In accordance with Article 41.1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), all diplomatic and consular staff and their dependants are expected to familiarise themselves with and abide by Australia’s road rules. See the ACT Road Rules Handbook.
State and territory police and traffic services issue traffic or parking infringement notices, which can involve fines and licence demerit points. Such notices indicate that the recipient appears not to have complied with traffic or parking laws; they do not violate diplomatic or consular immunity.
Unless they intend to contest the infringement with state or territory authorities, missions, posts and their staff are expected, in accordance with Article 41.1 of the VCDR, to pay all fines promptly. DFAT cannot intervene to seek a waiver or cancellation of infringement notices.
The Chief of Protocol informs heads of mission and posts of all serious or repeat traffic infringements involving their staff or staff dependants.
For details of outstanding fines in the ACT, missions and staff can call the Manager, Infringement Office, Access Canberra (telephone (02) 6207 7299).
8.2.1 Licence suspension
Licences held by mission and post staff and their dependants can be suspended if the licence holder accumulates sufficient demerit points or traffic or parking fines remain unpaid. Continuing to drive on a suspended licence would demonstrate a serious disregard for Australia's traffic rules and could lead to a request for the individual’s withdrawal from Australia. For further information on the infringement regime see the Access Canberra website.
8.2.2 Breath and drug testing
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offence in Australia.
Police have the authority to stop any motor vehicle and request the driver, including diplomatic and consular officials and their dependants, to undertake an alcohol or drug screening test. Refusal to undertake a screening test will be treated as an offence at the highest test range. In Australia’s view, a request to stop and submit to a screening test does not constitute ‘detention’ within the meaning of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or involve, at that point, any question of immunity.
The immunity of consular officials is limited to acts performed in the exercise of their consular functions. In Australia’s view, driving a motor vehicle is outside the scope of consular functions and so consular immunity does not apply. Failure to comply with a request to undergo an alcohol or drug screening test is a failure to respect and comply with the law (Article 55 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations). Dependants of consular officials have no immunity and can be arrested or detained. Consular employees (administrative or technical service staff) have less immunity than consular officers; they can also be arrested or detained.