Of all the extreme measures carried out by various states in Australia, the collections and confiscations by the State Penalty and Enforcement Register (SPER) might just be the icing on the cake.
During the lengthy COVID lockdown in the state of Queensland, Australia (Brisbane area), most workers were not permitted to work or earn a living.
Several states stepped in to provide wage subsidies so people could purchase essential products and pay their living expenses. However, during the lockdown if you were caught violating any of the lockdown rules, you were subject to a civil citation, a fine or ticket for your COVID violation.
Get caught too far from home, outside your permitted bubble, and you get a ticket. Get caught spending more than the permitted 1 hour outside, get a ticket. Get caught without a mask, even by yourself – and yep, ticket. Enter a closed quarantine zone (park, venue, etc.) and you get a ticket. Tickets were being handed out by police on the street as well as during random checkpoints on the roadways.
Additionally, people returning to Queensland were put into a system of involuntary quarantine. The costs for that quarantine, mostly hotel rooms, were to be paid by the people being involuntarily captive and not allowed home.
Citizens were required to have their physical location scanned via a QR code on their phone. These checkpoints were to assist in controlling the COVID spread and were used for contact tracing throughout the past two years. However, the checkpoints and gateway compliance scans also registered your physical location; the consequence was an increased ability for police and COVID compliance officers to catch people violating the COVID rules. Ex: If you checked in at the grocery store, they knew how far from home you are, and the police could figure out if you violated your one hour of time outside the home at the next checkpoint.
The result of all this compliance monitoring was thousands of fines, civil citations for violating COVID rules. Thousands of people given thousands of fines that would need to be paid.
Now the state is requiring all of those civil citations get paid, or else. And the enforcement actions to collect these fines from the State Penalty and Enforcement Register are quite extreme. Citizens who have outstanding tickets are finding their driver’s licenses suspended; bank accounts are being frozen and seized; homes and property are are being confiscated, as well as business licenses suspended for outstanding citations.
“Queenslanders who received fines for breaking Covid-19 rules risk having their homes seized and bank accounts frozen in a government crackdown to collect $5.2 million in repayments.” (LINK)
Brisbane Times – “SPER was undertaking “active enforcement” on another 18.4 per cent of fines, worth about $1 million, which a spokesman said “may include garnishing bank accounts or wages, registering charges over property, or suspending driver licences”. The remaining 25.2 per cent of fines were either under investigation or still open to payment without further action being taken.
Outside SPER’s work, Queensland Health took the unusual step of calling in private debt collectors to chase up $5.7 million amounting from 2045 significantly overdue invoices for hotel quarantine. (read more)