The fallout from Campbell Newman’s anti-hooning laws.
While it may have seemed like a good idea to remove reckless drivers from Queensland streets by impounding their cars, the ill-thought out anti-hooning policy has created another problem. Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s populist venture has produced yards of unclaimed vehicles without a legislative answer. In 2014, one year after their introduction, Newman boasted that the laws were, “Australia’s toughest anti-hooning laws”.
“Under Labor, hoons controlled suburban streets and only received a slap on the wrist, but we have made families the priority by introducing these tough laws,” he proclaimed.
“The results are significant, with more than 13,000 dangerous hoons and their cars and motorbikes taken off the road since November 2013, creating safer streets.”
Under the amendment to the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000, any vehicle related to speed trials, races, burnouts, dangerous operation or evading police could be declared a “type 1 offence” and result in a mandatory 90 day impoundment.
Two years on, what happened to all of those vehicles? Two recent ABC News Brisbane reports reveal their fate and the new legal problem for the state and the Queensland Police Service (QPS).
Alexandra Blucher reported on towing company Tow.Com.Au (TCA), which was given the exclusive contract by the government to impound the cars. Many individual tow truck drivers are sub-contracted to TCA. The report showed the yards of abandoned cars due to the high fees charged for their retrieval by owners.
As with any business, towies have to cover costs of rent/rates and labour performed on the job. As they were out of pocket, TCA issued invoices to QPS for storage costs and threatened litigation unless payment was made. TCA said it was under instruction by QPS to issue these invoices.
TCA regularly offers vehicles at “police impound auctions” but as the ABC’s second story revealed, big mistakes can be made. Some car dealers may still be owed money on impounded vehicles.
Peter Wyer was once such financier owed $6,000 by the owner of a car. When he was contacted by TCA informing him it had been impounded, the company wanted to charge him storage costs amounting to $3,400. When he refused to pay, TCA proceeded to auction off the car under instructions, which they said, came from police.
Queensland University of Technology’s top expert on organised crime, Mark Lauchs said, “No one is legally able to sell a car if they don’t have title in the car and if they were to do so and keep the money, potentially this is a criminal offence.”
After being sold and re-registered, the car was later impounded again with more costs directed to Mr Wyer for storage.
Assistant Police Commissioner Mike Keating said the contract with TCA was currently under review and the police would not be paying for storage costs as invoiced.
“It would be irresponsible or unexpected for us to pay for something that we’re not liable for. Of course, this is the Queensland Government’s money,” he said.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing or corruption on the part of TCA, QPS or Mr Peter Wyer. Rather, a legislative breakdown has occurred which only the Queensland parliament can rectify.