Bill Speech: Police Legislation Amendment (Road Safety Camera Commissioner and Other Matters) Bill 2019
Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (15:45:36): I am very pleased to add my contribution to the Police Legislation Amendment (Road Safety Camera Commissioner and Other Matters) Bill 2019. The purpose of this bill is to make a range of justice-related amendments to existing legislation. The bill amends the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 to remedy an anomaly in protective services officers’ powers to execute arrest warrants and to retrospectively validate arrest warrants executed by PSOs. The bill amends the Victoria Police Act 2013 to reduce the prescribed period for which unclaimed found property must be retained and enable the timely disposal of the property that is not claimed. But what I want to focus on in my contribution are the amendments to the Road Safety Camera Commissioner Act 2011. These important amendments go to improving the operational efficiency of the office of the road safety camera commissioner to perform functions under the act. The role of the commissioner was created to oversee the operation of road safety camera systems, a role which is integral to providing the community with confidence that road safety cameras are operated with integrity, accuracy and efficiency. One of the commissioner’s functions obviously is to undertake investigations arising from complaints that appear to indicate a problem, or investigations requested by the minister, and the amendments in this bill are in response to the commissioner’s findings in the investigation requested by the then Minister for Police in June 2017 into the impact of the WannaCry malicious ransomware on the Victorian fixed digital road safety camera system. The commissioner’s recommendations in that report included many technical changes that do not require legislative change and will be addressed by the department in consultation with the commissioner’s office, but the commissioner’s report also included findings about the lack of cooperation and transparency from the Department of Justice and Regulation, as it was then known, when responding to the commissioner’s requests for information. This bill responds to those findings by including amendments to implement three recommendations to improve information exchange, transparency and cooperation between the department and the commissioner. These include reforms that clarify and strengthen cooperation and information sharing and that strengthen reporting requirements for greater consistency with similar oversight schemes. The amendments in this bill explicitly authorise the department and the private camera operators engaged by the department to disclose information in response to a request for information from the commissioner on the operation of the road safety camera system. They require that information be provided in a timely manner, they require that information be comprehensive and relevant, and they impose a duty on the department and contractors to cooperate with any reasonable request for information made by the commissioner. These amendments are intended to enhance quality, transparency and timeliness to ensure that the purposes of the act are achieved. These amendments are important because not only do they facilitate the efficient operations of the commissioner, but they also reinforce public confidence in the work of the commissioner, and in turn, public confidence in the operation of the road safety camera system, which is critical to keeping people safe on our roads. Essentially people have trust in the system because the entity that has oversight of the system is trusted and because the operations of the entity are transparent and efficient. This is important when we consider the seriousness of the investigations undertaken by the commissioner. The WannaCry investigation looked at the impact of ransomware on the fixed road safety cameras in Victoria, as well as any potential improvements and additional safety measures for the protection of the network in the future. As noted in the report: … the WannaCry virus had become notorious by reportedly infecting more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries. … There was also substantial public interest in whether the ransomware had compromised the Road Safety Camera System … And while the final report found that the road safety camera system did continue to operate with accuracy, reliability and integrity, and it was unaffected by the WannaCry ransomware, it also made recommendations that I have previously mentioned. So this was an incredibly important investigation with much public interest. Another report of the commissioner that I would like to touch on is the Hume Freeway (Amaroo Road, Craigieburn): Fixed Digital Road Safety Camera Information report, which was released in December 2017. This report also highlights the importance of public confidence in the findings of the commissioner as well as the important role that the commissioner has in testing complaints that are brought before him in regard to the road safety camera system. This report is particularly relevant to me because the area in question is in my electorate. What it involved was a Facebook group that was set up and that sought media publicity, and the assertion of the group was that they had received unjustified speeding infringements detected by the system on the Hume Freeway. One of the members of the group went on morning radio and made the assertion that there were 255 Facebook group members, all of whom had written to the road safety camera commissioner, and all of whom were of the view that they had been wrongly alleged to have been travelling at 108 kilometres per hour. So it was fairly serious. It did become a little bit of a stacks on; the more people talked about it, the more people thought that they were also affected by it, and of course everybody wanted their infringements withdrawn. As the commissioner worked through it, by the end of his investigation he had still only received 12 official complaints, with many of those people having multiple infringements. He did seek independent evidence and drew on the techniques that he had used in his Peninsula Link inquiry in 2017. However, by the end of his reporting he did note that there was: Zero objective evidence … received … And that: … whereas the strident assertion was of so many 108km/h infringements, we found that the individuals had been observed driving at a spread of different speeds above 100km/h. On examination of the testing and the maintenance records he found that there was no basis for the information that would suggest that there were any concerns with the accuracy of the fixed cameras on the Hume Highway. And in an analysis of the data recorded by the cameras—there was data from over 70 million incidents collected and analysed—it was found that there was no over-representation of the 108-kilometre-an-hour speed recorded. In fact there was an array of speeds over 100 kilometres per hour. Essentially he found that there was no evidence of inappropriate infringements being issued. He found that the complaints were without basis. He noted that: A collection of people has set out to question the validity of their infringements, and in doing so, to attack the integrity of the fixed digital road safety camera system and the people who administer it. I have no evidence to suggest any basis to do so. Regrettably these kinds of complaints are easy to make and FaceBook and social media again appears to be an avenue for unmerited non-factual assertions. So it is really important that these investigations take place and that they test these complaints, and it is equally important that the commissioner can do so as effectively and efficiently as possible. As I previously mentioned, public confidence in the operation of the road safety camera system is critical to keeping people safe on our roads. The efficiencies that will be achieved through these amendments reinforce that public confidence. When people raise complaints, they need to know that systems are in place to effectively and efficiently respond to those complaints, and when the public is presented with a report of an investigation into a complaint, they need to know that the report provides a comprehensive response to that complaint. The road safety camera commissioner has demonstrated this time after time with the investigations undertaken, and the amendments of this bill will only enhance these efficient operations. I do just want to reflect again on the Amaroo Road issue. It was really quite phenomenal how quickly this went from being one person raising a concern to 225 people in this group. Now, that was the members of the group. That is not all the people that became aware of it, because there was media coverage, which then got people thinking, ‘Is there something wrong with these cameras?’. One of the local councillors moved a motion to write to the commissioner and seek further information about whether or not there were any issues with these cameras. So it really is important that not only can the commissioner undertake these investigations as efficiently and effectively as possible but in doing so it increases the public confidence that people have, not only in the system but in the person who has oversight of the system. With those words, I commend the bill to the house.