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People living in lower socio-economic areas in Victoria were twice as likely to receive a fine from police for Covid-19 rule breaches in 2020 than those in higher socio-economic areas, a parliamentary inquiry has found.
As of mid-December last year, 39,985 fines had been issued to people in Victoria for breaches of Covid-19 rules. At the time, just 2,806 of those had been paid in full, and 4,869 were withdrawn.
The Victorian parliament’s public accounts and estimates committee, which had been reviewing the state’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak for the majority of 2020, analysed fines issued between April and September last year against the Australian Bureau of Statistics socio-economics indexes for areas.
In the 500-page report on the government’s response tabled in parliament on Tuesday, the committee found the 10 lowest socio-economic areas had 0.73% per capita fines, compared to 0.36% for those in the highest socio-economic areas.
Greater Dandenong and Brimbank were highest, accounting for 5.6% and 4.59% of all fines.
The report graphed the total number of fines issued with the number of daily reported cases of Covid-19 and found the volume roughly aligned with the case numbers over the course of 2020.
The report recommends Fines Victoria consider publishing its review of the fines process, and Victoria police consider releasing de-identified demographic data on Covid-19 enforcement to provide more data on which groups received more fines.
The report also found the lockdown of nine public housing towers in early July at the start of the state’s second wave left residents feeling “scared, powerless and criminalised” due to the use of police to enforce the lockdown, and noted the lack of communication with the residents prior to the lockdown.
The lack of a plan to manage an outbreak in high-density, state-managed public housing led to confusion and lack of communication in the early stages.
The majority report from Labor MPs withholds criticism of the state government over issues with contact tracing and hotel quarantine, which resulted in more than 800 deaths, in both cases noting improvements made to the programs after the second wave.
The report did recommend the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions consider releasing the results of a review of the security services used in the hotel quarantine program, and the government consider releasing the results of an audit of the contracts for the program.
The minority report from Liberal and Liberal Democrat members, however, said the report “failed dismally” to hold the government to account, going into lengthy detail over issues raised in the hotel quarantine inquiry.
The minority report blames the Department of Premier and Cabinet for making the decision in March 2020 to use private security in hotel quarantine, “endorsed” by the premier, Daniel Andrews.
This is made despite the hotel quarantine inquiry not making a finding on who made the decision.
The Greens have called for an independent review on the new departments formed after the split of the Department of Health and Human Services into the Department of Health and the Department of Families, Fairness, and Housing, and for a national centre for disease control to be located in Melbourne.
Source: The Guardian
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