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The Forum > General Discussion > Are fines in Australian Law equitable?

Are fines in Australian Law equitable?

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Is the concept of lawful fines as a percentage of income more equitable than fixed fines?

Discuss.
Posted by Is Mise, Sunday, 16 July 2017 3:49:16 PM
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I presume you're referring specifically to traffic fines, Is Mise.

The fixed-fine system is somewhat equitable to the extent that everyone loses the same amount of points on their licences, and those on lower incomes are able to make arrangements for reasonable weekly/fortnightly payment plans.

The main problem with an income-based fine system (ignoring the silly red scares that are sometimes brought up when the issue is raised), is the fact that one’s income isn’t always indicative of their wealth.

I think where those on lower incomes suffer more with the fixed-fine system is in the stress that is brought on by receiving a fine. The wealthy person simply pays the fine and moves on, and the risks of speeding are less for them. And, to that extent, they are theoretically more inclined to do it.

That being said, perhaps the biggest problem with the fixed-fine system is that (theoretically, at least) we create a class of people out there who are more willing to put the lives of others at risk, when we should all be equally concerned about speeding?

Just a thought.
Posted by AJ Philips, Sunday, 16 July 2017 7:52:29 PM
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Our speed limits are totally ridiculous, designed only for revenue raising. For many years I drove interstate regularly, cruising quite legally at between 80 & 90 MILES per hour, without any problems, as did hundreds of thousands of us.

Today with much better cars & roads we have the lowest speed limits in the world, simply to allow governments to waste even more money collected in fines.

These speed limits have no bearing on safety, as on the country main roads I frequent, about half the traffic travels well under the limit, obviously at a speed they are comfortable.

The financial burden of fines is very low compared to the burden of losing a drivers licence, even for low income people. The cost to most people of loss of mobility is far greater than the few hundreds of dollars in fines, that would cause a loss of licence. As the loss of licence is standard regardless of income, the most serious penalty is quite equitably, if ridiculously applied.
Posted by Hasbeen, Sunday, 16 July 2017 8:21:01 PM
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The only fines i have had has been in my coffee. It is not compulsory to rack up fines, anyone that does rack up a stack of fines is a Hasbeen.
The system is designed to give everybody a fair go. By going above the limit it is taking judgment away from someone else. You can judge if you have a safe limit at a stated speed. If someone is speeding your judgment is compromised because you don't expect someone to be speeding.

Speeding is for hoons without anything between the ears, and those that rack multiple fines or drive unregistered cars need naming and put on an public menace list. They are just plain selfish.
Posted by doog, Monday, 17 July 2017 10:31:51 AM
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In this matter I have heard an interesting point raised.
A speeding infringement is a criminal matter.
As such the suspect must be positively identified.
To be "Deemed" to be the driver is not positive proof.
You do not have to admit to being the driver or offer any information
on whom the driver maybe. You are entitled to silence as you do not
have to give any evidence that may convict yourself.
These are two important principles from common law that have been in
place for centuries.
So if booked by a camera and by post, say nothing
and admit nothing, the prosecution has to prove its case.
This maybe how the Queensland drivers are getting away with not paying tolls.
There is an ancient law that says if a toll collector is not present
the debt is forgiven.
The constitution says that debts must be paid in "Coin of the Realm".
Presumably that also means "Notes of the Realm".

I would be interested to hear O Sung Wu's opinion on this.
He must have heard stacks of excuses in his time.
Posted by Bazz, Monday, 17 July 2017 2:37:07 PM
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No, I'm not referring specifically to traffic fines but across the board.
However, traffic fines are a good example.

Example: "Reima Kuisla, a Finnish businessman, was recently caught going 65 miles per hour in a 50 zone in his home country—an offense that would typically come with a fine of a couple hundred dollars, at most, in the U.S. But after Finnish police pulled Kuisla over, they pinged a federal taxpayer database to determine his income, consulted their handbook, and arrived at the amount that he was required to pay: €54,000.

The fine was so extreme because in Finland, some traffic fines, as well as fines for shoplifting and violating securities-exchange laws, are assessed based on earnings—and Kuisla's declared income was €6.5 million per year. Exorbitant fines like this are infrequent, but not unheard of: In 2002, a Nokia executive was fined the equivalent of $103,000 for going 45 in a 30 zone on his motorcycle, and the NHL player Teemu Selanne incurred a $39,000 fine two years earlier.

“This is no constitutionally governed state,” one Finn who was fined nearly $50,000 moaned to The Wall Street Journal, “This is a land of rhinos!” Outrage among the rich—especially nonsensical, safari-invoking outrage—might be a sign that something fair is at work."

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/03/finland-home-of-the-103000-speeding-ticket/387484/
Posted by Is Mise, Tuesday, 18 July 2017 12:54:09 PM
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AJ,

The demerit system makes the system equitable, the rest is just revenue raising.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Friday, 21 July 2017 7:01:11 AM
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There is nothing fair or equitable about the system of fines in Australia. I begin by firstly saying I have no speeding convictions past or present. I have a 'clean' driving record and I have been driving 'legally' for approx 50 years. What I am angered about regarding fines is the points system. Apparently, the points remain on record for three years. I believe this is supposed to somehow 'shame' you into being compliant.
NOTHING the law makers do make any difference to peoples driving habits. We are being treated worse than children. Unfortunately the great majority of Australians today, act like children. This means the law makers are on the same level as pedophiles! First load of crap is all these fines have reduced road related deaths and injuries. CRAP! Secondly, the fines are intended to be deterrents and nothing to do with revenue raising. CRAP! The part that infuriates me and wants to see these law makers attacked in a dark alley is, their blatant and total dis-regard for the lives and livelihoods, families and future they destroy by removing someones license. If its money these bastards want fine take your blood money but let these guys get on earning more money so you can take it off them again. What moron takes away the very life blood that will help pay the fine in the first place. These ignorant law makers have to be brought to heel and stop killing people. What I suggest is, forget the stupid points system, when someone is charged with an offense just impose a fine. If no-one was injured or compromised and no property was damaged, then as far as I am concerned 'nothing' happened. Now even if something happened, and it was clearly an act of aggression or anger, then by all means throw the book at them. I have to laugh, these idiots take away the very thing that allows someone to earn the money that can pay the fines. Their drivers license! Morons! We get it you want money, because your not stealing enough off us already.
Posted by ALTRAV, Friday, 21 July 2017 7:20:47 AM
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If the purpose of a fine was intended to impose equal pain as punishment on each person, then better equity under the law would require all fines to be determined using criteria that includes a mix of the persons net worth, capacity to pay and current financial circumstances.

There is a reason all fines are expressed in dollar terms and that's because its the same for everyone so that's fair isn't it? Wrong, a $200 fine is enough to make some people homeless while for others it's the source of a laugh around the restaurant table
Posted by Referundemdrivensocienty, Friday, 21 July 2017 9:19:27 AM
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The rich love nominated set fines because its only the price of a glass of wine anyway and all they have to do is make a credit card payment.
Posted by Referundemdrivensocienty, Friday, 21 July 2017 9:25:48 AM
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I suppose that the trite reply to the OP is that penalties are avoidable. Just obey the law.

However, even where we try to avoid all contact with the law it is inevitable in modern life that we must come into contact with it and yes, wealth with its accompanying smarts and contacts, can soften the blow or even allow escape from consequences.

There are manner of reasons why the less well off may come into contact with the law more often and on the wrong side.

But then those who can access free legal aid and may not have assets or income can escape the costs and lack of legal help through costs of same, that plague wage earners and small business people.

On the spot fines are supposed to reduce the impact on the individual and wastage of court time. However where society is built around car ownership government needs to consider the impact of fines on the less well off. How to do that is the problem.

I reckon though that we should be worrying instead about the increasing criminalising of behaviour. To explain, because government itself wants to collect fines economically and it also wants to encourage and ensure the profitability of business providing essential services such as transport, behaviours such as fare evasion are being made criminal acts at law. Put under the criminal code. Of course the penalties are big money too and lets face it, it is unlikely that the 'rich' make public transport their popular 'ride'.

The political parties who lay claim to representing the 'worker' and 'trodden over' would have to be among the first to criminalise behaviour that was never imagined to be criminal before.

How comfortable is everyone with that? Does the end ever justify the means?
Posted by leoj, Sunday, 23 July 2017 11:17:52 AM
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No one has the god given right to defy the law, those that do deserve the penalties that are imposed. Why do some people say revenue raising, that means they think they have a right to defy the law.
If you can not go from here to there without penalties they have no right to own devices that enables them to do that. We have rules that enable a persons passage to somewhere, and you come across someone that is outside of them rules, it takes your right of passage away for someone else’s ignorance.
As far as I know the only ones that have the right of traveling out side of the general rules is vehicles with lights and sirens. If you do not have that sort of equipment there is no right of breaking any rules.
Posted by doog, Sunday, 23 July 2017 12:15:04 PM
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doog,

I have accumulated one minor traffic ticket in the many years I have been driving. That was where a long pre-existing signage had changed sometime through the week. I paid up anyhow and got on with life.

Now, had that been an age pensioner or anyone on a modest fixed income, it could have been budget disaster. The same applies where the person might deliberately break the law by speeding a bit because they are late, the road was clear and so on. Any infringement implies additional unnecessary risk. People are human.

For myself, I am very surprised by what science informs us are the risks of using a mobile, even glancing at it, while in charge of a vehicle. But then we, you too, often drive without active attention too. The risks are not what our intuition might suppose. We are just fortunate not to have had an accident.

It suggested to me that to reduce road trauma, maybe authorities should be slowly grinding their way through the ways to channel people into better driving, including recognising and handling hazards.

However the engineers and other professionals are already doing this and the aid of psychologists is continually sought as well.

Are fines equitable? Not always, but rest assured it is all under continual review.
Posted by leoj, Sunday, 23 July 2017 12:53:34 PM
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Shadow Minister,

I definitely agree that the fines are pure revenue raising. The fact that constantly checking one's speedometer and watching out for speed zone changes is probably more dangerous than doing a few Ks over the speed limit on the odd occasion I think is evidence of this.
Posted by AJ Philips, Sunday, 23 July 2017 1:58:40 PM
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AJ Philips,

I agree with both of you.

It seems to me though that whenever police commissioners are under scrutiny over (say) burglary stats, the immediate knee-jerk is the publicity-generating 'crack down' on traffic and other minor offences. A ticket each time, no question.
Police Commissioner, "There you go, that is a police presence for you to be going with!".

The 'Our equipment can measure 1kph over and you will get done for it' did not come from politicians I believe but from senior echelons of the police.

In Queensland for example, The Courier Mail has had for many years back to JohB-P, the ready made headlines it trots out for those occasions, 'Blitz' and so on.
Posted by leoj, Sunday, 23 July 2017 3:32:08 PM
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Leoj, you touch on a very sensitive point.
The speed measuring equipment is not checked frequently enough and
argument is pushed aside by the state law deeming it to be scientific
equipment.
The Commonwealth Measuring Act requires the person using the equipment
to be able to produce an up to date calibration certificate.
Not one in a thousand coppers would be carrying that.
You should be able to demand to see it in court at least.
Their reliability to measure with a plus or minus 1km per hour is
I think very dubious.
What is not realised is when using measuring equipment accuracy is
quoted as a percentage of full scale deflection.
ie if your speedo goes to 200km per hour the 1% accuracy means plus
or minus 2Km per hour. To say they can measure 1Km per hour at 60km/h
is obvious nonsense.
All speedo pointers are a lot wider than that.

There is a case where a radar device was defeated because the victim
was able to show that the unit responded to the radiator fan blades
of his car.
I think this case caused the introduction of laser devices.

All in all making such measurements under such typical unrepeatable
conditions is really the height of madness.
Posted by Bazz, Sunday, 23 July 2017 4:33:29 PM
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Bazz,

It is also a fact that bureaucrats may set out to test for a precedent.

Where you might be the unfortunate one chosen, even if you are a barrister your pockets might not be deep enough.

Politicians would be happy to let it run.
Posted by leoj, Sunday, 23 July 2017 4:54:29 PM
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I have a million questions, but I will ask just one at this time. I would like to know who decides what speeds we do and where? It is patently clear that the enforcement of a law in this category, has nothing, nothing to do with saving lives. We are treated like children and maybe there is your answer. The problem is, I am no child and I know I'm being conned. I vehemently reject being treated as one. The attitude of the law makers/enforcers is such that they should be incarcerated. We are 'told' what to do with absolutely no explanation or justification about how that law came to be. Where and who established the 'terms of reference'? Where is the reasoning on how they came up with these 'laws'? For all you 'politically correct' Nancys, who believe that if it's law we must all comply, without question. Well it's people like you that have given rise to and allowed these mongrels to push us around and steal money from us, at their leisure and we are not allowed to challenge them. Thanks a lot you 'law lovers' are all as much morons and guilty of the same crimes as they are.
Posted by ALTRAV, Sunday, 23 July 2017 10:02:55 PM
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Get yourself a digital spedo, that operates on GPS, It comes with beeps when you are over the precise limit. When the speed signs change it beeps if you misjudged it. Even when you speed up before you pass a sign that says it is ok to speed up.
New cars this year are coming with GPS speedo's

You do not have any excuse for not complying. If you do not trust your thick speedo needles well back off 5.
Posted by doog, Monday, 24 July 2017 3:06:26 PM
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Although I have not had fines for a several years now, grown out of the Porsches, most of my vehicles are registered in company names. When you receive a notice in the mail you are offered the option of nominating the driver, then paying applicable fine, or you can opt for the much larger fine, 300% from memory if you pay through the company. I guess it keeps many of our much needed traffic on the road. Revenue raising at its best.

As for wealth/income, I think we have enough subsidies in place already.
Posted by rehctub, Tuesday, 25 July 2017 6:01:39 AM
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Rechtub, and therein lies a tale.
Under the law you do not have to provide information for any offence.
You have the right to silence.
My understanding is that speeding is a criminal offence and the
prosecutor has to prove identity.
The "deemed" identity is I think illegal.

I wish someone would take that up in court and settle it once and for all.
The government makes all sorts of assumptions that it can get away with.
For instance the people in Queensland who do not pay the tolls because
there is no toll collector present.
Payment by electronic means is illegal as per Australian Constitution.
An ancient law says that if no toll collector is present then the
debt is forgiven.
The constitution requires payment by "coin of the realm".

The people in Queensland have not paid tolls for years.
Posted by Bazz, Tuesday, 25 July 2017 8:45:55 AM
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Whoops;
The people in Queensland have not paid tolls for years.

That sounds like all people in Queensland are not paying tolls.
What I really meant that the few people that have challenged the
legislation are still not paying the tolls & fines last I heard.
Posted by Bazz, Tuesday, 25 July 2017 9:45:17 AM
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In the 60s I was booked 4 years in a row driving to Bathurst for the Easter race meeting.

They would flood the roads over the blue mountains with cops, & find some excuse to book anything that looked even vaguely like a sports car. Revenue raising at it's finest.

One year I vowed to beat them. I drove so slowly I was a pain in the ass mobile chicane to all other drivers. They still got me. In those days of mandatory hand signals, I was booked for "failure to hold my stop signal for a long enough time" when pulling into a service station.

I then switched to racing a Brabham Formula 2, which I towed to Bathurst in a fully enclosed trailer. Never was troubled by revenue raising traffic cops again.

Can't remember when I was last booked, decades at least. When you have travelled down Conrod straight at over 180 miles/hour, speed on the public road is of no interest at all.
Posted by Hasbeen, Tuesday, 25 July 2017 10:43:30 AM
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