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Fines Enforcement and Debt Recovery Bill
November 14, 2017
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 28 September 2017.)
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (12:00): We will talk about that, too. This bill will broaden the powers of the government to recover debts and expand the circumstances whereby community service and intervention programs can be undertaken in order to service a debt. The bill will also enable all debts that are owed to the government, including civil debts, to be dealt with by the fines unit.
I am supportive of the provisions in the bill; however, I hold some concerns that the chief recovery officer will now be able to terminate a payment arrangement if they are of the opinion that a person's circumstances have changed and they are of the opinion that the person is now able to pay the debt.
The paperwork required by the fines unit to enter into a payment arrangement has increased in the past few years. It is no longer simply a matter of requesting a payment arrangement and having it granted. Individuals need to demonstrate that they would suffer financial hardship should they be required to pay their debt up-front, so it is not easy for a payment arrangement to be granted.
I understand that payment arrangements would only be terminated in circumstances whereby the CRO becomes aware of a person's increased capacity to pay. However, I would hope that the CRO would consult with individuals before terminating such agreements.
The government's attempts to find alternative measures so that people will be able to service their debts are commendable. However, Advance SA believe that the government should also be looking at the other end of the spectrum—that is, the cost of fines in the first place.
South Australia's speeding fines are 50 per cent higher than the national average. The most directly comparable jurisdiction to South Australia is Tasmania, and our fines are approximately double theirs. These stats indicate that the fines are not about safety; rather, it is revenue raising for the government. Last year, $126.6 million was raised from fines and penalties, with an expected 20 per cent increase to $152.4 million in 2020. Clearly the government expect to keep milking this cash cow.
While I commend the government for trying to help vulnerable people, if they were serious about it, they would also be looking at not slugging them with outrageous fines in the first place.