The Government is considering a bill that would make smog-related fines an offence, but it is not yet clear if this will affect other areas.
The Federal Government’s smog and air quality strategy is a blueprint for pollution reduction and the rollout of a new national air quality standard, and it will include an enforcement mechanism.
The strategy is aimed at reducing the number of deaths in the smog from around 1.5 million to 1.25 million annually, by reducing emissions of particulate matter and other pollutants.
The Government has promised to phase out smog by 2030, with an emissions-reduction target of at least 10 per cent.
The plan will also make smogs a criminal offence.
Smog is an important driver of climate change and other environmental harms, but the Government’s emissions targets could have a significant impact on reducing pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Read more about smog in our smog guide.
The bill, called the Smog Prevention and Action Act 2017, has been flagged for the Senate and will be sent to the House of Representatives for approval.
This is expected to happen before the end of the year.
The bill, introduced by the Liberal National Party (LNP), proposes to impose fines on people who are found to be driving or operating vehicles that emit smog.
“Smog-affected communities should be able to enforce their responsibilities under the legislation to ensure their air quality remains safe,” a spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.
Smog is a critical driver of carbon emissions and climate change.
It causes heart disease, respiratory problems, cancer, and other respiratory diseases.
A report released earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that “smog and pollution are the leading cause of premature deaths in Australia”.
A separate report from the National Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (NPPA) found the majority of Australians were unaware of smog rules or how to enforce them.
But the Government has a long track record of trying to roll out emissions reductions.
In 2016, it passed the Clean Air Act, which was the first legislation to establish a national air pollution standard.
Then in 2017, the Government introduced the Clean Power Plan, which has helped to reduce smog emissions by up to one third since it was first introduced in 2020.
This year, it is also looking to implement a new standard for indoor air quality, which is expected be a major milestone in achieving its emissions reduction target.
Despite the Government having the power to implement emission reduction measures, many people in Australia still struggle to make ends meet.
More than 20,000 people in Victoria are on the Government target for cutting their emissions by 30 per cent by 2025, according to a report by the Victorian Government.
There are also large numbers of households in some parts of Australia who struggle to pay their bills.
Under the Clean Energy Target, the National Energy Regulator (NER) has proposed that all households in Victoria must pay up to $2,000 per year to reduce their energy use.
According to the NER, if a household fails to comply, it could face a $1,000 fine.
The Government’s own report into smog found that people who drive or operate vehicles that exceed the new national standards can face a fine of up to 50,000 ($12,000).
In 2020, the NEF reported that a large majority of households (85 per cent) did not have an income above the $100,000 threshold.
At the moment, the new Smog and Air Quality Strategy states that the Government will work with the Australian Clean Air Council (ACC) to provide advice and support to affected communities on ways to comply with pollution limits.
What do I need to know before paying a fine?
The penalty for failing to comply is up to two weeks’ jail, or a fine up to AUD$3,000.
Anyone who fails to meet a pollution limit by the deadline set by the ACC and the National Air Quality Standard can be fined up to AU$5,000, and up to three years’ imprisonment.
If a person fails to pay the fine within 24 hours, the ACC can suspend their licence.
To avoid fines, the penalty can be paid via a cash or cheque.
How to pay a fine in Australia: Anyone can pay a fines fine by cash or a cheque to the ACC, the Commonwealth Office of Fair Trading or a third party, such as the Australian Taxation Office.
Any amount over AU$10,000 can be sent in person or by courier.