The Change the Record Coalition today welcomed a renewed discussion on reducing imprisonment for fine default, but called for all parties to rethink their proposed policy approach.
The Australian Labor Party yesterday released a policy proposal aimed at reducing imprisonment due to fine default through reform of the fine recovery process. The ALP policy proposes that the States and Territories are able to use the tax and social security system to recover unpaid fines through a Fine Enforcement Collection Scheme. This is similar to models that have previously been proposed by the Federal Coalition and WA Governments.
CTR Co-Chair Antoinette Braybrook said, “We are supportive of the principle of reforming the fine recovery process to reduce the unnecessary incarceration of our peoples – but we need to know more detail.”
“Our communities are more likely to experience disadvantage as a result of a number of factors including intergenerational trauma, family violence, homelessness, unemployment, disability, mental health issues or substance addiction”.
“We have significant concerns about the social security system being used to compulsorily enforce payment of fines by these vulnerable people” said Ms Braybrook.
The current ALP proposal does not outline how it will accommodate disadvantaged people who need assistance and support to address the underlying factors that have resulted in the inability to pay the fine.
Fellow Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “To avoid pushing vulnerable people further into poverty, we recommend all parties commit to work with the States and Territories to implement Work and Development Order schemes, modelled on the effective NSW approach. Fine recovery schemes should as be used as a matter of last resort.”
“All parties should also undertake significant consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations and the legal sector, to ensure unanticipated negative consequences are avoided, such as disproportionate impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other marginalised groups.”
“We call on all parties to commit to abolish fine-default imprisonment as soon as possible, and adopt policy approaches that will support, rather than punish, our most vulnerable people.”
“We stand ready to work in partnership with government to develop appropriate and effective reform options” said Mr Duffy.
The Change the Record Coalition recommends all governments:
- Commit to abolish fine-default imprisonment as soon as possible;
- Introduce Work and Development order schemes, modelled on the effective NSW approach;
- Ensure the adequate provision of gender and culturally relevant early intervention and diversion programs, to address the current over-imprisonment of Aboriginal women and girls;
- Establish a legislative presumption against arresting victims of domestic violence at time of police intervention for outstanding unrelated charges, such as fine default; and
- Retract any plans to introduce a compulsory scheme whereby outstanding fines may be deducted from social security payments because such a scheme will further seriously disadvantage vulnerable Aboriginal people
View Media Release: https://changetherecord.org.au/blog/news/call-for-rethink-on-finedefault-reforms