Opinion Number. 1489

Subject

FREEDOM OF INTERSTATE trade, commerce and intercourse REGISTRATION OF MOTOR VEHICLES: PROPOSAL BY VICTORIA TO EXEMPT FROM REGISTRATION REQUIREMENT VEHICLES REGISTERED IN ANOTHER STATE OTHER THAN THOSE carrying passengers or goods for hire or in course of trade: WHETHER INFRINGEMENT OF FREEDOM OF INTERSTATE trade, commerce and intercourse

Key Legislation

Motor Car Act 1909 (Vic) s 4: constitution s 92

Date
Client
The Secretary, Prime Minister

The Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department, has forwarded the following letter from the Premier of Victoria for advice:

Adverting to your letter of the 24th ultimo, relative to the questions asked by Mr Killen in the House of Representatives on the 18th idem with respect to the call made upon owners of commercial motor vehicles from New South Wales to pay an additional registration fee when entering Victoria, I now desire to inform you that for many years it was the practice to allow motor vehicles registered in another State to enter Victoria without being required to pay registration fees in the latter State.

By an amending Act passed by the Parliament of Victoria last year, re–registration in Victoria of commercial motor vehicles registered in other States is required.

The Victorian Government, however, has decided to repeal the recent amendment except in so far as it applies to motor cars carrying passengers for hire where such cars proceed more than ten miles within the Victorian border.

Pending the necessary amendment of the Act, the Police have been instructed not to take proceedings against owners or drivers of interstate motor cars which comply with the law as modified by these decisions.

Section 4 of the Motor Car Acts of Victoria requires that every motor car, motor cycle, etc., shall be registered and makes it an offence to use an un–registered car on a public highway. The section also provides that a fee must be paid on registration or renewal of registration.

Paragraph (a) of sub–section (7) of this section reads as follows:

(7)(a) This section shall not apply to a motor car (other than a motor car which is used in Victoria for carrying passengers for hire or goods for hire or in the course of trade) –

  1. which is owned by a person resident in another State;
  2. which is temporarily in Victoria;
  3. which is registered in such other State; and
  4. on which the number allotted to the motor car in such other State is exhibited.

It is suggested in the question asked by Mr Killen, M.P., that the sub–section is unconstitutional in so far as it does not relieve motor vehicles registered in another State and used in Victoria for carrying passengers or goods for hire from the obligation to register under the Victorian Act.

It is assumed that the question of unconstitutionality is raised in relation to section 92 of the Constitution which provides that trade, commerce and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.

It is within the power of each State to legislate for the regulation of traffic upon its roads, and this power has been exercised in Victoria by the passage of the Motor Car Acts. The Acts require that motor vehicles shall be registered, drivers shall be licensed, and contain a number of provisions directed to secure the safety of the travelling public.

The exemption in respect of motor cars registered in other States and travelling in Victoria was up till 1930 provided by a specific exception in the State Act. Without that exception all cars travelling in Victoria had to be registered.

The State has full power to impose uniform conditions upon all motor vehicles using its roads, whether or not those vehicles come from other States. The imposition of a condition of registration when generally applied cannot in my opinion be taken as offending against section 92 of the Constitution.

The registration requirement is not directed against the act of transit from one State to another but upon the use by a motor–car of a public highway. I am accordingly of opinion that objection cannot be taken on constitutional ground to the amendment of the Motor–Car Act passed by the Victorian Parliament in 1930.

[Vol. 25, p. 51]