89-2020 - Increase to Commonwealth penalty unit value

19 June 2020

Who does this notice affect?

The change affects passengers and crew travelling to Australia, senders and receivers of international mail and other persons who fail to comply with the legislation administered by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

The change will be reflected in infringement notices issued by the department and penalties imposed by courts.

What has changed?

From 1 July 2020 higher financial penalties will be in place for breaches of most Commonwealth laws.

Under most Commonwealth laws, financial penalties are expressed in terms of ‘penalty units’ instead of dollar figures. For example, a maximum penalty may be expressed as ‘10 penalty units’ instead of $2100.

On 1 July 2020, the value of a penalty unit will increase from $210 to $222.

The increase is the result of the automatic indexation of the penalty unit amount under section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914. The increase is designed to ensure that the real value of a penalty unit is maintained. The increase means that the maximum financial penalties for committing various Commonwealth offences and breaching civil penalty provisions will rise. For example:

  • the amount payable under infringement notices issued at Australian international airports for alleged contraventions of the Biosecurity Act 2015 will increase from $420 to $444 (2 penalty units)
  • the amount payable under all other infringement notices issued for alleged contraventions of legislation administered by the department (including the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) will increase from $2520 to $2664 where the person is an individual (12 penalty units) and from $12,600 to $13,320 where the person is a body corporate (60 penalty units).

Similarly, the maximum penalty that a court can impose for breaches of the law will also increase. For example where the maximum penalty for a particular offence or civil penalty provision is 120 penalty units, the dollar amount will increase from $25,200 to $26,640.

The new penalty unit amount will only apply to breaches of the law that occur on or after 1 July 2020. The increase will not impact on current court proceedings or breaches of the law that occurred before this date, where the penalty unit amount will be $210.

The penalty unit amount will be indexed again on 1 July 2023.


The Attorney-General, in accordance with subsection 4AA(1A) of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) provided notice that the value of the penalty unit amount will increase to $222, effective from 1 July 2020, as provided by subsection 4AA(3) of that Act.

Subsection 4AA(8) of that Act further provides that the new penalty unit value will only apply to offences committed on or after 1 July 2020.

Further information

For further information please contact Enforcement.

Last reviewed: 19 June 2020
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