Victorians are being warned not to ignore $100 million (US$67 million) of COVID-19 fines issued by authorities during the pandemic years.
In a state Budget Estimates hearing, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes revealed that 50,150 fines were issued, but only 5,500 were paid (in full or in part).
Another 14,319 fines were unpaid and have passed their due date, leading to enforcement warrants being issued.
While 3,716 individuals chose to challenge their fines in court, another 11,800 had theirs cancelled.
With 20 percent of fines being withdrawn, Symes said Victorians could not risk ignoring current fines.
"Fines don't go away unless you take action for them," she told the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.
"There is a variety of ways that you can seek to engage with the department to deal with your fines, whether it's through payment plans or whether people have got grounds to have them withdrawn."
Melbourne in Victoria was subjected to one of the longest lockdown periods in the world over the pandemic years, enduring over 262 days under tough government restrictions.
Victoria's police chief commissioner, Shane Patton, would later announce initiatives to strengthen the relationship between police and the community.
Study Says Community-Police Relations DamagedMeanwhile, research from the University of New South Wales concluded that issuing fines for "behaviours that would never" have previously attracted police attention damaged relations between law enforcement and the community.
New South Wales authorities issued $45.9 million in fines between July and Sep. 2021—during Sydney's toughest lockdown period—for alleged breaches of ministerial orders made under the Public Health Act 2010.
"I am withdrawing all the fines related to those particular offences … and get a refund back to those people as quickly as possible,” said Revenue NSW's Fines Commissioner Scott Johnson in comments to reporters.
3,000 COVID-19 Fines Handed to Children in NSWThis comes after it was revealed that 3,000 Australian kids aged between 10 to 17 were slapped with AU$2.1 million (US$1.5 million) in fines between July 2020 and December 2021, according to data from New South Wales (NSW) Police in Australia’s most populous state.
The data obtained under information laws by the Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) found 2,920 fines were issued, with around 59 percent of fines costing between $1,000 to $5,000.
Around 17 children were issued with a $5,000 fine, 39 with a $3,000 fine, and 1,659 with $1,000 fine.
Under the now rescinded state public health orders, fines were issued for breaches of previous COVID-19 health regulations, including not wearing a mask, breaking curfew, and straying from the allowed five-kilometre radius of the home.
In terms of age groups, 19 to 29-year-olds were the most likely to attract a fine with 21,538 infringements, followed by the 30 to 39 age group (12,279), 40 to 49 (8,900), 50 to 59 (4,740), and under 18s (3,095).