Attila the Pun
Monday, January 17, 2005

Anyone else have a problem with this?

Wealthy drivers caught breaking traffic and parking rules would face heftier fines than low income earners under a scheme floated by a left-wing think tank.

A paper by The Australia Institute argues that the Government should follow some European countries and base traffic fines on an offender's ability to pay, rather than the current flat rate.

Points to the Age for describing the AI accurately. The paper goes on:

"No one would argue that rich people should receive shorter jail sentences or have fewer demerit points deducted than poor people," the paper said. "Yet the system of flat-rate fines for traffic and other offences in Australia is grossly unfair in just this way."

But you would argue that they should receive bigger fines? If you accept this logic, shouldnt older people receive shorter jail sentences? A 20 year term to a 50 year old takes up a lot more of their expected life span than a 20 year term given to an 18 year old.

Thankfully the story gives ample room to people pointing out the difficulty in implementing it (though depressingly there is no comment as to its morality or fairness).

One possible objection is that offenders who are asset-rich but income-poor would get off lightly.

Hmm, good point - don't want the farmers being able to speed freely. In such a well thought out submission, I am sure they have come up with a good solution however:

The report acknowledged that basing fines on a combination of assets and income would not be feasible.


NSW motoring body the NRMA is against the proposed system, saying it would do nothing to prevent people breaking the law.

"Reducing the fine for some motorists could make the penalties less of a deterrent," the NRMA said.

Thank you Captain Obvious. The suggestion is that a current fine of $125 be dropped to $75 for those earning under $30,000, and rise to $385 for those earning more than $100,000. Do they not think that this will significantly lower the disincentive for speeding for people under $30,000? And are they not more likely to be driving an older, less safe, car?

In Australia, however, calculating an offender's ability to pay could be problematic because the states impose fines while the Commonwealth collects tax information. Because of this, the onus would be on the offenders to provide details about their taxable earnings to avoid the maximum fine.

You taxable earnings for the previous year? A pro rata amount for the current year? A weighted average over the last five years?

The current system ackowledges that fines alone are not an effective deterrent, as people either a) have the ability to pay them or b) don't bother paying them. That is why we have demerit points and automatic suspension of licenses for certain driving offences. It doesn't matter how rich you are, once those points are gone, you are just as unlicensed as the next person (unless you get your butler to sign a stat dec saying he was driving.)

Of course, if this plan were to be adopted in Victoria, they would only adopt the $385 aspect, and leave the base fines as is. All in the name of road safety you understand.

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