8. Driving in Australia
8.1 Driver licences
To drive in Australia, foreign officials must possess a driver licence issued by the relevant Australian state or territory authority.
For a foreign official to be accredited as a driver at a mission or post, the sending State's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will need to provide evidence of at least five years' driving experience in the sending State.
8.1.1 Canberra missions
For the first three months after their arrival, diplomatic and administrative and technical staff and their dependants can drive in Australia provided they possess a valid, current driver licence issued by the sending State. The licence must be in English or accompanied by a translation certified by the Canberra mission, and carried by the driver whenever they are driving.
Before the end of this three-month period, diplomatic and administrative and technical staff and their dependants are required to obtain an ACT driver licence, which is issued free of charge.
Diplomatic and administrative and technical staff and their dependants without overseas licences are required to undertake a driving test. Learner permits and driver licences are issued free of charge.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) driver licences issued to diplomatic staff and their dependants are stamped "DIPLOMATIC". Those for administrative and technical staff and their dependants are stamped "PRIVILEGED".
Service staff and their dependants are not eligible for Diplomatic or Privileged licences, and therefore standard licence issuing fees apply. Service staff and dependants intending to drive in Australia should refer to Visiting or moving to the ACT for information about obtaining an ACT licence.
For further information, see the Access Canberra website or call 13 22 81.
8.1.2 Consulates in the states and the Northern Territory
See the website of the relevant state or Northern Territory government for information on regulations governing driver licences
8.2 Traffic and parking infringements
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 Access Canberra 13 22 81.
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 agents and consular officials and their dependants, to undertake an alcohol or drug screening test. In Australia's view, a request to stop and submit to a screening test is consistent with Australia’s international obligations, including those contained in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
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. 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.
The Diplomatic and Consular Corps is expected to observe parking regulations and to pay fines promptly for any violations. Any vehicle, including those with diplomatic or consular plates, may be towed if it is parked in a way that causes danger to other road users. A consular vehicle parked unlawfully can be towed away in some jurisdictions.
8.3.1 In the ACT
There are a limited number of parking spaces reserved for official use by diplomatic missions. These are signposted and vehicles with DC or DX registration plates are eligible to use these spaces.
Members of the diplomatic community should use normal commercial parking facilities for private use.
8.3.2 At Parliament House
There are no reserved parking spaces for diplomatic vehicles at Parliament House. The main public car park is in the forecourt basement (entry from the northern side of Parliament House).
8.3.3 At airports
Airports in Australia are privately operated. Except at Canberra Airport (see section 126.96.36.199) there are no special arrangements for access to airport parking for missions and posts.
188.8.131.52 Canberra Airport
Canberra Airport has an 'Express Passenger Pick-Up' parking area. The parking area is located on the ground floor of the green covered carpark and is about 20 metres from the arrivals hall. A waiting room is attached to the car park, which drivers and other staff may use. Canberra Airport has designated five vehicle parking bays for the exclusive use of the diplomatic corps in this car park. There are no time limits when parking in the Express passenger pick-up area however there is a parking fee.
The open-air car park at Canberra Airport is available for up to 10 minutes without charge. Information on both of these parking options can be found on the Canberra Airport website.