Huge victory for the people of NSW as millions worth of COVID fines withdrawn – now Government must cancel the rest

MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 29 November 2022, 5:00 p.m.

 

Today’s cancellation of 33,000 COVID fines is a huge victory for the people of New South Wales.

The Aboriginal Legal Service commended Revenue NSW for its quick decision to withdraw the fines after the NSW Government conceded in the Supreme Court that two fines were invalid – putting the legality of thousands more into question.

“The NSW Government must now cancel the 29,000 COVID fines that remain standing,” said Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (ALS).

“The Government has dragged people through the courts only to concede that some fines may never have been valid in the first place. How many more people does it plan to put through this ordeal before accepting that all COVID fines must be cancelled?” Ms Warner asked.

Ms Warner congratulated Redfern Legal Centre on its advocacy in bringing the test case to the Supreme Court.

“The onus has been on disadvantaged community members and cash-strapped community legal services to prove COVID fines were invalid when it was the government’s responsibility to ensure it was following the letter of the law,” Ms Warner said.

Today’s development builds upon months’ worth of evidence that the government’s heavy-handed approach to COVID policing was harmful, counter-productive, and in some cases not even legal.

Last month, an independent review accused governments and law enforcement of overreach by enforcing COVID rules “in ways that lacked fairness and compassion” and caused unequal impacts on disadvantaged people. Back in February, regional communities with high Aboriginal populations were revealed to top the list of COVID fines per capita – with Walgett, Brewarrina, Wilcannia, Coonamble and Bourke taking out the top 5.

“We know COVID fines had an unfair and unequal impact on Aboriginal people. The worst of the pandemic may feel like it happened long ago, but people are still living through it,” Ms Warner said.

“Aboriginal people have lost their driver’s licences as a result of unpaid COVID fines which has flow-on effects in being unable to get to work, take kids to school, shop for groceries, or go to health appointments. Community have been forced onto payment plans they can’t afford, which is stressful at any time of year and doubly so as we enter the festive season.”

In addition to Redfern Legal Centre’s Supreme Court case, the ALS is also running a test case to challenge COVID fines issued to peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. The matter is awaiting judgement from the Supreme Court.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW and the ACT can call 1800 765 767 or email [email protected] for help with COVID and other fines.

 

ENDS

Media contact: Alyssa Robinson - [email protected] - 0427 346 017

 

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