ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media Release: ACTCOSS welcomes debate on a fairer way forward for fines

20 February 2020

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed a new bill in the ACT Legislative Assembly that will offer more flexible payment options for people facing fines.

Dr Emma Campbell, CEO of ACTCOSS said: “a flat rate fine imposes greater punishment on a person with a low income than it does on high income earners. That means fines disproportionately affect people who already face disadvantage.”

The Magistrates Court (Infringement Notices) Amendment Bill 2019, tabled by the ACT Greens, will provide the opportunity for someone issued with a fine to pay by instalment or carry out community activities in lieu of paying the penalty. The Bill also provides a formal mechanism for an infringement notice penalty to be waived.

Dr Campbell said: “Around 40,000 Canberrans in the ACT live in low-income households. They are among Australia’s most disadvantaged.

“People on low incomes and income support have told us that they already have to compromise on food, gas and electricity, clothing and education expenses and make tough choices between basics such as a trip to the dentist or keeping the car on the road. 

“A fine can be the final straw for some families and individuals, creating a financial situation that spirals into a crisis or even puts them at risk of contact with the criminal justice system. 

“This Bill allows the incident that led to a fine being imposed to be acknowledged, while minimising the uneven and inequitable impacts of flat rate fines on people facing disadvantage,” Dr Campbell continued.

“A focus on the fairness of fines and eliminating the disproportionate effects of fines on the most disadvantaged is welcome. ACTCOSS calls on the Assembly to take this opportunity to explore the possibility of a fine system that is based on income,” Dr Campbell concluded. 

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.