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Aussie drivers hit with exorbitant fines

Sources in some state governments are alarmed to learn of the scale of fines being imposed elsewhere.

Road users in some parts of the country face fines more than five times the size elsewhere - for the same offence. And infringements that carry three-figure penalties in Australia are not even against the law in other comparable parts of the world.

Inconsistent and over-the-top penalties are propelling government traffic fine income towards $2 billion annually, a News Corp Australia investigation has found. This has triggered calls for greater uniformity - and an end to "revenue-raising".

"It's a hopeless joke," said Australian Automobile Association CEO Andrew McKellar, adding that "some of the offences that are still on the books really are anachronistic". Leaving the engine on or keys in the ignition were two examples. Are we just revenue raising or is there a serious purpose to the level of penalty that is on the statute? It's a very rich vein of revenue that some state governments have tapped into."

For example, News Corp's investigation reveals that since 1998 the WA Government has not seen the need to put up the size of "penalty units" that underpin its system of fines. They remain $50. Yet Victoria has increased its penalty unit by more than 40 per cent since 2004, from $102 to $144.

Sources in some state governments were alarmed to learn of the scale of fines being imposed elsewhere. Others expressed amazement at the very existence of some offences.

State and territory governments expect to reap a combined $1843 million from road users this financial year, according to budget papers. That's equal to fining every Australian $80.

It represents an increase of $61 million on 2012-13. The Victorian Government reaped $326 million from fines in 2004-05; it anticipates making nearly double that amount in 2013-14: $643 million. Victoria will raise more revenue than any other state - by far. A further increase of $25 million has been budgeted in for next financial year.

NSW anticipates earning $488 million, up $6 million on last year, when revenue jumped 14 per cent "due to an increase in motor vehicle infringements", the current budget papers say. The government goes on to lament that "overall growth in motor vehicles fine revenue" will be limited by "improvements in driver behaviour". Next year the NSW Government expects to bring in $496 million.

SA is budgeting for a 25 per cent increase in fine earnings from $100.6 million in 2012-13 to $125.8 million in 2013-14, courtesy of new speed cameras. Last financial year was poor, from a government revenue standpoint, because "changes in driver behaviour". A further $9.1 million is expected to flow into the coffers next financial year.

Queensland is set to bring in $367 million this financial year, up $11 million on 2012-13. Tasmania is budgeting on a slight decline this financial year to $106.4 million before increasing $4.3 million in 2014-15.


* South Australians face a hit of $239 for stopping in an emergency stopping lane and NSW drivers could be stung $236. But in Queensland the penalty is just $44 and $50 in WA. It's not even an offence in British Columbia, Canada;

* Fail to carry your licence in SA and you could be up for $175. Yet drivers in Queensland, Victoria and WA are given the chance to produce their licence later. In France the fine is just 11 euro ($16);

* If you get out of your car but leave the key in the ignition in NSW and you may be liable for $101. But this is not even an offence in SA. Or New Zealand. Or British Columbia; and

* Likewise, drivers in Auckland or Vancouver face no penalty for stopping in a mail zone or near a post box. Yet in Sydney, it's a $101 fine - and punishable in every corner of our country.

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