The claim that speed cameras are purely used as ‘revenue raisers’ is well-worn. But that claim is a tad generic, and leaves itself open to misrepresentation.
So we decided to do a little digging, and have listed below all the ways that speeding fine revenue is spent in each state.
Spoiler alert: most of the time it goes toward improving road safety.
With more than a billion dollars in speeding-fine revenue collected each year nationally, it’s a lot of coin going into road safety, which also makes the increasing road toll even more confusing.
A report from the Queensland Audit Office released in 2015 states that “the surpluses from the Camera Detected Offence Program (CDOP) are to be used to improve state controlled roads, in road safety education and awareness, and in supporting trauma services.”
The same report defines surplus as any money in excess of the administration costs of running the CDOP. Spending the remaining surplus is dictated by the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.
Figures from the report show that the largest portion of the surplus is spent on improvement to the safety of state-controlled roads, followed by road accident injury rehabilitation programs, road safety education and awareness, and finally digital platform and digital camera technology (read: new speed cameras).
During the 2013-14 financial year, in excess of $60 million was spent on road safety improvements in the state, of the nearly $80 million in surplus revenue.
New South Wales
It was revealed in late 2019 by 7News that the New South Wales government now spends more of its speeding fine revenue on new cameras than it does education or road safety.
Fines collected in NSW amounted to $157 million in 2018-19, all of which were added to the Community Road Safety Fund coffer, which totals $304 million.
Of that pot, $37 million (or 12 percent) was reinvested back into speed camera programs and maintenance.
Funding for a blackspots program was allocated $14 million, school safety had $24 million set aside, and public education and awareness programs were granted $22 million.
The same pot of money is used to fund community education providers such as the Motorcycle and Pedestrian councils (the latter of which Wheels readers should be well aware of). However, how much these groups receive hasn’t yet been revealed as negotiations are ongoing.
The Community Road Safety Fund was established in 2012, following a petition by the NRMA.
NSW Centre for Road Safety defended the funding allocations, with director Bernard Carlon telling 7News “Forty percent of our fatalities are speed related and speed cameras work to reduce that trauma. Speed cameras saved lives.”
In November of 2019 New South Wales roads minister Andrew Constance told reporters fine revenue went back into spreading awareness for speeding.
“Everyone needs to know that fine revenue goes straight into a road safety fund to educate people to not do what they've done wrong in the first place,” he said at the time.
In the 2018-19 financial year, the fines issued from road safety cameras in Victoria amounted to about $320 million.
New legislation was introduced to parliament in 2018 to guarantee where this money is spent. All the revenue from both speed cameras and on-the-spot fines is put into the Better Roads Victoria Fund, which as the name suggests, is spent on improving the state’s road network.
While this was also done prior to 2018, the new legislation mandated where money is spent, preventing future governments changing course on the previously discretionary spending.
Under the new rules, 33 percent of the fund will be spent on rural roads, 33 percent will be held for outer-urban roads, and the remainder will be dedicated to miscellaneous road improvements, as decided by VicRoads.
According to a Victorian government website, projects the Better Roads Victoria Fund spends money on can include: road restoration, road-surface replacement, improving roundabouts, overtaking lanes, and bridge strengthening. It also claims the cost of road trauma amounts to between $4 and $6 billion per year, including serious injuries and fatalities.
Government officials in Tasmania have previously claimed that speeding-fine revenue is handled similarly to the funds discussed earlier.
It should be noted that Tasmania has the lowest speeding fine revenue tally of any state, adding roughly $1 million per year to its coffers, or about the same amount Victorian’s pay every day.
In 2009 then-Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett defended new increased speeding fines against claims of revenue raising.
"Every single dollar extra that is earned through these increased penalties will go directly back into road safety measures, and most particularly, enforcement measures for the police,” he said, according to the ABC.
The wording allows wriggle room for simply the increased revenue to be reinvested, instead of the entire fine.
Last year South Australia increased speeding fines, some by up to 60 percent, in an effort to plug a hole in the state budget left by an expected $500 million reduction in GST revenue.
The increases in speeding fines are expected to ease damage to the budget by roughly $79 million a year. At the time of the announcement, state treasurer Rob Lucas described speeding fines as ‘voluntary taxation’.
Despite stating that the new fines were intended to help ease the hurt of a budget deficit, a South Australia government website says “all funds collected through fines from speed and red light cameras are returned to road safety through the Community Road Safety Fund.”
In 2014, then Road Safety Minister Tony Piccolo said speeding-fine revenue “has funded a range of key road safety initiatives including infrastructure, education and enforcement programs” as part of the Community Road Safety Fund.
Once again, fines are funnelled into a single-use fund, with Western Australia speeding fine revenue being put into the Road Trauma Trust Account
A Western Australia government site states “The Road Trauma Trust Account (RTTA) receives 100 percent of the revenue resulting from photographic speed and red-light camera fines.” Interestingly, on-the-spot fines are omitted from the statement.
The site continues: “funds are managed by the Road Safety Commission and provided to implement priority road safety projects that address road safety initiatives consistent with the Government’s Towards Zero Road Safety Strategy”