Crimes Amendment (Off-road fatal accidents) Bill 2015
November 10, 2015
Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) [4.40 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition in debate on the Crimes Amendment (Off-road Fatal Accidents) Bill 2015. I assure the Attorney General that the Opposition does not oppose the bill. As the Attorney General said, it is important to remember the circumstances that have led to the bill coming before the House. In January 2010 Eliza Wannan and William Dalton-Brown were sleeping in a swag when they were killed by a 17-year-old L-plate driver who accidentally reversed over them in a paddock near Orange in the State's Central West. As I speak to the bill, my thoughts and those of Opposition members are with the family and friends of Eliza and William. While the bill may not bring them closure, I hope that, in part, it gives them a sense that things have been made right.
I attempted to access the Deputy State Coroner's findings on their deaths but the Coroner's Court website link was not working. I will do my best to paraphrase Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund's findings on this matter. In summary, she found that 17-year-old Rhys Colefax was an unattended L-plate driver who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. She also found that in order for Colefax to be charged with driving offences the accident had to occur on a road or road-related area. He did not face prosecution because the accident occurred in a paddock or on a rural property. The bill seeks to amend that anomaly. The Attorney General and the Minister in the other place have captured well the events that have led to this bill. The bill, as the Attorney General outlined, amends the Road Transport Act and the Crimes Act to enable police to arrest a driver involved in a fatal or likely to be fatal motor accident and to test the driver for drug and alcohol use regardless of where the accident occurs.
The object of the bill is:
(a) to extend the existing powers of police to arrest and test any participant in a fatal road accident for alcohol and drug use (which currently apply only to accidents on roads) to motor vehicle accidents that occur off-road,
(b) to make related amendments to the procedural provisions dealing with the evidence of intoxication in proceedings for dangerous driving offences under the Crimes Act 1900.
As we have heard, police powers to arrest drivers for alcohol and drug testing following a fatal motor vehicle accident are limited to accidents that occur on a road or road-related area. As the Attorney General has outlined, there is confusion as to what "road or road-related area" means. The Government has not sought to change the existing random breath or roadside drug testing powers. The Opposition supports the Government in that regard. In addressing the House on the bill, it is timely to mention the terrible number of road accident deaths in New South Wales. Whatever the Government is doing it is not working. This year there has been a 13 per cent increase in the number of deaths on our roads.
Passenger deaths have increased by 53 per cent and the most dramatic increase has been amongst men, who accounted for 22 additional deaths between 2014 and 2015 compared with the previous year. While the bill will not change that situation, it is an important peripheral change in the law. The events of 2010 tragically impacted on three families. I extend my sincere condolences and those of Opposition members to the families of Eliza and William and I recognise the life-changing impact of this tragedy on Rhys Colefax. He made a terrible decision, which he will carry for the rest of his life. There is only sadness in this story. I acknowledge the member for Orange, Andrew Gee, who has advocated for these changes. I thank him for representing his community. The Opposition does not oppose the bill.