Under Australian law, a penalty unit (PU) is an amount of money used as a basis to calculate the monetary penalties and fines for many breaches of laws. To determine the amount to be paid as a fine, the value of the PU is multiplied by the number of PUs that are set for the offence.

Penalty Unit in Australia

A penalty unit (PU) is a monetary value that is used in Australian law to determine the monetary fines and punishments for various legal infractions. The value of the PU is multiplied by the total number of PUs assigned to the offense to find the amount that must be paid as a fine.

Every state, territory, and Commonwealth has a unique PU value. The punishment unit amount is determined differently in each jurisdiction, as is the method or frequency of its setting.

Instead of requiring lawmakers to amend every statute involving a fee each time the fine amount needs changing, they can swiftly and effortlessly adjust the fine’s value using penalty units. Penalty units are designed to keep pace with inflation or changes in public policy. This approach avoids the administrative expenses linked with regularly amending laws to reflect new fine values. A single adjustment suffices to change the value of the penalty unit, even in states where it is regulated by legislation.

South Australia

The Australian PU system is somewhat of an exception in South Australia. In that state, fines for each individual offense are still determined by the legislature in terms of dollars rather than points.

New South Wales Penalty Units

The value of a PU in New South Wales is specified in section 17 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. Since the Act contains the value, any modification will necessitate a parliamentary amendment—albeit to a single piece of legislation.

While individual laws typically specify the maximum penalties for offenses, in New South Wales, the penalty for common law or indictment offenses is “at large,” meaning there is no maximum. However, precedent indicates that a fine cannot be excessive given the circumstances (Smith v. The Queen (1991) 25 NSWLR 1).


In Victoria, the Department of Treasury and Finance updates PU values annually on July 1. The Monetary Units Act of 2004 gives them the right to do this. Before March of the next fiscal year, the Treasurer sets an annual rate. The rate from the prior year is applicable if he or she doesn’t. The Government Gazette and other significant newspapers must disclose the rate.


The Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 outlines the methodology used in Queensland to determine PUs.

Every year, the PU value is raised by 3.5% unless the Treasurer, in writing, specifies a different amount before March 1.

In computing the overall amount of the fine:

  • If the sum is not a multiple of five cents, it must be lowered to the next 5 cent increment for other offenses.
  • For offenses prosecuted by issuing a prescribed infringement notice (PIN), the amount is reduced to the next full dollar amount.

Tasmania Penalty Units

In Tasmania, the Penalty Units and Other Penalties Act 1987 governs the calculation of PUs.

Annual adjustments are made to a PU’s value using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If using the CPI to calculate the value indicates that the PU value should decrease, it will remain unchanged. Every year, before June 1st, the value of it is announced in the Gazette along with any proposed increases to that value.

If the amount is in dollars and cents, it is rounded up to the closest whole dollar when determining the fine’s value.

Western Australia

The usual Australian regulation regarding PUs is likewise broken in Western Australia.

Depending on the laws that apply to the offense, the state determines the PU rates. The Road Traffic (Administration) Act of 2008 establishes the penalties for traffic offenses.

Every Act that establishes a penalty unit must be revised by Parliament in order to alter the PU value.

Northern Territory

The punishment Units Act is the legislation that controls the value of a punishment unit in the Northern Territory. The minimum penalty unit value under the statute is $131.00, although the regulations may raise this sum.

Every fiscal year, the value of a penalty unit is modified in line with the CPI. The amount is rounded down if the updated amount contains pennies.

Australian Capital Territory

The Legislation Act 2001 in the ACT applies to PUs.

The Attorney-General is required to assess the PU value at least once every four years.


When an individual or business is fined for committing a Commonwealth offense, a PU for the Commonwealth is applicable. The Crimes Act of 1914 has undergone some recent revisions that will automatically raise the penalty unit amount every three years at the same pace as inflation.

Please get in touch with Dot Legal Lawyers if you need legal counsel or representation in any kind of legal case.



Dot Legal