification process to show that they are operating accurately. So, Bob Such—may he rest in peace—would probably have some satisfaction in what we are doing here today.
People need to have confidence in the system. He did not have confidence in the system. A lot of other people do not have confidence in the system from time to time. I think that should be very, very rare in South Australia. We are incredibly fortunate to have a police force that is, year after year after year, recognised as the most trusted in the nation and, no doubt, one of the most trusted in the world. I remember back when I was shadow minister for police I think there was a public assessment done through polling, and other feedback means, that found that South Australia Police were trusted at a rate to something like either an 84 per cent or 86 per cent standard by those surveyed—incredibly high—and full credit to the South Australia Police for that.
We want to ensure that that does not change. We want to enhance that trust. We want to remove the question that has come up in court about the certification so that that in no way harms the reputation of the police. It will not actually change what police do. It will not change their processes, their procedures, and it will not change the accuracy of the Lidars, by the way, but it will remove the opportunity for diminished confidence.
There is no point in avoiding another home truth, which is that very often it is not actually about diminished confidence: very often motorists also just have a crack to see if they can find a technicality, just to see if they can find a way to get out, just to see if there is something operationally or mechanically that was not done properly. It is not actually about confidence in the police; it is actually about just seeing if they can get off the fine or avoid losing their demerit points or, potentially, avoid losing their driver's licence.
There is a range of things at play here. It does not matter how I look at this, I cannot find any reason not to support the police on this issue. I think the way they have behaved is completely appropriate. Again, I commend the Minister for Police for bringing this so swiftly to this parliament, and I appreciate the opposition's support. Let me also go on to say that the fatalities and serious accidents on our roads are overwhelmingly due to fatigue, inattention, drugs and alcohol, not wearing seatbelts, and speeding. Keep in mind that speeding and the speed limit are very different things. They are closely connected, but they are not the same.
The setting of a speed limit—whether it is 25 km/h in a school zone or 110 km/h on the Stuart Highway—is done for a range of reasons; however, speeding and the other four factors I have mentioned are the most common causes of fatality and serious injury on our roads. We have to ensure that the police have the tools they need to go about their business responsibly and to do everything they possibly can to deter people from speeding on our roads.
We need these 190 Lidars in use as much as possible and practicable, and we need to keep them in use. We need to pass this bill through both houses of parliament so that our roads can be as safe as possible as we come into the Christmas/new year holiday period.
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (12:00): I am very pleased to speak on this important bill. I think the Minister for Police has done very well and worked acidulously ever since it was brought to his attention that this legislative reform was necessary. I am glad that the opposition has indicated support for the bill. I understand that members in the other place have sent smoke signals that they, too, may be in a position to support this bill so that it can pass through parliament this week.
It is rare that we suspend standing orders to rush a piece of legislation through this house in a day, from the first reading to the third. You would hope there is purpose for it when it occurs. On this occasion, the opposition's support for the suspension of standing orders to enable that to happen, and the endeavours of the government to do the same, indicate the urgency of this matter. We do have time to discuss the merits and purpose of the bill. This bill has significant relevance for my electorate and my portfolio, and for those reasons I want to add my remarks.
I look forward to the passage of the bill through this house today and its transition to the Legislative Council. I know that members of the House of Assembly sometimes say unkind things about the Legislative Council, and I think that is very unfair. I think our Legislative Council members are very hard workers and very fast readers, and I look forward to them reading these debates and identifying—particularly given the excellent briefings they have received from SAPOL and the office of the Minister for Police, and the excellent application they have put to it—that this bill is worthy of their attention on Thursday, so that it may pass through the parliament.
The aim of the bill is very simple. Can we get our laser speed detectors back on the road so that they are able to perform a road safety function, without the need for the evidence they have gathered to be certified—either by experts who may need to be flown in from interstate or in another manner—that will make it completely and effectively impossible to gain a conviction to impose a speeding fine?
That is the situation we are in as a result of the decision of Justice Peek, and that of Justice Stanley, who came to a similar view in 2016. There have been four cases, and we are 0-4 in this arrangement. Over 100 cases have been withdrawn and the laser guns have been removed from our roads. Every day that passes, from the time the laser guns were withdrawn (last Thursday) to the time they will be restored to our roads—which will hopefully be by the end of this week, or as soon as the Governor assents to the bill—is a day when these guns are not performing important road safety functions.
These road safety functions are critical for our schoolchildren. As Minister for Education, I have had many privileges and pleasures this year. I have been able to share in the joys of the achievements of schoolchildren. I have been able to talk with teachers, parents and schoolchildren about struggles they have faced or things they think that we should be doing better. It is a joyful job in many ways. However, every week it seems I also get very sad emails identifying a student or teacher who has passed away, sometimes through illness but too often through trauma on our roads.
A world of different circumstances can apply here, but we know that so many road deaths are caused by poor driver behaviour. Having an effective response to that, through police enforcing speed limits in a dynamic way, identifying trouble spots and setting their equipment up there will improve driver behaviour. Drivers in the area will know that police have set up there with their guns, and that is critically important.
I spoke to a number of police officer friends of mine when this matter arose. I have had those conversations over the last few days to ask about their experience of using different technologies that might inform me in contributing to this debate. The point that many of them made about the Lidar guns, the laser guns in particular, is that you are able to set up your car or your motorbike in a place where, potentially, a beside-the-road radar would not necessarily be appropriate. Indeed, a fixed camera is a long-term proposition, but usually a fixed camera would be used on busier roads.
It is not always the busiest roads that have the greatest potential risk to an individual driving situation. Whether it is through a poor decision of a driver that causes harm to others or a poor decision of the driver that causes tragedy to the driver themselves, it is our duty as parliamentarians to assist the police in correcting those poor behaviours of drivers. One of the key ways we do that is through the possibility that they will be apprehended or fined and given an incentive for the correction of their behaviour. In the Morialta electorate, that is critically important as there are so many winding roads that do not necessarily carry enormous volumes of traffic, yet sometimes we see extraordinary behaviours on those roads.
On the Sunday before last, I was driving to the Forest Range cherry festival past Norton Summit, on the Lobethal Road towards Forest Range. It is about a 10 or 15-minute drive, and my family was in the car. That occasion comes to mind because it was a really troubling experience. I had someone overtake me on a double line as I was going at the speed limit. A motorcyclist was tailgating us effectively, and I thought, 'What is this person doing about their own behaviours?' Of course, I pulled off to the side as soon as I had the opportunity and the person went off at great speed. That is an example of an area where I will be seeking to have local police take the opportunity to go to those locations when Lidars are back on the road.
On previous occasions, I have had reason—and indeed constituents have had reason—to report to police regular occurrences of such driving or motorbike riding around Mount Torrens on the Lobethal Road, Gorge Road, Montacute Road, and indeed around Ashton, Summertown, Uraidla and Basket Range. There are hotspots and trouble spots, and sometimes they are all too close to residential areas. On some of these roads there is not the opportunity for people to safely be pedestrians, and they have to drive somewhere or ride a bicycle.
These are difficult spaces. A police motorcyclist can potentially find a spot to set up a Lidar gun where they might not be able to park a car to set up one of the old-fashioned radars. Of course, what has been reported to me is that when somebody sets up one of these guns and catches a few people, there is a correction in behaviour for a while. We want that to be an available tool for police at the earliest possible opportunity and to get that back on the road.
I raised before the issues relating to driver behaviour that particularly impact on schoolchildren. The impact of a road fatality or, indeed, serious incident on any family or individual is significant for obvious reasons, but the impact is potentially so much greater when it involves a schoolchild. It impacts on an entire school community and, in rural areas, on an entire town.
The trauma teams from the education department—the SWISS teams, as they are known; social work in particular, but also expertise in dealing with trauma—are so often deployed to communities to deal with the consequences of road trauma and poor driver behaviour. As minister, it has surprised and potentially shocked me. The stories are quite harrowing, because of course it is one thing to see the email of the dreadful circumstances that has come through, but in speaking to the principal of a school, there are these cascades of effects and of impacts.
You have the first graduation ceremony where somebody is no longer part of the cohort that they might have been in. You have the funeral, of course, when the whole school is potentially impacted. You have the long-term challenges for family and friendship groups within the school. Too often, it is primary school-aged children, or even high school-aged children, with so much life in front of them. Their cohort of students miss them, and their teachers are impacted as well.
I spoke to one principal recently to talk through with them how they were faring. They had provided extraordinary support to their school community after such a tragedy, and I just wanted to make sure that the principal was taking the opportunity to avail himself of some of the support mechanisms that were in place. The principal was a very strong person and identified that he was aware of those supports. He identified, indeed, that it was the eighth time in his career as a principal when he had had to deal with one of these situations—over a reasonable number of years, to be sure.
It is worth bearing in mind that there is a reason that we take these steps. There is a series of reasons. The Lidar guns, I think, have that particular use in Hills communities and regional communities, where it has such impact. In a technical sense, we are not talking about necessarily always being just where it is difficult to set up the car, but they also have a greater level of efficiency working in the metropolitan area, as the laser bounces off the car, comes back and you are able to get a quick reading.
Again, police officers I have spoken to, to inform myself about how these guns are used, have identified that it is just in the car you can set up and you are able to then address the matter as soon as it comes along. On that point, it is worth looking at the cases that the courts have dealt with and found that, because of this issue with the certificate and the five-step test not being fully implemented, more than 100 of the prosecutions in effect are no good to go ahead.
There was a case in 2016 where a motorist was driving at 102 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. There was no consequence for this person. Obviously, he had some time in the courts. It was, I should say, an alleged offence committed in 2012. How extraordinary it is even to have to use that word. The alleged offence was committed in 2012, and I think it was Justice Stanley who identified in 2016 that the certification process was not correct. At the time, the minister said:
It's unfortunate on this particular instance in this particular case there was an error in due process not being followed. We don't have any reason to believe that's occurred anywhere else and isn't likely to occur again in the future. We remain confident that the speed testing regime that exists in South Australia is robust and accurate. South Australian motorists should know that if they do speed, they will get caught and ultimately pay a fine.
The police minister at the time is, of course, now the Leader of the Opposition. I imagine that he was operating on the advice of the police. That is fair enough to a point, but of course there were two further years of this taking place. More than 100 prosecutions are now being withdrawn and there is a mess to fix up. I commend the opposition for agreeing, as I understand it, to pass the bill this week so that we can have this mess fixed as quickly as possible.
That brings us forward a couple of years to the 2018 situation, which occurred in July. We are looking at three further cases this year. One is in Greenwith in the member for King's electorate, where a motorcyclist was riding at 126 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. We are not talking about some long, outback trail with no trees and nothing but saltbush for hundreds of kilometres around, no other cars around and a 110 km/h zone—not that speeding in that area is an excuse either, but on a comparative scale we are not talking about one of those types of situations.
I can only imagine it: 126 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. Has anyone seen such a thing happen? I am reliably informed by anyone who has worked in a trauma department that it does not end well. These sorts of things cannot be allowed to pass unpunished. They are putting their own life at risk, they are putting their families' futures in jeopardy and potentially inflicting trauma upon so many people around them. They might crash and do harm or significant injury to themselves or they might do that to others. We are talking about 126 km/h in a 60 km/h zone in a metropolitan area. These sorts of things need to be dealt with as soon as possible.
As the member for Stuart identified, our police in South Australia are significantly respected. I recall, when I was the shadow police minister, there being statistics coming out that would talk about community trust in police. My recollection is that the South Australian community had the highest level of trust in their police of any state. We have not had some of the issues that some other states have had over the last 20 or 30 years, where there has been public faith brought into question, and we are very grateful for that trust we have in our police.
Our police work hard to save lives, and indeed the use of these speed detectors is a significant part of that work. Once this legislation has passed and the certification process is again in a sensible form that will be accepted by the courts, our police will again be able to return to doing this important work. I believe that when they do, the chances of them having to attend on a daily basis to the trauma of terrible accidents having happened will be reduced. People in my electorate of Morialta will certainly be glad of that. People whose children attend schools, who work in schools or who are part of school communities in my portfolio area will be glad of that.
Having speed detection on the road does not solve the problem entirely. There are still people who behave in such a way, but it is a significant step forward, it is a significant advantage, and not having these detectors on the road is a disadvantage. I commend the bill to the house and I commend its speedy passage through both houses of the parliament.
The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (Schubert—Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (12:18): I rise to support this legislation, and I understand how important and imminent the issues we are facing are and why it is important for this parliament to work cohesively to fix the problem. At the outset, I want to say thank you to the Labor opposition for their work in supporting this bill and understanding that it is a necessary issue that we must fix. This issue has been around for two years. We understand that it was first raised in 2016 in relation to a court case that raised questions over this issue. In July 2018, we then saw this issue rear its head again.
What we are seeking to do through this bill is to put a fairly common-sense provision together that helps to give some guidance to the courts to say that, in relation to the certification for these Lidar guns, as long as we can show that the appropriate Australian standard for testing is in force on the day of testing, or in the absence of an Australian standard that the manufacturer's specifications are followed, then that should be good enough evidence for the court to be able to determine that the gun was fully compliant and operational at the time.
There is a broader issue at play here. We on this side of the house have looked quite deeply at this issue, both in opposition and now in government. There is a broader road safety issue that we need to look at. There has been a longstanding commitment to helping reduce road fatalities in South Australia. There is a Towards Zero Together report produced every year that talks about the many and very different ways we can work together to help reduce the incidence of death or serious injury on our roads and try to reduce the incidence of crashes on our roads.
We need to take a multipronged approach to this. There are some structural improvements that we can make to help reduce the incidence of crashes on our roads, to help make it not impossible but a hell of a lot harder for people to be able to crash into other things. A lot of those improvements are structural. As a government, and as then an opposition, we committed to putting 30 per cent of mining royalties aside to help fix country roads. Depending on the types of treatments we have put in place, all of them have a road safety benefit.
We can shoulder seal a kilometre of road and that road, statistically, will see a 40 per cent reduction in death or serious injury crashes: 40 per cent is a pretty good return on investment. Where we see audio tactile line marking, we can also see a reduction as we help people stay on the road and, essentially, be jolted into paying attention on those long trips, if they tend to wander.
We can separate wide medians, which is good because it helps to make sure that cars do not crash into each other head-on, which tends to lead people more towards death than serious injury on the crash scale. That has been used in a number of places on a number of significant highways to really good effect. There are central rope wires used in part as well, again as a barrier to make sure that it is physically impossible, in all but the most perverse and extreme of circumstances, to be able to crash head-on with somebody on the other side of the road.
On country roads, these things are important because people make mistakes. If someone is driving in a straight line all is well and good if they stay in their lane, stay at the speed limit, respond to the conditions around them and drive normally. But if somebody, for one reason or another, drops something, swerves and goes off the side of the road, the act of doing that should not cause their death. Having a sealed shoulder that allows them the opportunity to stay on the road and correct course is important. That is why making sure that we grade shoulders as well is also important so that there is not that drop-off which, when people fall off the side of the road, can cause the car to crash as opposed to being able to correct direction and get back on the road.
The same goes for a lot of the issues about separated medians and rope wires and the opportunity to make it physically impossible for people to have an accident with an oncoming vehicle. We do a lot of other things around trees on the side of the road, which I know is a bit of a contentious issue. In that regard, I would like to thank minister Speirs, who has put out a discussion paper and some proposed changes in relation to vegetation on the sides of roads and the clearing of verge vegetation. That is important, not only because you want to reduce the things people can crash into but you also want to improve the line of sight, especially around corners. Again, the opportunity for people to be able to see is extremely important in helping them avoid accidents.
There are a number of other things that we can do not just in the country but in the city around improving road safety outcomes, and there are some really interesting statistics around the country about treatments that have been used to reduce crashes. Quite clearly, a hotspot for accidents is at intersections, where people are heading in different directions and where you have people potentially not paying attention to stop signs, give-way signs or traffic lights. The opportunity to have 90-degree angle accidents or head-on accidents increases greatly around those intersections, so the opportunity to improve safety around those intersections is important.
We can do a whole lot of things to help do that to try to calm the traffic through intersections. The best way is to be able to eliminate those issues and get rid of the intersection altogether. Grade separations are a fantastic way to do that; they are just very expensive. But I think the opportunity to do it is extremely important. It also has some side benefits in helping to improve the productivity on our roads and, again, that is where we can get dual outcomes because a lot of things we do to improve road safety can also improve congestion issues on our roads.
Outside the physical treatment of roads, there are a number of other serious causes of accidents. A statistic that has been put to me a number of times is that about 90 per cent of accidents happen as a result of driver error. It is a common-sense statistic, one would assume, because the driver behind the wheel with the wheel in their hands is the person who is going to be able to have the influence over whether or not they crash or get home safely. The decisions a driver makes, voluntary or involuntary, are what has an impact on what they do and the outcomes they have on the road.
There are a lot of other things. For instance, drugs and alcohol are important issues on our roads where we see people choosing to drink and drive or take drugs and drive and that increases the risk substantially, exponentially, and making sure that we deal with that road safety risk is extremely important. I think all is well and good if somebody wants to punish their own body, but the point at which they then endanger the lives of other people on the roads is where the risk really escalates. It is a space where we need to see governments step in at every opportunity.
We see distraction as a real issue on our roads. The exploding use of personal devices and mobile phones has caused a huge issue. The number of instances that I am aware of where somebody has been distracted by the use of a mobile phone and has caused death or serious injury is extremely upsetting because these things are avoidable. Again, there is a lot of campaigning going on to make sure people understand the risks they take and that the decisions they make have a direct bearing on whether or not they get home alive.
There are also issues with vehicles. I must admit that we have seen vehicles improve over time, providing airbags as standard, providing better braking systems and the sorts of new semiautonomous technologies like lane assist and all sorts of object perception and detection parts of a vehicle that help to reduce risk. For instance, the last couple of cars I have had have had a rear-vision camera in the car and, as somebody with a couple of small children, the ability to feel comfortable that I am not just about to run over my child is extremely comforting and something I think of every time I look in that rear-vision camera.
We hear these stories, infrequently but still too frequently, in the media where a parent accidentally causes harm to their own child. You can only imagine the trauma that exists, not only for the child but for the parents, having to live with what it is they have done to the little one in their care. Again, we have seen things come along in leaps and bounds. I often think, in relation to reducing the road toll, that that is something that often gets forgotten.
We talk a lot about the decisions and the regulatory environment the government has taken in reducing speed limits, applying demerit points for various offences on our roads, establishing road treatments to be able to reduce crash risk. But often we do not speak about the improvements that cars have made in making our drive safer and I think as that technology continues to improve, we are going to see less death and less serious injury on our roads, and that is extremely important.
On that front, I am looking here at the Australian Automobile Association's report that is put out every six months or so regarding road fatalities. Interestingly, road fatalities have declined 14.9 per cent between the March 2018 quarter and the June 2018 quarter. It is a fantastic result, but the 12 months to June 2018 saw no real decrease in road fatalities when compared with 2017. We saw 1,222 deaths on our roads in 2017-18 and 1,223 in 2016-17. This says that we have to do more to reduce the incidence of death on our roads.
Only last month I was over in Sydney representing South Australia at the Transport Infrastructure Council, a COAG forum that deals with transport infrastructure, and a national road safety report was delivered by Dr John Crozier and Associate Professor Jeremy Woolley, whom many people in South Australia would know as somebody who works with CASR on road research. They are calling for a step change in the way that we deal with road safety—to try to move away from an incremental approach to a more step-change approach. I certainly understand and agree with what they are trying to achieve, and I think we should all work as well as we can to try to achieve it. Essentially, they are trying to make sure that we do not simply plateau in the outcomes that we achieve.
There is a lot of good work in that report that this government is taking up, especially as one of the main outcomes is to increase the level of road funding that we put into fixing and maintaining roads, especially regional roads and especially taking the treatments that we know create a stepped reduction in death and serious injury on our roads. We are listening to that advice, and we are continuing to find ways to put more money back into regional roads in South Australia. Over the term of this government, I think that South Australians will come to fully realise the level of our commitment and will realise that we are serious about making change.
I have talked about a lot of things without talking about speeding on our roads, which is still too often a cause in death and serious injury. Changing that behaviour has many facets to it. Where we have speed limits in place, those speed limits in place follow rules and standards that are designed to be appropriate for the types of roads people are driving on, but what is interesting here is that, even though we can set a speed limit, those speed limits are not always followed.
The degree to which speed limits are followed varies from road to road, depending on the conditions, depending on a whole series of factors. Those factors relate a lot to human behaviour. In fact, where we see the best compliance with speed limits is where we find that the speed limit is set at the point at which there is a natural limit to the road, and it is why taking traffic-calming measures to help reduce the speed at which people drive and change their behaviour is quite sophisticated and nuanced. We know that where we apply certain traffic treatments it does cause drivers to slow down in the absence of whatever the posted speed limit is.
Driver behaviour is very important to understand when it comes to speed cameras. It is fair to say that from opposition, as the shadow minister at the time, I reflected a deep level of cynicism that exists within the community around speed cameras. It is why we took to the election a policy of reviewing speed camera locations right across the state. In doing so, we wanted to get to the bottom of the science and the discipline or otherwise of why speed cameras are put where they are. I am someone whose community has over the odds, in terms of the number of days the speed cameras exist across the Barossa, and that level of cynicism exists within my community.
Really in terms of the outcome we want from the review, yes, it needs to help tell us where our best efforts are put to make sure that we are placing speed cameras in the right locations, but we did not come with a predetermined outcome. We believe that this report is going to do one of two things: either it is going to confirm the cynicism that exists within the community, or it is going to help show the science that exists behind speed camera locations. Either way, that is a win-win.
If this report gives us the opportunity either to help explain to the community about why speed cameras are put where they are, or not, or gives us a blueprint for how we are going to change the locations of speed cameras, either way we are going to help bring the community along to help reduce some of that cynicism because that is extremely important to the ongoing support for speed cameras in our community. I look forward to that, having now handed that over in government to the Minister for Road Safety. I look forward to the outcomes, but really that is what was driving the opposition at the time, and it continues to drive this government, and I think that that is extremely important.
The reason I am labouring the point on driver behaviour is that this is what is at stake here. Is somebody going to make a rational decision and say, 'Well, I know that there are roughly 190 Lidar cameras, but there are X number of fixed speed cameras as well as radar, as well as the other ways that we can detect speed. Am I going to make a rational decision about the lower risk for getting caught at this moment because these guns are off the road?' No, people are going to think, 'I think I can get away with it now.' To the extent that there is going to be a negative impact upon driver behaviour, we in this place need to do what we can to stop it. That is why this amendment is extremely important.
For the last few minutes, I want to relay a story told to me probably a couple of months ago. I had a meeting with a local undertaker in the Barossa. He has been around the traps for a while and is pretty good at his job. Unfortunately, we have seen a number of high-profile members of our community pass away in recent times, so I have had cause to see him a little bit more of late. He wanted a meeting in my office, and a couple of months ago we managed to sit down and do that.
He talked specifically about the Sturt Highway and the section between Old Kapunda Road and Murray Street. He said, 'Stephan, I need you to look at the speed limits or some other treatment that we can use to try to improve the safety of this intersection.' We talked through a number of things, and this was one of those weird occasions when I, as the MP, wrote to myself as the minister, and we are now investigating that speed limit.
The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: Some of us like to follow proper process. Either way, that investigation is underway. People in various parts of the community want higher speed limits and people in various parts of the community want lower speed limits, but for this man it is quite personal. He said, 'Stephan, there have been two or three very serious injuries at this intersection and there have been a few deaths.' He has been around for 20 years. He said, 'But after a road accident is finished with and the cops have gone, I am the one they call to collect the body and the bits of the body from the side of the road.'
So, for him, it is quite personal and quite traumatic—because it is his job to clean up after everyone else has gone. I did not realise that. In my mind, I thought that that was something that emergency services did, but it is not, and so for him the plea is extremely personal. You certainly do not hear him whingeing about speed cameras in certain locations. For me, that is a very stark reason why we need to get this piece of legislation through as soon as possible and why I am looking forward to seeing this have speedy passage through both houses in this place.
Mr PICTON (Kaurna) (12:38): I was not planning to speak to this piece of legislation because this matter is urgent and because this matter is something where the opposition was taking a bipartisan approach, where we had agreed with the government for a speedy passage of this legislation immediately this morning and where we were told by the government that this was urgent, that it needed to be dealt with today and that it needed to be dealt with very quickly. Hence, I was not going to speak; hence, I was not going to hold up this urgent, vital piece of legislation for any second longer than needed.
However, what we have seen since then, since the member for Elizabeth spoke briefly to offer the opposition's unequivocal support for this legislation, is government member after government member getting up, wasting the time of this house, speaking for their full 20 minutes in a blatant attempt at filibustering the business of this parliament. Clearly, the government has run out of business. Clearly, the government does not have an agenda. After 16 years in opposition, when you would think that in their first year in government they would have some business to do, they have nothing—they have nothing.
They are clearly spending time in this parliament wasting time because they are worried that we will go home early and it will look like they have run out of business. We have heard speaker after speaker wasting the parliament's time, when what we had last week, when this issue was first revealed, was the police minister on the phone and the police coming to brief the opposition, and they said, 'This is an urgent matter. We need the opposition's support.' We were briefed appropriately and we offered our support.
We said, 'Let's get this done. Let's get this through the parliament because it is an important issue. We need to make sure that our police have the powers and resources they need to protect people on the roads.' That is why we also agreed to allow this to be brought on immediately today, so that it could swiftly pass through the house. We also agreed to speak very briefly. The member for Elizabeth, being our only speaker, spoke briefly so that we could get this done quickly, get it through to the other place and it could be law by the end of today.
But what we have seen is that the government does not have an agenda, so they are talking this out, spending 20 minutes supposedly on this bill, each member supposedly talking about this bill, which was supposedly urgent, supposedly needed to be dealt with immediately, but it is clearly just filibustering. There is actually some urgent business on the Notice Paper put there by the opposition that should be dealt with. Every time we have private members' bills on a Wednesday morning, the government adjourns off each one of those bills because apparently they are too busy doing other things to deal with issues like giving the police the power to search cars for drugs where there has been a positive drug test.
Why should we not pass that legislation? If we have time for you to spend 20 minutes speaking on this, taking up time when the parliament could be doing other things, let's give the police those powers. Let's move that bill on and deal with it immediately. But that continues to get adjourned off. We have also got a piece of legislation there—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Kaurna—
Mr PICTON: —to be tougher on home detention.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Kaurna, this is the second reading, and I ask you to refer your remarks to the bill at hand, please.
Mr PICTON: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. This is an important bill, and it is something that the opposition supports, and that is why we have given our unequivocal support to get this through the parliament quickly. We were asked by the police minister to do that, and we have given that support. What we have seen today is the government delaying this, the government holding up this legislation, which is clearly going against what they have said in terms of the urgency of this, clearly going against what they have said in terms of needing this to be done quickly. It is clearly an attempt just to delay the sittings of this house so that it is not apparent that they do not have any government business of their own to deal with.
I think it is very disappointing. If the government can just show support for their own proposition, support the proposition that their own minister has put to the opposition, which is that this needs to be done very swiftly, now, then we can get this done now. We can stop the filibustering, get this ticked off, make sure our roads are safe, and make sure the police have the powers and the resources they need. It is up to the government to do that now.
Mr PATTERSON (Morphett) (12:43): I rise to speak on this very important amendment to the Road Safety Act.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Morphett will be heard in silence. You have the call.
Mr Picton interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Kaurna, you have had your opportunity. The member for Morphett has the call.
Mr PATTERSON: As so many other members who have debated the second reading have said, it is an important amendment to the act. We are delighted to hear some speeches from the other side. This amendment looks to insert new evidentiary provisions, to address issues arising from court outcomes involving the use of the Lidar traffic speed analyser by South Australia Police to detect speeding offences. In fact, this year, on 19 July 2018, Justice Peek in the South Australian Supreme Court handed down three judgements: Police v Hanton, Police v Miller and Police v Henderson. These cases all relied on the argument used in a 2016 Supreme Court decision by Justice Stanley, which the member for Heysen has outlined, that resulted in speeding charges against the defendant being dismissed. So it is important because it is about road safety, and it is quite right that members of the government speak on this issue.
The three judgements all related to speeding offences detected by SAPOL, as I said. At that trial, the prosecution called the police officer who was operating the handheld traffic speed analyser to give evidence in regard to the five-step test they conduct on a daily basis as part of their regime before their traffic safety work. This regime confirms that the device is operating correctly. In fact, at these judgements the prosecution tendered certificates, signed by an officer of the police, pursuant to section 175(3)(ba) of the Road Traffic Act, to certify that the device had been tested on a specified day and was shown by that test to be accurate within the asserted range.
However Justice Peek, in those aforementioned cases, made the following comments in judgement, especially in terms of Police v Hanton:
A problem that has arisen, perhaps incrementally, is that SAPOL have (in purported compliance with the statutory test), erected a system whereby the result of the last 'calibration test' of a TSA unit (if it had occurred in the previous 12 months) will be taken to be the current extent of accuracy of that unit, provided that the rudimentary test (which may be referred to as the 'five-step test plus calibration check' procedure) is 'passed.' What has been lost sight of is that RTA s 175(3)(ba) requires that first, the statutory test be performed proximate to the measurement of the speed the subject of a charge and second, that the statutory test must itself show that the TSA unit is then accurate to a particular stated extent.
This highlights that the issue in each case was the reliance by the prosecution on a certificate to prove the accuracy of speed guns used to detect the speed of the vehicles.
In general, measuring and scientific devices are caught by a common law presumption of accuracy over time, so the legal test to meet is a test of common law to establish that a device is a scientific instrument of accuracy. It contains two facets: first, proof that the instrument in general is trustworthy and, second, the correctness of the particular instruments.
Looking at section175 of the Road Traffic Act that relates to evidence, at present, in order to prove that second facet of the test in the Road Traffic Act, it contains an evidentiary provision that enables the prosecution to tender a document to certify that a specified traffic speed analyser has been tested on a specified date and was accurate to the extent indicated on the documents in the absence of proof to the contrary. Without reading the entirety of section 175(3), it states, in part:
…a document produced by the prosecution and purporting to be signed by the Commissioner of Police, or by any other police officer of or above the rank of inspector, and purporting to certify that a specified [traffic speed analyser] had been tested on a specified day as was shown by the test to be accurate to the extent indicated in the document constitutes, in the absence of proof to the contrary, proof of the facts certified and that the [traffic speed analyser] was accurate to that extent on the day [on which it was so tested]
This evidentiary provision removes the obligation that would otherwise be placed on the prosecution to call multiple witnesses to present evidence to a court regarding the accuracy of that device.
Speed guns are required to be calibrated every 12 months in accordance with Australian standards, and when that speed gun is calibrated a report is issued that states that the gun is accurate to within a certain specified margin of error. In addition, police are required to perform a number of daily tests, as prescribed by the manufacturer. These tests are recorded as pass or fail. The law requires that these tests are performed on the day the device is used, and the results of these tests are then used when producing the certificate.
In relation to this, Justice Peek held that in the three cases the prosecution could not rely on the certificate because the evidence of the daily testing by police did not show that the devices were accurate to within plus 2 to minus 3 km/h; rather, they relied on just pass or fail.
The finding in all three cases is that the defendant did not need to prove that the device was inaccurate but only that the daily testing done by police did not prove that the device was accurate to what was stated in the original certificate. Therefore, the certificate could not be used to prove that the device was accurate to that extent and the speed of the vehicles recorded by the devices could not be proven. As a result of this, SAPOL did consider a number of non-legislative options to resolve this certification matter. Amendments to the Road Traffic Act will offer the most practical and efficient solution, and that is where we are today.
I should state that, while there have been no concerns raised about the accuracy of the Lidar equipment, SAPOL did have concerns about the ability to prosecute an appeal as to the certificate of that equipment. As a result, South Australia Police have temporarily stopped using these handheld speed detection laser guns. The decision does not impact speeding fines issued as a result of detection by other forms of speed detection, whether they be speed cameras, red-light cameras or handheld radar devices.
All these are in place to enforce speed limits, which has been proven to be an effective tool in making our roads safe. If we go back and look at trends of road deaths on Australian roads, in 1970 there were around 4,000 fatalities a year. This was the year that saw the introduction of seatbelts. Further on, the late seventies saw the progressive introduction of random breath testing. This resulted in a 50 per cent decrease in fatalities between 1970 and 1994. This was at the same time that the population increased by 40 per cent and the number of cars on our roads increased from 4.9 million to 10.7 million.
We know that one of the other major contributors to fatalities on our roads is speed. Where speed is involved in crashes, it is a key instigator of death. Proven successful strategies in reducing road trauma include improving police enforcement in rural areas, which we have heard the member for Schubert talk about extensively, upgrading identified blackspots in the road network and enforcing speed limits generally. Now, in late 2018, the road toll has been reduced to around 1,250.
In terms of enforcing speed limits, I remember the early speed detection devices just being strips placed on roads a set distance apart and the police measuring the time taken between the two points. I remember as a young kid riding our bikes along there with mates to see if we could beat the speed limit. Later, radar detection was used as a way of enforcing speed limits. Really, the basic speed gun is just a radio transmitter and receiver combined into the one unit.
The radio transmitter is a device that oscillates an electric current so that voltage goes up and down at a certain frequency. This electricity generates electromagnetic energy, which travels through the air as an electromagnetic wave. The transmitter then amplifies this and increases the intensity of that wave to broadcast it out into the air. At the same time, a radio receiver is just the reverse of a transmitter, so that it picks up these electromagnetic waves with an antenna and converts it back into electrical current.
Really, that is what a radio is: transmitting electromagnetic waves through space. Radar uses these radio waves to detect and monitor various objects using basically two things that most of us here would be familiar with: echo and Doppler shift. As a way to understand it in the realm of sound, it is probably easier to understand it in terms of echo. We are all familiar with soundwaves reflecting back off a cliff face and travelling back to your ears, for example. The length of time that it takes for that echo to come back can be used to determine the distance between you and that stationary object. Using this echo, you can also combine it with what is called Doppler shift, so that when you send out that noise—say, a sound travelling towards a car that is moving to you—you can tell that the soundwaves change.
As a police car comes towards you, you hear a high-pitched siren from the soundwaves being compressed. As the police car moves past you and starts receding, you hear the low-pitched sound as the soundwaves become lower in frequency. That is the Doppler shift in action. Rather than using soundwaves, radar uses radio waves. These radio waves are invisible to humans, of course, but easily detected by devices. Radar can be used to tell not only how far away an object is but also how fast it is moving either towards you or away from you.
As an example, when a car is moving towards a radar gun, the second segment of the radio wave as it bounces back travels a shorter distance than the segment that went towards the car before it was reflected. As a result, the peaks and valleys of that wave are squeezed together and the frequency increases. Based on how much the frequency changes, the radar gun can calculate how quickly the car is moving towards it. That was the initial form of radar speed detection. We have now moved on to speed detection using laser guns, which is what we are talking about today.
Lidar (light detection and ranging) guns operate slightly differently from radar guns. Lidar measures a vehicle's speed by sending out two laser pulses and calculating the difference in time between the two pulses. If you can imagine it just briefly, the light travels from the Lidar gun at the speed of light, 300 million metres each second, or 0.3 metres every nanosecond. When the light hits the target, it is reflected back to the source. The laser gun can then do a simple calculation to determine the distance by calculating how long it took for the returning photons to travel and dividing that by two because the photons had to go up and back. Once that distance is known, a second pulse a set period apart can determine the change in distance.
The change in distance and the time between the two pulses can then be used to calculate the speed of the moving vehicle. It is important to understand that a laser gun can do this many times per second because of how fast the speed of light is. It also emits a highly focused beam of infrared light in a near-infrared region. Over a distance of 300 metres, there is not much dissipation of the signal itself—around 50 centimetres from 300 metres. However, this means that the officer using the laser speed gun has to aim it, unlike the broader radar beams. This has its advantages.
Because radar is so diverse, people can have radar detectors that detect when police officers use radar guns as opposed to the narrow-beamed Lidar guns, which are much harder to detect by any sort of device to forewarn oncoming traffic. That is certainly a distinct advantage. The other advantage of having such a narrow beam is that it is able to pick out one vehicle in a clustered stream of traffic. It is also good in a built-up metropolitan area where other cars are parked on the side of the road. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12:59 to 14:00.