State Governments Collect Millions in COVID Fines

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State Governments have been benefitting nicely from public health reforms imposed to deal with Covid-19, with millions collected in fines and penalties since March.

According to recently released figures, more than $5.2 million has been collected nationwide since pandemic laws came into effect in March this year.

While the figures relating to New South Wales and Victoria have not been released, but will mostly likely be later this year after the state government’s prepare their financial year end statements, it has been reported that:

Around the states and territories

Queensland collected  $2,998,872 from March 27 to July 27. Western Australia has collected about  $140,000.

Tasmania has collected a total of $6,804. However, there are more than 300 people who have been arrested or issued a court summons for non-compliance with COVID-19 directions, with penalties yet  to be determined by the court.

In the Northern Territory, 146 infringements for coronavirus-related breaches have been issued at $1,106 each — a total of $161,476.

In the ACT, police say they handed out their first Covid-19 related fine only just a few weeks ago to a business for $5,000 for non-compliance with the regulation that stipulates every person must have at least 4m2 floor space.

In South Australia, a total of 448 notices, worth $503,750, have now been issued. One Adelaide man was individually fined a total of $6360 after going to the gym instead of staying in quarantine for 14 days after visiting New South Wales.

Victoria and New South Wales Revenue

So far, Victoria has collected more than $1 million in fines and in New South Wales, data collected by the ABC shows that approximately $417,000 in fines has been collected so far, although that figure has not yet been verified. And many fines are still  in dispute, with police showing a distinct lack of consistency in enforcing laws.

Many people have been very critical of the severity of fines at a time when people are experiencing financial difficulty as a result of Covid-19, either through job loss, or loss of income.

While public health laws will indeed slow the spread of the virus, there’s a good case for taking a softer approach on people who have broken the law, simply because most of the legislation has not been communicated well to the wider public, and it keeps changing in response to the spread of the virus.

What’s more, with each State and Territory making its own public health laws, there is a good deal of confusion around what’s permissible. So concerned was a coalition of Victorian community legal groups about the way the laws were being enforced, it launched a website called: The COVID Policing in Australia website, where people from anywhere around the country can go to submit information about a fine they believe has been wrongfully issued as well as report interactions with police over public health regulations.

Victoria is in lockdown and masks are mandatory

Melbourne entered stage 4 restrictions this week, which means there is now an overnight curfew in place for the next six weeks, and people are banned from travelling more than once per day and further than 5km to go shopping or to exercise. However, people can still visit their partners, even if they live more than 5km away. There’s also an exception to the rule if shops are situated  further than 5kms away from home.

‘Non-essential’ businesses have been closed and golf and tennis venues have also been closed again and people will no longer be allowed to exercise in groups larger than two, even for those living in the same household.

Regional Victoria will move to stage 3 restrictions from midnight on Wednesday. Food and grocery stores will stay open, but Coles and Woolworths have implemented purchasing limits on some items.

Wearing a mask is mandatory across the state for anyone leaving home.

Masks ‘recommended’ in New South Wales

In New South Wales masks are not currently mandatory, but are currently ‘highly recommended’ by the Premier, particularly if:

  • you are in an enclosed space and you cannot guarantee social distancing, such as public transport, such as when you are buying groceries
  • for people in customer-facing roles, such as retail and hospitality, should also wear masks.
  • at places of worship
  • in densely populated living spaces, such as apartment blocks where there is a considerable potential for community transmission.
  • people living in identified Covid-19 ‘hotspots’.

But stay tuned, this recommendation could be upgraded to mandatory if case numbers in New South Wales continue to rise.

The latest numbers show Victoria has 671 new cases and NSW has 13 new cases.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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