Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — In Victoria, failure to pay for driving on a toll road is a criminal offence which can lead to imprisonment. This regime is highly unusual. All other debts, such as water or phone bills, are enforced through the civil debt recovery system. Victoria also differs from other jurisdictions. In New South Wales, toll debt is also primarily enforced through the civil system. The system that we have in Victoria can lead to horrendous outcomes. Community legal services have been inundated with cases of onerous debts created by the fines recovery system. Unpaid tolls of only hundreds of dollars can quickly balloon out to tens of thousands of dollars in fines. The system perniciously targets those who are vulnerable: recent immigrants who are not acquainted with the e-tag system; cancer patients commuting to hospital who have other concerns on their minds; and people with no fixed address, who do not receive the warning letters.
The quid pro quo for Transurban's proposed western distributor project is the extension of tolling arrangements on CityLink for up to 12 years as well as criminalising non-payment of toll fees associated with the use of the new western distributor roads. This would extend the duress caused by this highly punitive fines system to even more vulnerable people for longer. The action I seek is that the Attorney-General, Mr Pakula, transfer the toll debt collection system to the civil justice system to remove the pressure on Victoria's magistrates courts, support services, communities and families.