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Cards, cash and even cars seized as government sends in debt collectors

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Treasurer Cameron Dick is under pressure to pay down state debt and is putting the squeeze on Queenslanders who fail to pay theirs.

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Ahead of the last election, the Palaszczuk Government approved a Debt Recovery and Compliance Program to recoup more of the fines and other bills at risk of going unpaid.

Dick tasked the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) with doing more proactive debt management, while the government has also increased audits and investigations for taxation and royalties.

“I make no apologies for acting to recover money from those who owe it to the people of Queensland,” the Treasurer said at the time.

In the first six months of the program, SPER has garnished $2.3 million from the bank accounts of more than 1,900 fine defaulters – a five per cent increase on the amount seized over the same period a year earlier, taking it to just under $136 million.

Collections in the first three months of 2021 are already 15 per cent higher than for that quarter in 2020.

A government spokesman said “SPER has also seized more than 50 vehicles where people or businesses refuse to deal with their debt”.

There is more than $1 billion in debt registered with SPER, and it is growing due to the number of unpaid COVID-19 infringement notices and hotel quarantine bills. At the end of February, there was $419,779,537 under active compliance, $380,765,066 under enforcement, $92,641,775 under deferral and $426,446,592 awaiting enforcement.

By region, Logan-Beaudesert had the most debt, followed by the Gold Coast, which had the most debtors, and Ipswich.

The government has established a new Debt Management Centre at Ipswich, which has spearheaded the new approach. The spokesman said it had also created 80 new jobs, expected to increase to 100 over the coming months.

Dick will hand down the state budget in June, having previously forecast state debt to hit almost $130 billion.

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