The NSW government has allowed debt collectors to go after returning travellers whose hotel quarantine bills have become overdue.
Outstanding debts from mandatory stays in NSW hotels amount to $27 million, figures released to ABC News under freedom of information laws reveal.
Out of the debts, 644 invoices totalling more than $2 million are so overdue that authorities have issued debt recovery orders, which empower officials to take actions like seizing property and taking a cut off wages.
The figures also show just 4156 out of a total of 43,684 returnees have paid their debts for hotel stays. That’s just under 10 per cent.
However, more than half of those who have returned to Australia since the government began charging for hotel fees have been exempt from paying.
They include defence force personnel and travellers who were in transit, and the waivers given to them cost the government more than $31 million.
The government footed the bill for all quarantine hotel stays until mid-July, when a $3000 fee was introduced.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at the time that taxpayer funds worth $65 million had been spent on the quarantine program up until that point.
“Australian residents have been given plenty of time to return home – and we feel it is only fair that they cover some of the costs of their hotel accommodation,” Ms Berejiklian said at the time.
NCA NewsWire has asked for a comment by Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres, who is responsible for the quarantine program.