Several public transport authorities have stated that penalties for assaults on public transport staff should be increased to come into line with existing protections for emergency service workers.
The Western Australian Government reported a significant reduction in assaults against public officers since it introduced mandatory jail sentences for the offence in 2009 and a minimum jail term of 12 months for grievous bodily harm in 2014. This included a 26 per cent reduction in assaults and a 35 per cent reduction in incidents of obstruction against public officers in the past decade.
Australasian Railway Association (ARA) chief executive officer Danny Broad said that such strong measures were needed to deter assaults.
“Elevating penalties to align with assaults on emergency services staff will reinforce the message that abusing and assaulting transport staff whilst they are simply doing their job will not be tolerated,” Broad said.
The South Australian Government has also tightened regulation surrounding public transport assaults, bringing penalties in line with existing rules for emergency personnel assaults in March 2016. Bus Industry Confederation executive director Michael Apps urged other states and territories to follow suit.
“We have written to Transport Ministers in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Tasmania calling on them to adopt a similar approach to Western Australia and South Australia by increasing penalties for those who assault public transport staff,” said Apps.
Naomi Frauenfelder, the executive director of rail charity TrackSAFE Foundation, added that appropriate penalties for people who threaten or assault rail staff were a “critical component” in trying to reduce incidents.