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Victoria: The Police State

No garden state: the Victorian government's focus on speed camera revenue sets it apart from other states.

Victoria's covert speed camera craze is testing the public's friendship

General News logo28 Nov 2003

By JOHN MELLOR

THERE’S something rotten in the State of Victoria – and it’s called pushing the public too far.

Victorian motorists have had enough. The Bracks Government has put the thumb screws on drivers in order to manage its finances.

But it is in danger and having anarchy break out on our roads because it has aggressively targeted motorists with dollar and points penalties with speed detection equipment that no-one trusts.

Speed cameras in Victoria, and other states, are breeding contempt for our leaders and the consequences of losing public confidence in road policing are serious.

In Britain speed cameras are turning normal law abiding citizens into criminals.

Cameras are now so hated in the UK that a survey by the respected RAC Foundation (the former Royal Automobile Club) found that 48 per cent of motorists would NOT report anyone they saw vandalising a speed camera.

Think on that. The devices are so despised that half the British motoring public would condone vandalising public property.

There is now a group who have made it their business to destroy speed cameras with night raids on the devices like some latter-day Pimpernels.

In France it is reported that the first 30 speed cameras installed were destroyed by the public. They were either shot, painted or smashed with a sledgehammer.

We are now hearing stories that groups of Australian drivers have decide to ignore speed limits altogether, ignore accumulated points and ignore loss of licence. That is anarchy.

The Federal Government has come out against the use of speed cameras on zero tolerance when the Fed’s own speedo requirements of car-makers is a 10 per cent tolerance.

The leaders of the car industry are condemning the focus on speeding as a panacea for road trauma warning that there are many other factors that affect road safety - especially driver training.

The great flaw in the road safety argument used to justify zero tolerance on speeding are the dollar numbers.

The Kennett Government raised about $90 million a year from speeding fines. Bracks is budgeting for $450 million and that figure is projected for years to come.

That means the Bracks Government thinks Victorian drivers are going to break the law four times more than when Kennett was in power. Or are they simply going to continue to put up more and more hurdles and restrictions in order to capture more and more drivers? The plan is epitomised by the Melbourne to Geelong Princes Freeway which was turned into a modern three-lane freeway at the cost of $280 million. Before the road was even opened the Bracks Government was saying that it was not safe enough to have a 110km/h speed limit.

Aside from the fact that they pretty much admitted they had built a substandard freeway with our money, it is clear the real motive is to frustrate drivers so much with the low speed limit of 100km/h that they are going to be caught by the 18 speed cameras planned for the road.

If Bracks thought the speed cameras were in fact going to reduce speeding, why is he budgeting for four times the previous income for years to come? Because they are going to increasingly lower speed limits right across the state and then put cameras in place to enforce them.

Motorists knew they were in trouble when they renamed "speed cameras" "road safety cameras". If you have read George Orwell’s Animal Farm you will know how worrying it is when leaders use euphemisms to disguise the truth.

And the truth is that Australia’s road toll is the same as it was in the 1950s when the numbers of cars on the roads and the population were a fraction of today.

The fact is that the number of road deaths has dropped from 10 per 100,000 vehicles in the 1950s to 1.5 per 100,000 vehicles today. That is a huge achievement reflecting vehicle design, improved roads and driver attitudes.

The time has come for the police and the government to give credit where credit is due. But in Victoria they treat drivers as the enemy.

Yet any leader knows that you cannot keep telling the troops they are not doing a good enough job. They will just give up on you.

In Victoria they adopt an adversarial and dictatorial approach of blame, chastising and punishment.

But real leaders involve their people in the process. They explain the ways they believe targets can be met and they provide the information, training and the tools to meet the targets. They commit resources.

A good leader seeks improvements, set targets and awards praise when the targets are met. Then they involve their people in seeking even more improvements.

When you have the majority of people with you and involved in the process then those who are the real problem start to stand out.

But not in Victoria, where we are close to the point where injustice breeds contempt. And contempt has already broken out in Britain and France.

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