Queensland's LNP Opposition has called for increased penalties for drivers caught tossing cigarette butts in an effort to match harsher punishments in place in other states, where litterbugs can be fined up to $25,000 and even face jail time.
Queensland Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said existing fines should be doubled and demerit penalty points introduced to prevent further instances like the September 2019 bushfires in Binna Burra, which police said were caused by a discarded cigarette.
Currently, under Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's government, the penalty for throwing a lit cigarette butt onto dry grass in high fire danger conditions is a fine of up to $533 for individuals and $2135 for corporations.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, if the LNP's measures were implemented, Queensland motorists could potentially face fines of up to $11,000 and lose 10 demerit points if caught tossing lit cigarettes from vehicles during a total fire ban.
Meanwhile, in other states such as Western Australia and New South Wales, motorists and passengers caught tossing lit cigarettes from cars during total fire bans could now receive double the fine or demerit points they'd receive under normal conditions.
As of January 17, 2020, NSW motorists tossing lit cigarettes will, for the first time, be penalised five demerit points. And if the offence occurs during a total fire ban, this increases to 10 demerit points and a fine of up to $10,000.
Passengers who commit the same offence in NSW can be fined $660 - a number that also doubles during a total fire ban period.
In WA, individuals littering lit cigarettes will attract an infringement penalty of $500 in regular circumstances, but when doing so under a total fire ban could face a fine of $25,000 and/or 12 months in jail.
In other states, fines of between $300 to $500 are in place for the tossing of unlit butts, but these fines skyrocket if the butts are lit.
In the Australian Capital Territory, motorists discarding butts can face fines of up to $500, or up to $16,000 if they are found to have started a blaze with a lit cigarette butt. In Victoria it ranges from $322 for an unlit cigarette and up to $645 for a lit cigarette.
In Tasmania the fine for disposing of a cigarette butt, lit or unlit, is $169 and in the Northern Territory, fines can range from $50 to $157 depending on the circumstances of the offence.
For those who query whether discarded cigarette butts are capable of starting a blaze, a study conducted by University of Technology Sydney student Jennifer Dainer found cigarette butts ignited grass fires in 4% of outdoor trials and in 33% of laboratory trials.
In November 2019, Queensland police found a discarded cigarette was likely responsible for starting a Gold Coast blaze that destroyed 11 homes and the historic Binna Burra Lodge in September 2019.
Two local teenagers were questioned, but the blaze was determined to be accidental.
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