Fines and penalties that rely on the state penalty unit system will now be indexed yearly, with a default rate of change of 3.5%.
Previously penalty unit changes have been both sporadic and whimsical, in the last 14 years, penalty unit rates have only been increased on two occasions, once in 2009 and once more in 2010. In 2009 the value of a penalty unit was drastically increased from $75 to $100, in 2010 that figure was further increased to $110. The new indexing scheme is likely to provide smaller, more steady increases to fines and penalties than the current method.
What Is a Penalty Unit?
A penalty unit is a method of setting a fine amount. For example:
S 27(1) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Road Rules) Regulation 2009 (TORUM) creates an obligation on a driver turning left at an intersection to approach and enter the intersection from as near as practicable to the far left side of the road. Failure to do so may result in a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units or $2,200 (20x$110). A more serious offence, such as one outlined in s 225 which restricts a driver from driving a vehicle if the vehicle, or a trailer attached to the vehicle, has in or on it a device to prevent the effective use of a speed measuring device, or a device used to detect the use of a speed measuring device. This offence has a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units or $4,400 (40*$110).
In TORUM alone, there are 410 offences that have a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units, there are 4 offences with a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units. The penalty unit system allows a government to increase or decrease the monetary amount of all relevant offences without having to amend multiple acts.
The Result of Recent Amendments
In November the Penalties and Sentences Amendment Bill was introduced to parliament. The Bill was passed on the 5/03/2014 and assented to on the 13/03/2014. It will commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
The Bill provides that by default the value of penalty unit will increase by 3.5% per year. The Treasurer may, on or before 31 March each year publish a percentage change that is different to the prescribed change of 3.5%, in which case the published change by the Treasure will take affect.
Some Acts that operate on a different scale will be exempt, for example the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Electrical Safety Act 2002, and the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011 will not be effected by the yearly change.
The amendments will place Queensland in line with states like Victoria, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, all of which index the value of a penalty unit.
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