ACT Greens urge other parties to back ‘fair fines’ to help prevent social disadvantage

Australian Greens

The ACT Greens have urged the other parties to support new laws for ‘fairer fines’ in the ACT to help address social disadvantage in the ACT.

“Poverty is increasingly a Canberra reality. But in a city as prosperous as ours, this is not a reality that we should accept,” ACT Greens Social Inclusion spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said today.

“The changes proposed by the Greens simply allow more flexible fine payment options for people who are struggling financially.

“For most of us, paying a fine on time is an annoying but simple task. The scheme I’m proposing recognises there is a proportion of people who are genuinely struggling – for example people living in poverty, or with illness, disability, or other special circumstances.

“While we recognise infringement notices exist for a reason, alternative payment options can make a big difference to the lives of vulnerable people in our community.

“We urge the Labor and Liberal parties to support this reform, which can make a simple but important difference to people’s lives. By implementing a ‘fairer fines’ system, we can avoid entrenching poverty in our city, while enforcing our laws and still changing behaviour.”

What does the ‘fair fines’ Bill do?

The Bill, due to be debated in the Legislative Assembly today, seeks to provide Canberrans with more payment options in relation to infringement notice offences. These are simple offences where a fine can be issued and paid in lieu of going to court. Examples include not picking up after your dog, riding public transport without paying, or littering.

If the Bill is supported, Canberrans who receive simple offence fines could apply to:

  • Pay their fine in instalments, rather than all at once;
  • Participate in an approved community work or social development plan in lieu of a fine;
  • In extreme circumstances, have an infringement penalty waived if the nature of the offence and the circumstances justify such a waiver (for example, a person with a severe disability and no prospect of paying the fine).

The Greens have long fought for a fairer income-based penalty system.

In November 2018, the Greens led a successful motion in the Assembly that could see a potential income-based fines system (where the amount of a fine varies based on a person’s income), such as that used in Finland, introduced in the ACT.

“The scheme is very similar to one the Greens previously introduced to allow flexible payments in relation to traffic offences in the ACT. That scheme has been very successful in helping vulnerable Canberrans avoid falling into a spiral of poverty, and has been strongly supported by the ACT community sector,” said Ms Le Couteur.

“This is also a sensible reform that was previously recommended in a report to the ACT Government by its Targeted Assistance Panel[1].”

Statement ends

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