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New laws aim to reduce fine debt

The State Government today passed laws to streamline enforcement of fine and penalty debt.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said the changes would include moving fine and penalty enforcement functions away from police and the Department of Transport and Main Roads to the Queensland Revenue Office (QRO).

He said moving the functions into a single government agency would yield more than $20 million of outstanding State Penalty Enforcement Registry (SPER) debt repayments in its first year.

SPER, which is a division of the QRO, is responsible for the collection and enforcement of unpaid infringement notice fines, court-ordered monetary penalties, offender debt and levy recovery.

“Queenslanders believe in a fair go,” Mr Dick said. “They believe that people should pay what they owe, and that people should be paid what they are owed.

“These new laws do both those things, moving some fine penalty and fine administration functions from the Department of Transport and Main Roads and the Queensland Police Service into the (QRO).

“This will ensure money owed to the state is recovered faster and more efficiently so it can be used to deliver the important infrastructure and critical emergency services Queenslanders rely on.

“Simplifying the payment process for people incurring fines will also give them the best possible chance to make their payments on time and avoid their debt escalating.

“To target debtors who refuse to pay significant debts, the new laws enable the cost of SPER’s enforcement activities to be recovered from the sale proceeds of seized property such as cars, boats and motorcycles.”

Mr Dick said the changes represented one of the most significant improvements to SPER’s operations in its two-decade history.

“In September 2020, I announced the Debt Recovery and Compliance Program to increase SPER’s resources and capability – and it is paying dividends for Queenslanders,” he said.

“We established a dedicated Debt Management Centre in Ipswich, which has already collected more than $145 million to the end of March 2022.

“Focusing on people with long-term debts who refuse to make payments, SPER has increased enforcement activities such as seizing and selling vehicles and property, and garnishing wages and bank accounts, right across the state.”

Mr Dick also announced changes to the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, saying they would provide greater protection to Queensland tenants’ rental bonds.

“Under the current funding model, the Residential Tenancies Authority relies on investment returns that are made on tenants’ rental bonds to meet its operating expenses,” he said.

“The challenges of global financial markets have delivered year-to-date negative returns on the RTA’s investment portfolio, which mean it has lost money.

“These amended laws establish a transparent and reliable funding model.

“The RTA will be provided with $35 million annually, which is more than their average spend over the last three years.

“Most importantly, there will be no changes to the way renters and landlords interact with the RTA.

“Services supporting the payment, redemption and holding of rental bonds will continue just as they do now.”

He said the changes would not affect the net debt position of the state.

“The RTA’s assets and liabilities are already reported as part of the General Government Sector balance sheet and this reporting framework will remain unchanged,” he said.

“There will be no increase to the value of assets or liabilities shown on the General Government Sector balance sheet because of the changes.”

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