'Police state': backbenchers oppose P-plate restrictions
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'Police state': backbenchers oppose P-plate restrictions

ACT Labor backbenchers have spoken out about the government's "radical" proposed changes to P-plater laws, one likening the changes to a "police state", but fell short of supporting an opposition motion to rule out the most controversial elements.

Under Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury's proposed changes to P-plate laws, first year drivers would be banned from driving between midnight and 5am, and from having more than one passenger younger than 24.

ACT Labor backbenchers spoke out against changes to P-plate laws.

ACT Labor backbenchers spoke out against changes to P-plate laws.

Photo: Jamesbowyer

Under the graduated system, learners would have to log at least 100 supervised hours behind the wheel before getting their P-plates.

There could be exemptions to the curfew rules for P-platers who are required to drive to work, or in the case of emergencies.

The ACT currently has one of the most relaxed set of laws for L and P-platers in Australia, with no speed, passenger or time restrictions for learner and provisional drivers.

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Four Labor backbenchers - Michael Pettersson, Tara Cheyne, Bec Cody and Chris Steel - raised concerns about The Greens minister's proposed changes.

Canberra Liberals transport spokeswoman Candice Burch said the changes would unfairly impact young people and their freedom of movement and were not based on sound evidence around road trauma.

Her motion in the ACT Parliament on Wednesday called on Mr Rattenbury to "categorically rule out" the curfew and passenger restrictions.

While Labor backbenchers spoke out strongly against curfew and passenger restrictions, they did not support Ms Burch's motion.

Instead they supported an amended motion noting that the government would take into account the community's feedback.

Ms Burch said only 2 per cent of crashes in 2016 happened between midnight and 5am and 20 per cent of fatal crashes in the same period.

She said the laws would be the most restrictive in the country.

Mr Rattenbury said from 2011 to 2015, eight people were killed on Canberra roads during the hours of midnight to 5am. Five of those who were killed were aged between 17-24 years.

“This begs the question as to what the Canberra Liberals believe is an acceptable loss of lives on our roads," he said.

“During that same period, more than 110 drivers were injured in crashes in the ACT between the hours of midnight and 5am. Of these, around a third held provisional licences, and half were aged between 17 and 24.

“A range of exclusions would apply, such as for work and study, as is the case in other jurisdictions.”

Mr Rattenbury said the consultation would be carefully considered and said the final scheme needed to be practical.

"But there will be changes," he said.

A recent ACT government survey of 600 people found half either strongly disagreed or disagreed with the curfew.

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson questioned why The Greens would think 16-year-olds were mature enough to vote, but 17-year-olds were not mature enough to move around the city freely.

He labelled it a "radical, knee jerk policy" change and said he would never support unnecessary burdens placed on young people.

Mr Pettersson also rejected the idea of exemptions, saying it was an unfair burden.

Fellow Labor backbencher Chris Steel said a curfew would treat all P-platers like second class citizens.

"It's a well known fact that young people go out at night, we shouldn't be stopping them from doing so," he said.

"It would be extremely difficult for an exemption scheme to capture the array of quite legitimate journeys young people make at night."

Mr Steel said the changes would result in young people being pulled over by police to check their papers.

"That is a police state, we are better than that," he said.

Daniella White is a reporter for The Canberra Times with a special focus on health issues