The Ugly Side of Revenue Raising
September 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
So let me take you back to a time when horse drawn carriages conveyed people and goods through the streets of Sydney. I’m no transport historian but I doubt there were requirements to register the size of your carriage, the number of wheels it had, the number of horses pulling it or the combined number of horse legs involved. My grandfather was one of the first and one of the leading bakers in Sydney. He was forever losing horses and carriages down some of the steeper streets in Mosman. Unfortunate, but just a part of doing business in that area where the technology had not kept up with the transport requirements.
Move ahead a few years to the introduction of the internal combustion engine and horseless carriages. What changed? Two things; the speed of the carriages and the manoeuvrability of the carriages. Firstly, the fact that the wheels were directly coupled to the motive force meant that steering and braking were a thousand percent more effective. Secondly, four rubber tyres provided insanely more friction force than steel horse shoes on stone or bitumen. Bottom line; you could go faster safely.
Once the technology had caught on, there were more cars going faster that resulted in….you guessed it…accidents. Reasonably, the authorities made the decision to charge a registration fee so that the vehicles could be identified and monitored / tracked when accidents occurred. The fee was nominal and represented the reasonable cost of regulation.
A short time later, as speeds increased considerably with technology improvements, and the police started to drive horseless carriages, fines were introduced to encourage people not to be out of control. There were almost no safety features in those days and the consequences of two vehicles coming together were usually serious.
What we now had was a mechanism by which the government could raise revenue by taxing the population for using the road. Each year, the government could increase the size of theses fines to increase revenue. As well, the number and range of fines increased to capture more revenue. While this added no productivity, gave the motorist back nothing and built no infrastructure, vehicle running costs increased (the cost of registration rises each year beyond what is a reasonable cost of administration and of course third party personal insurance goes up and up – more revenue). Oh….you say, but it if you do nothing wrong you won’t be fined. Bullshit! The government want you to be fined. That’s why you get 12 points every two years. That’s why cops hide….to CATCH you speeding, not to STOP you speeding. Two different things. Now we introduce speed cameras and you have an instant way to raise revenue and the whole enforcement paradigm has shifted from road safety to increased revenue. And when you get to that stage, you need a whole media campaign to justify the unjustifiable “Every K over is a killer!” What utter rubbish. Age of vehicle, age of driver, type of vehicle (large four wheel drives for example) are much greater influences on road safety than a couple of K’s over the limit.
Leap ahead to 2015 and the two cops sitting across the road from my city office. They are hidden in a railway line access driveway and are booking people exceeding 40km/hr through a school zone that has only been in place for a week. For 20 years it has been considered safe (and legal) to drive past the school at 60km/hr. I have never heard of a single accident in this area of any kind and certainly have never heard of a child being hit by a vehicle. There are traffic lights and pedestrian crossings at the exit of the school to allow students to cross safely.
Move ahead one week and it is now a dangerous activity to drive at 60km/hr which is then in excess of 15km/hr over the speed limit and two demerit points and a couple of hundred dollars. The cops are pulling over about a car every four or 5 minutes. What a great business model….change the terms and conditions of the contract with no notice, hide in the bushes, and then hammer the customer with penalties.
Oh! But it’s road safety! Gimme a break. This is where the institutionalised corruption hits high gear. The number of fatalities and injuries per 1000 kilometres driven has been steadily dropping since the 1950s. You are now safer in a vehicle than you ever have been in any time in history. The following graphs (http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/papers/fatals.html)show this in brilliant colour.
However, the police (you know those guys who are meant to be tasked with looking after us) tell us that the road toll is unacceptable and that we all must be punished severely. Of course they quote the overall road toll, not the relative road toll, as it suits there purposes. Lies, damned lies and statistics. The real problem is that they start to believe their own spin. The yearly increases in traffic fines and the yearly changes to the levels of offence (15km over becoming 13km over) are simply designed to raise additional revenue. They have absolutely nothing to do with safety. There is no evidence that covert speed cameras have any effect on road safety.
“Every K over is a killer!” is it really? I drive an E63 Mercedes which can pull up from 100km/hr in just over 30 metres. A Toyota Landcruiser pulls up from the same speed in just over 40 metres. That’s three times the width of a pedestrian crossing. What’s the killer? I can occasionally be found in my car thrashing it around Eastern Creek raceway. When was the last time that Pitt Street farmer had his Landcruiser out on the track? Speed kills…..Muppets Kill!!!
The absolute proof that this is all about revenue is in the treatment of company registered vehicles where you can choose not to identify the driver but simple pay three times the fine. I.e., if you are prepared pay the tax, you can speed all you want! We won’t even mention the fact that the number of accidents decreased when they pulled the speed cameras off Somerset’s roads in the UK (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-somerset-18099809)
The great tragedy of what I am seeing today is the number of mums in family wagons that are being pulled over. You can see that they are visibly upset and will have to go home and explain to hubby that t she just lost a couple of hndred dollars because she was doing 60 in a 40 zone that had been installed for a week and that she had been pulled over by a couple of dodgy tax collectors hiding from view to catch her.
Given the prevalence of domestic violence, and the fact that some of these women will have to break the news to drunken abusive husbands, some of these mums will be beaten up for their trouble. Just for a second, imagine how they felt when the bloke in the blue uniform jumped out and pulled her over. This is an example of government actively working against citizens.
Road safety my arse.