TasCOSS chief executive weighs in on state's unpaid fines

More than 4000 Tasmanians have outstanding parking and court fines, and infringement notices. File photo
More than 4000 Tasmanians have outstanding parking and court fines, and infringement notices. File photo

Tasmania’s fixed-rate fines are a “heavy blow” to a low income earner, according to TasCOSS.

Data from the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service revealed more than 4000 Tasmanians have outstanding parking and court fines, and infringement notices, forming part of an ongoing $61 million debt to the state.

More than 7225 Australians who have not paid their fines are listed on the MPES website.

TasCOSS chief executive Kym Goodes said the state needed to look at who was incurring the fines.

“Both the total amount of a fine and the impact of repayment can have a big impact for someone on a low income, who works each day to balance the budget they have for necessities such as food, power and housing.” she said.

“This kind of system impacts disproportionately on people experiencing social or economic disadvantage and can act to exacerbate this disadvantage.”

Under the current system, people can apply to have conditions varied for repayment.

According to the Department of Justice Annual Report 2016-17, there were 24,545 applications to pay by instalments in Tasmania during 2016-17.

If someone is unable to pay a fine through instalments, they can apply for a Community Services Order to assist with the repayment of their debt. 

On the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service website, it states if people are “employed or receiving benefits, it is very unlikely your application would be successful.”

Ms Goodes said Tasmania could follow the lead of other countries in lessening the financial burden of fines.

“There are more equitable systems being used Europe, where fines can be paid through community service and there are ‘day-fines’ which take a person’s income level into account when setting the fine,” she said.

“There is little or no evidence that fines actually prevent disadvantaged people from engaging in the behaviour for which the fines are imposed.”