Monash Council will be refunding parking fines paid by some motorists between 2006 and 2016. This applies to drivers who sought a review of their fine under the Infringements Act 2006 but did not have their fine withdrawn.
Council is also calling on the State Government to amend and clarify the Act, to make the definition of an enforcement agency clearer. Council has formed the view, that technical definitions in the Act are not straightforward.
Council has served many infringement notices for parking and related offences through its enforcement contractor who had carried out this process for more than 20 years on Council’s behalf, in accordance with the Attorney General’s and Council guidelines. The contractor issued and reviewed fines under this process.
In 2006 the Infringements Act was introduced. Council believed at the time that it was still able to continue contracting out the review function to a third party as it had done for more than 20 years.
However, the introduction of the Act in 2006 altered Council’s ability to do this. Council now believes that the introduction of the Act meant the final decision of the review should not have been outsourced, and that Council rather than its contractor should have undertaken the review. This now means that even though fines were issued correctly some of the reviews were consequently not valid.
The issue is that the contractor, not Council officers, made the final decision and signed the letter rejecting the appeal rather than Council signing it.
Council maintains that this change to the review process was not clearly identified when the Act was introduced in 2006. Council also maintains the Act is not clear in what constitutes an enforcement agency. This has led Monash Council to unwittingly continue its practice of outsourcing reviews of fines for more than 10 years (from 2006 to late 2016) as it had always done.
Council fixed the problem in late 2016 when it became aware of the issue by changing the way fines are reviewed, allowing only Council officers not contractors to review them.
Council has now formed the view that it is obliged to refund those fines that may have been dealt with incorrectly under the Act.
There are about 26,600 fines affected at a cost of around $2.6M.
Mayor Shane McCluskey said there was a flaw in the process that required government intervention to fix.
“This has been a complex and challenging issue on a number of fronts. We believed we were following the right process when our contractor undertook the reviews and the fines were paid. However, after considerable investigation we have now formed the view that those fines were paid under a flawed process not of our making,” Cr McCluskey said.
“It’s our view is that we now have a moral and legal obligation to refund the fines to those motorists.
“This is not a decision we have made lightly. It has taken us some time to form that view because we are very conscious that it is ratepayers’ money that is being spent. It has taken thorough investigation and due diligence to reach this decision.
“Council has written to the Premier and Attorney General asking for government to retrospectively amend the legislation but this has been refused so we now ask Government to clarify the Act so that others in the future do not find themselves caught in the way Monash has been, where we are refunding drivers who parked illegally but because of an administrative error we believe we are obliged to refund. We ask government to fix this error in process.”
Cr McCluskey said Council has written to each person believed to be affected by this process and asked them to get in contact with Council to assess their eligibility for a refund. The funds will come from Council savings and there will be no charges introduced to pay for the refunds.
For those who may be affected (fines received between 1 July 2006 and 15 November 2016):
- by email to Infringements@monash.vic.gov.au
- by post 293 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley or
- call in to the Monash Civic Centre, 293 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley or the Oakleigh Service Centre, 3 Atherton Road, Oakleigh
- contact 1300 661 510.
Media Contact: Jo Robertson 0418 391 979 or email Joanne.Robertson@monash.vic.gov.au