Toll reforms are vital and must not be lost in debate about new road

Toll reforms are vital and must not be lost in debate about new road

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Today we have welcomed the Premier's announcement of important reforms to how toll fines are issued and enforced in the state.

Together with our partners in the legal assistance sector, we have been highlighting the growing problems that toll fines cause to our communities and the justice system.

Damian Stock, Acting Manager of Strategic Advocacy says that 'across the state toll fines are overwhelming Magistrates’ Courts, where the offence of driving on a private toll road continues to be the number one charge year on year.'

'It is the second most common problem people call our Legal Help telephone line with, and traps disadvantaged people unable to pay an initial fine, in a cycle of spiralling debt', said Mr Stock.

The reforms proposed by the State Government include:

  • making the fine more proportionate to the conduct by limiting a fine to one per week, rather than one per day, for unauthorised travel
  • doubling the time toll road operators have to identify and engage with a driver before referring unauthorised road use to the government to issue a fine – from three months to six months
  • Providing toll road operators with more data from VicRoads to enable the companies to identify and communicate with the driver of the vehicle. Combined with improved hardship policies by the road operators, this should enable assessment of hardship at an earlier stage, and prevent people going before Magistrates to have their personal circumstances considered.

'These important changes will ensure a fine – which quickly becomes $350 for unauthorised toll road use – is proportionate to the conduct. The current system of one fine per day means that for many of our clients, when something goes wrong for a week they can incur $2,450 in fines, which is unsurmountable and disproportionate to the behaviour', said Mr Stock

Limiting fines to one per week will provide a fairer response, enabling people to pay and limiting the burden on the justice sector that results from non-payment. This provides more time for toll road companies to pursue private debt before shifting the burden to the state.

There are concerns, however, that the reforms are contained in the proposed West Gate Tunnel Bill which the state opposition and cross-benchers have indicated they will oppose.

'We’re calling on the government and opposition parties to unite in implementing the reforms to lessen the strain on our overwhelmed courts and legal assistance sector, and to introduce a fairer response to people using private toll roads.' 

'These reforms are too important to the state of Victoria to be tied to legislation supporting a contentious new toll road', said Mr Stock.

Media enquiries

Our Acting Manager of Strategic Advocacy, Damian Stock, is available for comment.

If you have a media enquiry, please phone Alma Mistry on (03) 9280 3822 or 0418 381 327, or email Alma.Mistry@vla.vic.gov.au.

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