Page 2772 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013
delay in the implementation of the bill will obviously have some impact on revenue. Equally, while the government does not see this primarily as a revenue raising measure, it is important to observe that it nevertheless does have budget implications.
Furthermore, there is nothing to stop the standing committee in its inquiry into sentencing looking at the penalty unit regime. It does not require a referral of this bill for the committee to address such a question. Indeed, I would in any event encourage the standing committee to consider the question of penalty units as part of its broader review and inquiry into sentencing. But referral of this bill is not needed for that investigation to occur. Indeed, such investigation may assist in any further amendments to this bill once it is enacted by the Assembly. So the government does not support this referral by Mr Hanson today.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (5.27): I seek your advice, Mr Assistant Speaker. Is it appropriate for me to speak to the bill and the committee referral at the same time? Perhaps I will just make my comments in one go. The Greens will support the Legislation (Penalty Units) Amendment Bill. However, I have some comments regarding the future government process concerning the increase of infringement notice penalties, which I will get to in a moment.
The value of a penalty unit is defined in the ACT’s Legislation Act. Currently it is $110 for individuals and $550 for a corporation. The value of the penalty units is the basis for determining statutory fines. For example, the basic littering offence in the territory’s Littering Act is 10 penalty units. This means there is a maximum penalty available of $1,100 for individuals and $5,500 for a corporation.
For offences such as littering, however, or similar regulatory offences such as parking fines or traffic offences, the fines are usually given through infringement notices. Currently, for example, an on-the-spot fine for a littering offence is $60—this is for cigarette butts, ticket stubs et cetera—and $200 for general littering. These infringement notice penalties are set out in regulations and are traditionally about one-fifth of the maximum penalty amount.
It is appropriate that the amount of a penalty unit increases from time to time. This bill would increase the value of a penalty unit for an individual by $30 and for a corporation by $150. This is an increase of approximately 27 per cent. By increasing the amounts of a penalty unit, all the various offences across the statute books are increased consistently in proportion. This is an acceptable change to make and it does not interfere with the current sentencing review being undertaken by the JACS committee. That committee may look at the relative severity of penalties between offences, but increasing penalty units does not affect that.
The increase is in line with the consumer price index as applied since 2001. Since 2001 there has been one increase to penalty units—in 2009. As Minister Corbell explained when tabling the bill, the increase proposed in the current bill would put the ACT in the mid-range for Australian jurisdictions that use the concept of a penalty unit. It will make ACT penalty units for an individual in the ACT equivalent to those of the Northern Territory and Victoria. It increases our penalty units above those in New South Wales and Queensland.