A disproportionate number of fines for breaching COVID-19 restrictions are being dished out to the vulnerable members of the community, new data shows.
Statistics obtained under Freedom of Information laws by the Sun-Herald, revealed young disadvantaged Australians, with an immigrant or Indigenous background, have received a greater number of penalties in NSW and Victoria between March 17 to June 28.
The data also showed that suburbs where most fines were handed out, had little correlation to coronations hot spots.
A disproportionate number of fines for breaching COVID-19 restrictions are being dished out to the vulnerable members of the community, new data shows. (pictured: police in Victoria patrol a shopping centre)
Pictured: Police are pictured chasing a skateboarder who is not wearing a face mask in Melbourne
Nationwide stay-at-home orders introduced in March by Scott Morrison’s government to slow the spread of COVID-19, saw fines for anyone who was outdoors without a valid reason or failing to abide by the 1.5m rule.
The NSW suburbs which received the highest number of $1000 fines for COVID-19 breaches was Mount Druitt, Sydney’s CBD, Liverpool, Potts Point and Kempsey.
But the top five areas where fine recipients actually lived was Mount Druitt, Liverpool, Green Valley, Blacktown and Redfern.
In total, NSW dished out 1209 personal infringement notices, along with a further 210 penalties for more serious breaches.
Officers issued 77 fines in Mount Druitt – an area which recorded 19 coronavirus cases and sits in the bottom ten percent of Australia’s most socio-economically disadvantaged suburbs, according to official government figures.
The Mid North Coast town of Kempsey, which also sits in the bottom 10 percent, received 28 fines and charges and recorded two cases of coronavirus.
Both of these areas have a higher number of Aboriginal residents compared the national average of 2.9 per cent.
Police are pictured speaking to a man outside Melbourne Town Hall on May 28 while enforcing COVID-19 restrictions. (There is no suggestion anyone pictured has done anything wrong)
Mount Druitt has an Indigenous population of 6.8 per cent, while Kempsey has 13.5 per cent.
But in Sydney’s exclusive eastern suburbs, where there was an outbreak of infections, the numbers tell a very different story.
Bondi had 112 cases and saw 16 fines given out, while Mosman had no penalty notices issued at all and recorded 41 infections.
Mary-Louise McLaws, a professor of epidemiology at the University of NSW, said authorities should be targeting areas with a higher number of infections.
‘You really want the focus to be hotspots,’ she said.
‘Outbreak managers will get the most benefit if the police target hotspots and those that are living in hotspots need to be advised overtly that this is what will happen.’
NSW Police said fines are issued to people disobeying the rules and that ‘statistics did not always convey all relevant information – for example, there were a lot of fines issued in the CBD and Kings Cross because they were places where people gathered’.
Australian Defence Force officers donning face masks have accompanied police for door knocks
The officers were seen conducting Public Health Order checks at homes and businesses across Sydney
But Samantha Lee, a solicitor in the police accountability practice at Redfern Legal Centre said it appears police have been given too much discretion to dish out fines.
‘Such discretion often has a detrimental impact on those who are most vulnerable,’ she said.
Young people under 30 more likely to be in insecure work, represented half of all breach notices in NSW – 40 per cent were under 25.
Residents in postcodes with a high number of immigrants who can’t speak English also revived a higher number of fines.
In Victoria, the state’s three most disadvantaged communities made up 10 percent of coronavirus fines, while richer suburbs accounted for less than 2.0 per cent.
In the first two months of lockdown to May 19, Central Goldfields Shire, Greater Dandenong and Brimbank copped 529 fines, The Age reported.
However those living in the state’s most advantaged communities – Nillumbik Shire, Bayside and Boroondara – were hit with just 85 breach notices.
Police clashed with anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne, (pictured) arresting 17 people and fining more than 160 over a rally that started at the Shrine of Remembrance on September 5
Three armed law enforcement officers are pictured on July 31 at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance approaching a man in a face mask