Litter Act: Greens vote against “aggravated littering” charge that will only punish vulnerable

Australian Greens

Tuesday 22 October 2019

The Greens today voted against the creation of a new “aggravated littering” charge as part of the Litter Act, as this new charge would disproportionately impact some of the most vulnerable in our community – homeless people, and drug and alcohol users.

The “aggravated littering” charge differs from a basic littering charge, and is a $500 fine for littering specific items – a match (lit or unlit), a cigarette (lit or unlit), or a syringe.

The Greens today put forward an amendment to remove the charge from the Bill.

“Let’s be clear – the Greens don’t condone littering. That said, we will not stand by as some of the most vulnerable in our community, such as alcohol and drug users and the homeless, are disproportionately impacted by what is clearly well-intended legislation,” ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said today.

“Slapping huge littering fines on the homeless, or on drug and alcohol users, isn’t rehabilitative – it’s punitive. It isn’t going to change behaviour. It will not make our community safer. Instead it’ll simply compound the disadvantage that those most vulnerable are already experiencing, racking up debts that they may not be able to pay.

“The Government shouldn’t be focusing on excessively penalising the symptoms of disadvantage – but instead, be concentrating on supporting the vulnerable in relation to far more important issues, like housing insecurity.

“It’s not clear if this charge is really even necessary – particularly as there has not been a single infringement for littering offences by TCCS City Rangers in the past three years, and only 8 warnings issued. In the same period, ACT Policing only issued one infringement for “environmental pollution”, and 12 for “public health and safety” offences under the Litter Act.”

Recent research conducted by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW found that people who are homeless or mentally ill are more likely to be fined for strict liability offences. They are also more likely to have debts arising from these fines, further compounding their disadvantage.

We are aware that a number of key stakeholders have raised concerns about the creation of the ‘aggravated littering’ charge.

The Litter Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 represents a major overhaul of the Litter Act 2004. The Greens are supportive of the vast majority of the bill’s content.

Statement ends

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