In an Australian first, a fines system based on income is to be investigated by the ACT Government after the Legislative Assembly supported a motion from the Greens.
The motion calling on the Assembly to investigate the potential for an income-based fines system such as that used in Finland was surprisingly carried on the voices, and the Government will now have to report back on how such a system would operate in the ACT.
The Greens say an income-based system will ensure that those on low incomes are not disproportionately punished for low-level traffic and parking infringements.
Greens Treasury spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said that in 2017, of the 85,051 parking fines issued, 88 per cent were paid on time; while, of the 436 fines issued for driving an unregistered vehicle, only 13 per cent were paid on time.
“Unfortunately it is unclear as to why a person may not pay their fine, as this information is not collected. However, this points towards a system where financial penalties are disproportionately affecting people already struggling to pay their bills,” she said.
She said that for a person on $5000 a week, a $500 fine is irrelevant but a fine equal to your weekly wage was unfair.
“We want to change behaviour not force people into poverty,” she said.
Ms Le Couteur said the Government could do things to make the fines system fairer so people did not have to forgo food and paying the rent.
She said not being able to pay fines could spiral people into further hardship.
A Greens spokesperson said the Government was now obliged to come back to the Assembly with a concrete proposal, which could be implemented as a two-year pilot program.