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Federal

Mar 3, 2011

Our carbon addict tax system

If you compare the money spent encouraging fossil fuel usage compared to how much it spent on climate change programs in recent years, it shows we have a pro-carbon tax system, so strongly supportive of fossil fuels that it would outweight a carbon price.

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Earlier this week, the Australian Conservation Foundation released an analysis comparing how much the Federal Government spent encouraging fossil fuel usage compared to how much it spent on climate change programs in recent years.

We asked the ACF for their data and then supplemented it with our own research to try to provide a longer-term take on the comparison. The ACF has compiled data on climate change programs announced in budgets going back to 1997, so we tried to collate data on all the rebates, tax expenditures and other types of spending that encourage fossil fuel use back to 1997 as well.

Some caveats are in order. The chief source for the data is Treasury’s annual Tax Expenditures statement, which tries to nail down how much revenue is lost through tax concessions, exemptions and deductions. The quality of Treasury’s Tax Expenditures work has improved each year, but that means the further you go back, the less data there is. Where necessary, we’ve used a deflator to simply reduce the value of a fossil fuel subsidy by inflation, and tried to err on the conservative side in doing so. We’ve also used the biggest figures we could find for climate change programs.

In some years, the forecast expenditure on climate change programs hasn’t eventuated, but rather than use the real figure, we’ve given government the benefit of the doubt and used the higher forecast figure, not the actual spending. On the other hand, we calculated the increase in the lost revenue from the 2001 ending of fuel excise indexation differently to the ACF to provide what we think is higher, more realistic figure.

The first blush result confirms that the enormous disparity identified by the ACF from 2007-10 is only the worsening of an existing problem from the 1990s. This is the comparison of the ACF’s identified fossil fuel subsidies versus climate change programs, in millions of dollars.

Yes, the little green stuff down the bottom represent climate change programs.

The big increase in fossil fuel subsidies in the last decade is mainly driven by the Howard Government’s panic-stricken decision to end fuel excise indexation in 2001 (the story behind how that came about, and the appalling misjudgement of the ANAO in causing it, is a tale for another occasion).

That decision deprived the Federal Government of billions of dollars in fuel excise by ending the long-standing practice of indexing fuel excise, meaning each year the government loses more revenue as prices and fuel usage go up. But even if you ignore the fuel excise loss altogether, on the basis that failing to increase the nominal rate of tax on a fossil fuel isn’t encouraging its use, you still get an alarming disparity.

This is the same comparison without the lost revenue from the fuel excise indexation:

Still — so what? I fear I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, at least in the broad, about the priorities of successive Federal Governments regarding climate change. But let’s dig a little into the figures. The big difference — apart, obviously, from the bloody great disparity in dollars — is climate change programs are just that — programs, usually grants programs, administered by bureaucrats, and subject entirely to the whim of politicians.

Some years they rise, when political imperatives dictated more money for climate change, or there’s a more effective minister in the Environment portfolio. Other years they fall. And some years budgeted allocations weren’t spent fully, because that’s the nature of program administration.

Fossil fuel subsidies generally aren’t programs. They’re usually tax expenditures — that is, they’re built into the tax system as automatic deductions or rebates or exemptions for taxpayers, corporate or individual. Unlike programs, they generally don’t have a finite, four-year allocation — they just keep going on, and they’re not administered like programs. And whole industries rely on them. Ask the local car industry whether we should continue to provide a Fringe Benefits Tax concession for company cars or car parking. Ask the aviation industry — among the most intensive CO2-e emitting industries — whether we should tax aviation fuel like every other fuel. That’s what makes it so hard to curb these handouts to fossil fuel industries.

The one example of a government moving to cut one of these handouts was the Rudd Government’s 2008 Budget decision to end the excise holiday on condensate. The move drew — you’ll never guess — dire warnings from the energy industry of massive impacts on companies like Woodside, who would have to pass on the cost. Woodside’s Chief Executive Sook Don Voelte called it “sovereign risk”.

The tax passed with the support of Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding later in 2008 and not a peep has been heard on the issue since.

The problem with the removal of the condensate handout was its atypicality. We have a taxation system that is pro-carbon, strongly so. Even a high carbon price is going to be pushing against $10+ billion a year worth of fossil fuel subsidies. In fact let’s look at one final graph. We have indexed the current level of fossil fuel subsidies out several years — not the level at which they’ve been increasing recently, just indexed by inflation. And against that we put the forecast revenue from the last iteration of the CPRS.

It’s a bit of a gimmick, but illustrative of just how strongly pro-carbon our taxation system currently is. And on current political form, there’s a greater chance of a carbon price than of anyone taking the razor to fossil fuel subsidies.

*Additional research by Crikey interns Grace Jennings-Edquist and Samantha Kodila

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113 comments

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113 thoughts on “Our carbon addict tax system

  1. Sir Lunchalot

    I heard that Rob Oakeshott has received $36,500 since the election for chairing two Government Committee, thats on top of his salary.

    Nice work when you can get it.

    Why would he want to buck the trend and upset PM Gillard or President Brown?

  2. Liamj

    Good work! You really gave them the benefit of doubt with budgeted rather than actual expenditure on CC programs, in Howards Natural Heritage Trust spending 20-60% of promised was normal, IIRC.

    I look forward to the Institute for Public Affairs launching a campaign on this obscenity of government subsidy, unless they really are the hypocritical whores everybody says they are.

  3. Mark Duffett

    I’ve never quite bought this. If I’m reading BK correctly, the lion’s share of those apparently huge fossil fuel subsidies is in the form of various rebates and exemptions from fuel taxes and excises. But doesn’t the fact that we have fuel taxes and excises at all count against the ‘subsidies’? Doesn’t the revenue from fuel taxes etc far outweigh that foregone?

    That’s certainly not my understanding of what a subsidy is.

  4. Mick S

    @Sir Lunchalot
    I heard you invent stories without any foundation whatsoever, in order to make a political point. Nice work if you can get it.
    Of course, you could easily prove me wrong by providing a reliable and independent source.
    But, why would you want to buck the trend?

  5. Apathy

    Sir Lunchalot – I am not sure how that comment is that relevant to the article. All politicians no matter which carriage they sit in on the gravy train get paid to be on committees. It’s a trough that they have all had their snouts in since Noah said to God “I’m not going to get those stains out of the floorboards with environmentally friendly detergents.” Chances are if he had of been a Nat or Independent who didn’t hold the balance of power, he still would have been on a few committees. Yes I know the Chair gets more than a Member but it’s not millions more and most know it’s far easier to just be a Member and soak up the Gravox than have the extra responsibilities that comes with being the Chair. Some could argue there is a benefit to his ego but it’s still not relevant to BK piece.

  6. Sir Lunchalot

    @ Mick S.

    Incorrect mate, it was mentioned this morning in Senate estimates. I heard the $36,000 figure, thought it was $36,900, but errered and said $36,500. Its definately over $36,000. I expect you will see it reported in tomorrows papers.

  7. kuke

    As The Age reported on Tuesday:

    “The analysis comes as documents released under freedom of information laws showed bureaucrats had identified up to 17 programs costing more than $8 billion a year that may have to be cut for Australia to meet a G20 agreement that member countries eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that lead to wasteful consumption.

    Treasurer Wayne Swan has argued that Australia had no programs that met the G20’s definition of a fossil fuel subsidy.”

    They have to go.

  8. Dr Strangelove

    Great research. Well if a carbon price replaces the fuel excise that will stop the problems of ceasing to index it (especially if its set above CPI increases as proposed).

    You could almost wind back those expenditures instead of putting a price on them. Guess that is just a question of which would result in the least blow back from industry…

  9. freecountry

    Mark Duffett – Yes, all of the fuel-excise related items listed are changes to concessions, deductions, or indexation, and not one mention of the fact that the petrol and diesel excises exist in the first place! Or that an LPG excise will start on 1 July this year at 2.5 cents per litre, upsetting those people who have invested in converting their cars to low-emission. Not one mention of public transport expenditure, anywhere.

    Embarrassing to mention the fuel excises, of course, because due to a combination of inadequate investment in public transport, even less adequate investment in freight transport, and dysfunctional land markets locking people into living far from their work places, that particular carbon pricing mechanism has no effect on behaviour at all.

  10. Mick S

    @Sir Lunchalot

    You have still not provided a source.

    Your comment “mentioned in Senate estimates” (not, as you concede, yet published), combined with an attempt to evade discussion of the issue (carbon tax) while instead launching a personal attack on a perceived opponent makes you sound suspiciously like a party hack.

  11. Sir Lunchalot

    @ MickS

    I will post the source, as soon an a media outlet reports it, or its on the Senate website. Its fact.

    The relevance to the Carbon Tax Debate is that these political commitees are a waste of time, when chaired by politicians. Look at how biased House and Senate speakers / president are. We need retired judges doing it.

    How can you have unbiased discussion on carbon tax and NBN and other issues when you have a politician running the committee

  12. Mick S

    @Sir Lunchalot

    An unbiased discussion did not at all appear to be your motivation from your initial post.
    Quite the opposite in fact.

    Committees chaired by politicians?

    Certainly not, next thing they’ll be attempting to run the whole damned country what?

    Far better that any decision making be in the hands of retired judges without a doubt. No doubt ably assisted by some retired business owners. Sounds awfully cosy.

    You sound even more like a party hack.

  13. Scott

    Yep, I agree with Mark Duffett. Another pretty ordinary article by crikey. No comment on the fuel taxe/excise itself, which, even with all the subsidies, still averages a net figure of $11 billion a year in money to the Feds).BK does this all the time. He totally misrepresents the finances, either through ignorance, or intent, to present a very lopsided picture of what is happening. He did it with the Free to air TV licence rebates and now again with fossil fuel subsidies. Crikey deserves better.

  14. Apathy

    @ Sir Lunchalot

    I agree with you that they are a waste of time and the decisions they make are generally not worth a pinch of poo but it’s not because they are pulling $36K a year. The reason why they are a waste of time is because the govt of the day will stack it with people whose lips are welded to the PM’s butt and the opposition will stack it with their most effective antagonists. The terms of reference are always written in such a way that the desired outcome is achieved. And at the end of the day, it can be the most sensible thing ever written but if the govt don’t want to do anything with the recommendations then that is their prerogative and there is bugger all they or anyone else can do about it. The Howard Govt was famous for not following recommendations from committees it established. The $36K is merely a symptom not a cause.

  15. Liamj

    @ Mark Duffett – tax holidays most certainly are subsidies, as all other technologies and consumers don’t benefit from the privelidges that fossil fuel industries have chiselled out.
    I don’t get the meaning & relevance of “Doesn’t the revenue from fuel taxes etc far outweigh that foregone?”, please explain.

  16. Sir Lunchalot

    @ MickS

    Party Hack? Never been a member of any party, not a member now, never been to any party meeting, never been to any politcal briefing in my electorate. I vote in one of the most marginal electorates in Australia. A few hundred votes decides it every time.

    I am no hack, just fed up with politicians and I will speak my mind as loud as I like, as that is my right in Australia.

    I am sick of waste, corruption like activities and mismanagement and incompetent people being elected. I think, 80% of Australians would agrees.

    If that makes me a hack, I wear that with pride

  17. Meski

    Those are ugly graphs, Bernard. (and what they represent is too)

  18. freecountry

    Jeez, $36K? So that’s why we have no VFT yet, I was always wondering why we couldn’t afford it. And all of that just for chairing two of the only things in parliament that do any actual policy work, while the party caucuses play at manipulating the polls and the HoR devotes itself to light theatre? Give me back my $0.0015 share of that money right now. I want to invest it in a scam selling tickets to the next Question Time.

  19. Mark Duffett

    @LiamJ, if the industries concerned were being exempted from something like GST, payroll tax, company tax and the like, it’d be a clear-cut case of subsidy. But if more costs are being imposed on fossil fuels by government via excise etc. than are being foregone, I don’t see how that can be construed as ‘the government subsidising fossil fuels’ at all, let alone to the tune of billions of dollars.

  20. Fran Barlow

    Mark Duffett said:

    [If I’m reading BK correctly, the lion’s share of those apparently huge fossil fuel subsidies is in the form of various rebates and exemptions from fuel taxes and excises. But doesn’t the fact that we have fuel taxes and excises at all count against the ‘subsidies’?]

    The objection is a fair one. Strictly speaking, the term “subsidies” ought to be confined to payment by the state to a given sector or relief from obligations to pay the state that apply generally. Thus, if one could show that those in the fossil fuel secotr were relieved of one or other costly legal obligation in relation to, for example, waste and effluent then that would be a subsidy of a kind. Other kinds of benefits that aren’t technically a subsidy are possible too. Building roads and allowing urban sprawl at their ends, prodviding infrastructure and so forth at public expense ensures that people will in practice use more fuel than if policies of urban consolidation and intensive public transport were adopted. Similarly, if the world adopts policies of occupying the middle east at state expense to ensure stable access to oil supplies, that too benefits oil producers and sellers. I doubt the excises paid would cover all those troops and mercenaries. It would be interesting to see what would occur if every state insisted that all of the waste from the harvest, transport, refining, distribution and final combustion be captured and accounted for and that every troops securing a site be paid for by the oil industry. If they did that, I’d be inclined to let them off the hook for excise and duty. Chances of that happening? Poor.

    It’s pretty hard to put a figure on that however.

    The problem arises here because the excises and duties applying to fuel have come to be naturalised — i.e. seen as a standard obligation and thus zero rated in the minds of some, so that relief from indexation for example is seen as a subsidy.

    As I’ve said a number of times Mark, I’d like the whole way we pay for road access to be reconfigured, losing the excises and sales taxes on vehicles and registration/CTP and replacing it all with suitably weighted road usages charges that would take account of all of the externalities imposed by drivers on everyone else. I’d like in-vehicle systems for infringing drivers. I’d like fuel not to be fully tax deductible unless it had a zero LCCO2 profile, and only be deductible to the extent that it improved on the bog standard fuel.

    That would get us away from rather misleading debates on what is and is not a subsidy.

  21. the man on the clapham omnibus

    Also not sure if I understand the “Doesn’t the revenue from fuel taxes etc far outweigh that foregone?” –

    Net revenue on fuel tax has been fairly static since introduction of the GST at $10 billion p/a. This is not indexed for inflation or the fuel price so the net intake is reducing each year and it looks like from Bernard’s graph that in the last 3-4 years we are in net negative territory.

    Businesses using heavy transportation also qualify for fuel tax credits. We effectively subsidize trucking industries to use the roads rather than more efficient railway freight.

    The stinger in the tail of the report at the bottom is electricity generation using liquid fuels is effectively free of fuel tax, in the same way that coal or natural gas inputs to electricity generation are untaxed. (full fuel tax credit refund)

    I would assume that the only ones who directly foot the bill for the fuel tax (and GST for that matter) are us poor salaried class saps at the bottom of the taxation food chain.

    Anyone who owns a business or farm can fully deduct any fuel expenditure as a cost of going about making a profit before they pay any other type of tax. The reason for the fuel credit is to reduce the impact on business costs.

    Consumers face a double whammy of no reduction in their fuel cost excise, no fuel tax credits and not being able to tax deduct transportation costs to and from their place of work relative to businesses

    So in summary we’re not taxing coal, natural gas or liquid fuels when used for generating electricity and giving trucking companies a handout such that fuel tax and subsidies is now no longer a revenue item on the budget but a debt.

    We also shell out hundreds of millions in research grants to subsidise fossil fuel producers to find and research new fossil f fuels and their related technology.

    http://taxreview.treasury.gov.au/content/Paper.aspx?doc=html/publications/papers/report/section_9-03.htm

    Subsidies that Encourage Fossil Fuel Use in Australia
    http://www.isf.uts.edu.au/publications/CR_2003_paper.pdf

  22. freecountry

    Small mercies, though. At least Bernard didn’t refer to the $60 billion foregone from the RSPT as a $60 billion subsidy.

  23. freecountry

    MLF, it’s a good try, but the whole exercise assumes you can isolate taxpayer support for a single element of the system from taxpayer support for the system as a whole. The taxpayer pays for roads, roads are traversed almost exclusively by fossil-fuelled vehicles (even Toyota Priuses), therefore the taxpayer is subsidizing fossil fuels. It’s an exercise in absurdity.

    It only becomes partly meaningful where someone has a choice of two modes, a high-carbon mode and a low-carbon mode, and government gives one an artificial competitive advantage over the other. Such as, for example, allowing coal exports but limiting uranium exports, or forcing up marine freight prices due to union pressure so that coastal freight goes by road instead because truckies are second class citizens, or allowing miners to exclusively own something like a truck but partly nationalizing any private railways they build in the Pilbara. And even in that last instance, the ACCC genuinely thought it was promoting the use of rail by taking away any competitive advantage of building your own.

    How do you evaluate all the roads we could have left as dirt tracks but decided to seal instead? How do you evaluate all the dollars we could have spent on railways but didn’t? At what point does the act of a civil society pooling taxes to spend on itself, a society which burns fossil fuels in order to distribute food and run hospitals and build fibre optic networks and even to plant trees, become a subsidy of that one specific factor in its economy? It’s one of the boldest exercises in analytical cherry-picking I’ve ever seen.

  24. freecountry

    I was going to include another one but it’s not monetary and its not federal. A system called GreenPower sponsored by all the mainland states gives a stamp of approval to renewable energy sources, and many citizens voluntarily subsidize approved energy sources from their own after-tax income. Just one problem: it’s based on dodgy economics. Before it came in, people were opting for renewable energy which came from either hydro or wind power, but GreenPower in its wisdom limited its stamp of approval to sources built in the last few years.

    Great, you might think. Encourages new sources, and the old sources are already there so they can take care of themselves. There’s only one problem. Originally that threshold was a moving window of five years. (Later it became longer.) Babcock & Brown had built Australia’s biggest stock of wind power before it became fashionable, so when GreenPower signalled that all their windfarms were unaccredited because they were older than five years, it stripped them of that voluntary preference they had been receiving from environmentally-minded citizens. Other potential investors in renewable power realized that they too would lose their goodwill advantage after a few short years of GreenPower approval.

    B&B were left twisting in the wind (sorry, couldn’t help myself) and collapsed during the GFC, along with many of the infrastructure investment managers, when subsidies for housing speculation attracted all the credit and capital away from highly leveraged, cashflow-dependent businesses. (This is mostly superannuation capital, by the way, managed by investment banks but owned by mums and dads.) The funds that still survive are either state-underwritten tollroad operators, or they are invested in port and telecommunication assets overseas, where governments are more friendly to private diversified infrastructure capital. So of course, there’s little private capital in Australia for building infrastructure any more, unless you’re in a position to either set up the Communications Minister’s new monopoly, or sell him something to ensure it becomes a monopoly.

    Where does it begin? Where does it end? It’s like that movie “The Never Ending Story”.

  25. no_party_preferred

    Interesting to read a debate clearly between city dwellers about fuel subsidies and excises. How do you fairly regulate such things outside the city limits. Are the people in the country who have little choice but to rack up 40 ooo k a year to be punished for where they live? The country is not full of rich cotton farmers. People have to live out here to grow the food that all of us eat. I’m not only talking directly, the majority of people that live in the country are support trades and services for agriculture, mining and industry. We have no train or tram to get to work so we are left with cars. My wife works 40k’s east of where we live and I work 40ks west. I’m lucky becasue I can car pool with 2 other guys but most don’t have that choice.

    I’m the future, people will go to museums and see cheesy wax figures of farmers, and some old guys will say to his grandkid, “See that young fella, that’s a farmer they grew food, they used to be everywhere once”

    @Fran Barlow

    . I’d like in-vehicle systems for infringing drivers.

    Are you talking about identified repeat offenders or everyone?

  26. no_party_preferred

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the GST on fuel on top of the excise? Therefore as fuel prices go up, the tax on a tax goes up. It seams as though it’s still indexed to me, just differently. Co-incidentally around the time Howard stop indexing the excise.

  27. Fran Barlow

    NPP quoted me:

    I’d like in-vehicle systems for infringing drivers.

    then asked:

    Are you talking about identified repeat offenders or everyone?

    Everyone — though the fines would be much smaller.

    You’d actually benefit from my system because you’d save more on road contention charges and excises, duties and other things than you’d pay in emissions and distance.

  28. no_party_preferred

    Hmm Fran,

    I could not agree with this. While I agree that traffic law should be maintained, firstly, I would consider it (excuse my lack of academic prowess) a terrible “Big Brother” situation to have in car monitoring in every car and it sets a precedent for other government monitoring. What if there were “in PC” internet monitoring with automatic fines? You get on a website the Government does not approve of and “BING!” I would hate to live in a country with this level of government control.

    Second, there are many instances where you may need to exceed the speed limit to get yourself out of trouble. There would be a massive loading of the court system with appeals.

    Third, the cost of fitting every car with monitoring, which I assume would have to be GPS would be huge not to mention satellite bandwidth.

    But most of all I can’t stress the first point enough. You just can’t trust our governments enough regardless of party to give them this level of power. We are getting systematically regulated into submission as it is. Remember Howard’s sedition laws? Not to mention other knee jerks of his…. anyway, I digress. The other day there were calls to ban cave diving because someone died. Take personal responsibility for your actions. We can’t let ourselves be ruled over.

    From your previous posts in other threads, I know that we have very different views on some things but I respect your opinion. I guess in this instance I can’t understand why on earth anyone would want to relinquish a freedom (privacy) to their government. I can’t really even put how strongly I feel about this into words.

  29. Fran Barlow

    N_P_P

    [I would consider it (excuse my lack of academic prowess) a terrible “Big Brother” situation to have in car monitoring in every car and it sets a precedent for other government monitoring. What if there were “in PC” internet monitoring with automatic fines? You get on a website the Government does not approve of and “BING!” I would hate to live in a country with this level of government control.]

    Let me say outright that I neither engage in nor accept resort to slippery slope-based argumentation. Such attacks fall within the strawman family of arguments, amounting as they do to an attempt to argue with a flimsy and unwarranted proxy of an argument that one cannot directly refute. Unless you can show that the proposal argued must lead to the end suggested, one should attack directly.

    We already put transponders in heavy vehicles and jets. It would not be costly to fit them en masse in cars and support them.

    One should keep in mind that driving a motor vehicle on public roads is not a right, but a privilege, extended to those who demonstrate the competence and attitudes required to minimise harm to others. Ultimately, the entire community has an interest in minimising road trauma and in encouraging more intensive use of an expanded and safer public transport system.

  30. Mick S

    @Sir Lunchalot

    Well, I have waited, but still not seen any published figures to substantiate your smear campaign.

    Perhaps you can advise a source at this time.

    Your suggestion that “retired judges” be appointed to chair committees has two obvious flaws. Firstly, who would do the appointing (presumably the government of the day) and secondly “retired judges” are obviously unanswerable to the electors.

    Certainly our form of government has its flaws.

    But at a time when many throughout the world are fighting so desperately for democracy I find it abhorrent that anyone would suggest to weaken our current system by replacing those elected with those appointed.

  31. Sir Lunchalot

    @ MickS

    As mentioned it came from Parliament Committee yesterday. I took a quick look and cant see the media reporting it yet, as they probably think its par for the course.

    On the retired judge, they would be there to ensure questions are answered and process is followed, not there to add to the commentary.

    The current House Speaker Jenkins is weak and inconsistent, whereas the Senate President is much better.

  32. Mick S

    @Sir Lunchalot

    So your unsubstantiated smear campaign remains unsubstantiated.

    And, of course, remains a smear campaign.

    Further, could you kindly advise why President of the Senate (John Hogg) permitting the childish display of SA Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher dancing the Hokey Pokey and The Time Warp in her speech is “much better” than Speaker of the House Harry Jenkins.

  33. Fran Barlow

    [Further, could you kindly advise why President of the Senate (John Hogg) permitting the childish display of SA Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher dancing the Hokey Pokey and The Time Warp in her speech is “much better” than Speaker of the House Harry Jenkins.]

    Personally, if someone is willing to reveal that they are a fool, I support the president in allowing them the space to do so. Transparency is a good thing in public life.

    Quite recently, Charlie Sheen revealed himself, from his own lips, as someone with which nobody sensible would like to pass the time of day. I found Sheen’s candour refreshing even if I found him repulsive.

    It would be nice if a virus spread through public life in which people persistently said what they really thought about themselves, others and public policy. It might be ugly, but that’s a small price to pay for clarity.

  34. no_party_preferred

    Fran,

    Although our little side debate is way off topic, I feel it necessary to reply. I think the word attack is is a bit strong, but that’s beside the point. Also beside the point is the my belief that the over articulation of people arguments on crikey does nothing to promote their clarity or purpose. One of the first things you learn in technical writing in Uni is that if you can say it in 5 words instead of 500, do so. Again I digress.

    My “slippery slope argument” as you chose to put it, was merely trying to make a point that the slow erosion of civil liberties eventually leads to prison states. The are plenty of examples in history, this is not speculation. To think we are safe to let the government have to the run of the place in Australia becasue our governments are benevolent is just blind complacency.

  35. Sir Lunchalot

    @ Mick S

    Its on the Port Macquarie News website, under the Oakeshott chairs NBN Commitee hyperlink. So thats (NBN) another payment he will get. There are comments there from Port Macquarie voters that are interesting as well.

  36. Meski

    What’s Charlie said now? Just googled, and there didn’t seem to be anything outrageous, well, not by his standards.

    Why did Senate president not stop Mary-Jo Fisher? Just giving her enough rope. From now on her name is hyphenated. She behaves like it ought to be.

  37. Meski

    @Lunch: What’s wrong with parliamentarians chairing committees, and why are you being selective on ones that Oakeshott is on? Is he your representative?

  38. Mark Duffett

    I’d like in-vehicle systems for infringing drivers…Everyone — though the fines would be much smaller.

    Amen to that, Fran Barlow, that’s something I’ve been saying for some time as well. Everyone, every time. If only because it would shut up all those whinging talkback callers and letter-writers who whine about ‘revenue-raising’ police, as if their traffic fine was anything other than their own fault. Rather, they’d be harking back to these as the good old days.

    Having said that, the main obstacle to this being implemented is undoubtedly the civil libertarian argument raised by NPP. It’s one I reject. Though you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, NPP. I wouldn’t characterise it as a slippery slope, but the system proposed by Fran would be the first steps along the road (ahem) leading to a world where truly automatic cars are not merely common, but compulsory.

  39. Sir Lunchalot

    @ meski

    Not been selective. There committees need independant chairs, who are not politicians.

    I was commenting on Oakeshotts $36k in payments so far for chairing commitees, he is not my local member. I vote in a marginal seat, where a few votes decide the last two elections

  40. the man on the clapham omnibus

    @Meski,

    Agreed, It’s good to see any politician who is working harder and longer hours than other parliamentarians to have influence, especially when they’re an independent and outside a party bloc of power.

    He’s probably working a lot harder than some back benchers in the major parties who are probably running businesses or god knows what on their parliamentary allowances. Just look at the recent embarrasments the NSW labor party members have gotten up to with too much time on their hands.

    If they are working harder and longer hours then I see nothing wrong with them being compensated and rewarded for that work like they would be in a private corporation in leading a committee or project.

    It appears @Lunch’s objection is the character who is doing it and their role in preventing the ‘born to rule’ party being in power rather than any logical objection to the function he is performing that many other parliamentarians have done before.

  41. Meski

    I contend that politicians (especially independent politicians) are a lot more independent than business representatives that often get these positions. For an example look at the cross board / CEO makeup of MSM.

    I’m not sure 36k is a lot for the NBN board, given what the NBN is worth.

  42. Meski

    committee, I meant, not board.

  43. Mark Duffett

    @the man on the clapham omnibus

    not sure if I understand the “Doesn’t the revenue from fuel taxes etc far outweigh that foregone?”

    , do you genuinely not understand my question, or are you just answering ‘no’? If the latter, that’s fine, it doesn’t change my point that the level of subsidy for a particular industry should be calculated on a net basis (while taking FreeCountry’s point about what a fraught business this is). In any case, it still seems to me that the true ‘fossil fuel subsidy’ figure is certainly much less than BK, Greenpeace etc. would have you believe. At a very quick glance, the ISF-UTS report appears to commit the same fallacy.

    Having said that, I also think removal of indexation from fuel excise was a stupid mistake.

  44. no_party_preferred

    Mark Duffet

    “leading to a world where truly automatic cars are not merely common, but compulsory.”

    Compulsary, there the “c word” I have a problem with. I goes well with the “d word” Dictatorship

  45. drsmithy

    We already put transponders in heavy vehicles and jets. It would not be costly to fit them en masse in cars and support them.

    Actually it would. The administrative overheads would be huge, because at the very least there would *have* to be an allowance for identifying exceptional circumstances.

    One should keep in mind that driving a motor vehicle on public roads is not a right, but a privilege, extended to those who demonstrate the competence and attitudes required to minimise harm to others. Ultimately, the entire community has an interest in minimising road trauma and in encouraging more intensive use of an expanded and safer public transport system.

    Then you should deprioritise speeding, which is only directly responsible for a tiny proportion of road deaths, and instead focus on better driver training and enforcement of things like lane discipline, use of indicators, following distance and mobile phone usage (including with a hands free).

    Speeding fines are already used as a revenue raising device to inappropriately prop up general revenue. The idea of allowing greedy governments to _automatically_ fine anyone exceeding the speed limit, without actually doing anything dangerous, should terrify everyone (and that’s before even delving into the pseudo-conspiracy-theory territory of tracking where everyone is driving).

    Speed is a ridiculously demonised aspect of road safety. If speed were as dangerous as some would have us believe, German (not to mention other European) roads would be awash with blood, rather than the safest in the world.

    A far safer way to tax based on actual road usage would be to require an odometer reading as part of the vehicle (re-) registration process, then issue a bill based on the annual distance travelled. This is something that is extremely non-intrusive and could be implemented practically tomorrow. Though you would, of course, have to allow some sort of subsidy and/or tiered rate to account for those who have much less of a choice whether or not they drive large distances.

  46. freecountry

    Dr Smithy, odometers don’t measure what gear you were in or whether you were sitting in the Bradfield Highway bottleneck for half an hour waiting to get onto the Bridge at 8am. Fuel levies are still the best form of general road tax. It’s a pity the federal government took it away from the governments that actually build the roads.

  47. Fran Barlow

    NPP said:

    [My “slippery slope argument” as you chose to put it, was merely trying to make a point that the slow erosion of civil liberties eventually leads to prison states. The are plenty of examples in history, this is not speculation]

    In which case you should find it easy to point to a society comparable to Australia slowly morphing into a prison state. Ideally, you’d point to an example of the state in question leveraging something like I propose to achieve this end.

    Good luck with that.

    Dr Smithy said:

    [Actually it would. The administrative overheads would be huge, because at the very least there would *have* to be an allowance for identifying exceptional circumstances.]

    You’d have the same access to the courts as now, so I see no problem.

    [you should deprioritise speeding, which is only directly responsible for a tiny proportion of road deaths, and instead focus on better driver training and enforcement of things like lane discipline, use of indicators, following distance and mobile phone usage (including with a hands free).]

    I’d be happy for those things to show up in road usage rates – especially driver training, but speed is the canary in the coal mine. Excessive speed is a marker of the driving equivalent of Dunning-Kruger. People overestimate their own competence, and their margin for error, ncluding when they aren’t speeding. Keeping them engaged with what they are doing and giving them the sense that they are being watched is no bad thing. I recently acquired a NAVMAN device, and even though the voice comes from an application, I think a lot more about my driving choices with “her” talking at me about speed zones and when to turn right.

    One could easily design the device to give feedback about distance between vehicles and every time you went three months without a caution (I’d rig the speed thing to warn you before infringing you) it could restore a driving point. If you went 12 months without a caution or infringement and with all points in tact you could be added to a list of people getting good driving certificates and a cut in your charges. After three years you go into a draw for a dinner with some celebrity you like participating in the road safe program and perhaps a cash prize and extra points.

    Carrots and sticks.

  48. Mick S

    @Sir Lunchalot

    Please provide link to your supposed reference re your “I heard that Rob Oakeshott has received $36,500 since the election for chairing two Government Committee” smear.

    Have been to Port Macquarie News at http://www.portnews.com.au/ and can find no reference at all.

    A non existent or obscure link to you smear hardly helps your case.

    Further, if Rob Oakeshott is not your local representative, why are you being so selective about his chairing committees?

    If you wish our parliamentarians to be be responsible and accountable, perhaps one could start with Mary Jo Fisher, who seemingly wishes to transform Parliament into Playschool.

  49. Mark Duffett

    The idea of allowing greedy governments to _automatically_ fine anyone exceeding the speed limit, without actually doing anything dangerous, should terrify everyone…

    Are speed limits the law, or aren’t they? Should you be allowed to break the law with impunity, or shouldn’t you?

  50. Meski

    @Mark Duffett: Circular argument.

  51. freecountry

    Dr Smithy has a point. In the 1970s the roads were like human abattoirs. RBT and speed enforcement have been crucial to reducing the body count, but other factors have been improved car safety, both active (eg better more reliable brakes and increased steering stability at speed) and passive (eg cars which don’t chop you up inside them like a tomato in a blender).

    Its in the nature of these things that when certain factors are reduced, other factors can become proportionately more important. The replacement of most uncontrolled intersections with traffic lights may reduce accidents at that location, while seducing drivers into lack of attention and skill. Fatality statistics with and without airbags have been disappointingly unchanged. I’ve seen claims that motorcycle riders move their eyes seven times more often than the average car driver. A few years ago an ad campaign in the ACT warned of high rates of carnage for ACT drivers travelling interstate, because their somnambulistic driving habits aren’t well adapted outside the dumbed-down ACT roads.

    I think the police, the car designers, and the road engineers have done their bit. What’s missing is driver training. Fran Barlow, you say driving is a privilege not a right. Then I think some serious mandatory driver investment in training and regular retraining is warranted. With modern virtual technology you can even simulate some of the experience of having a major accident–at least up until the point where you find your teeth embedded in the steering wheel and can neither feel nor see your own legs.

  52. Fran Barlow

    FC said:

    [I think the police, the car designers, and the road engineers have done their bit.]

    They largely have. They’ve picked the lowest of low-hanging fruit. Now what we need is to:

    a) reduce further the number of people unfit to drive for any reason who are behind the wheel
    b) reduce the number of vehicles on the roads
    c) reduce the number of trips people are making in private vehicles
    d) reduce the distance each vehicle travels each week
    e) reduce unauthorised use of motor vehicles
    f) ensure that vehicles being seriously misused can be borought safely to a halt by systemns outside the vehicle

    We could ensure that vehicles could only be started by someone who is a licenced driver and authorised to use that vehicle by the registered owner by using biometric log-in (retinal scan, finger print read). That would pretty much cut out joy riding and vehicle theft and would reduce the number of vehicles being used in crimes, or reduce their harm. Some vehicles might be car jacked of course, but with transponders and shut down they could be stopped quickly assuming the vehicle owner could advise the police.

    We could set up the car to measure/monitor alcohol in the driver’s breath — these days police place a device a few inches from your lips and ask you to speak to it. We could set these up and people failing the test (or not conducting it) could not start their cars, or if they drank while driving and exceeded the limit the car’s EMS could shut down.

    This would radically cut insurance costs and policing costs as well and substantially relieve the courts of traffic matters. With fewer police chases collateral damage to 3rd parties would fall as well.

    It’s very clear that under a system such as I propose we would quickly get the benefits of the ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure principle. We could offer defensive driving courses easily enough, since those paying for them and passing them (perhaps you could have various levels of pass) would get scaled discounts on their road usage.

    The savings we could make in insurance alone would easily pay for installation and maintenance of in-vehicle technology of the kind I’d like to see, and the savings in policing, the courts, the prison system and the health system could be redirected to the next most urgent public policy challenges. We could begin to build high quality public housing closer to the city, redesigning our suburbs to ensure that there was limited access through the suburbs and that traffic was channelled onto main connecting roads. We could invest more heavily in public transport which with greater population densities would support viable niche, and mass transit options. That would reduce the number of people who would see value in having a vehicle in the first place. Most people would save considerable amounts of money if they didn’t have cars and there was adequate scheduled transport for them.

    With less commuting distance, and more people living closer to the city centre, we could give people back large chunks of void time, and with fewer cars on the road those who had to drive would not have to spend as long doing it.

    It sounds very win-win to me.

    The Big Brother/Nanny State objections don’t wash with me. The main problem with governments is not that they pay too much attention to the minutiae of the lives of their citizens, but that they pay too little. Nobody is forced to have a car or a licence, though current arrangements strongly predispose it. We need to walk the population back from untrammelled single person vehicle usage and in the direction of more community transport and less commuter-intensive living.

  53. no_party_preferred

    Fran Barlow said,

    “In which case you should find it easy to point to a society comparable to Australia slowly morphing into a prison state. Ideally, you’d point to an example of the state in question leveraging something like I propose to achieve this end.

    Good luck with that.”

    Ok I’ll get right on that, but since we are demanding substantiation of each others arguments, I’ll be needing some accurate costings for the fitment, maintenance and managment of in car monitoring as well as some verifiable estimates of additional pressures on the court system and any other speculative arguments you have put forward. Don’t forget this is a public forum not a university assignment. Opinion counts for something. As I said earlier I respect your opinion, or at least you right to one. If you can’t return that then maybe we are wasting each others time. Either way don’t ask for something you can’t provide yourself

  54. Meski

    @Fran: At least one of the things you want to do would have been addressed by ‘cash for clunkers’ which got defeated.

    The electronic aspects that you talk of applying could only happen for cars yet to hit the market – care to estimate whether a CBA would say it’s worth it?

    Public transport seems a good idea, but until it becomes more convenient[1] that private transport, people aren’t going to use it.

    [1] including economics.

  55. Sir Lunchalot

    @MickS

    I posted the link, you will have to wait for it to be moderated

  56. freecountry

    Fran Barlow, the problem with all the technological Big Brother solutions is not, as some slippery-slope proponents argue, that the next incremental step will be televiewers monitoring your brainwaves for thoughtcrime. The problem with it is that the citizen becomes a passive agent in determining right from wrong and gradually concludes that anything not outlawed, or any loophole he can slip through, is decent behaviour. You hear it every day whenever someone answers a moral criticism with the justification, “I broke no law.”

  57. Fran Barlow

    Meski said:

    [At least one of the things you want to do would have been addressed by ‘cash for clunkers’ which got defeated.]

    Cash for Clunkers was running at about $400 per tonne of Co2 abated, so it’s something one could do only when we were prepared to put that kind of price on Co2. Until that time, spending your carbon budget on something like that would mean that you’d rapidly drain the program of money that could be used on cheaper abatement with greater potential.

    NPP suggested:

    [I’ll be needing some accurate costings for the fitment, maintenance and managment of in car monitoring as well as some verifiable estimates of additional pressures on the court system and any other speculative arguments you have put forward.]

    This latter is hardly comparable to your comparison state. There are very few states to choose from and none of them has done what you have suggested. Working out precisely how much it would cost to fit vehicles with transponders and other technology is something that whole departments would spend time investigating.

    Let’s be clear though. Right now, RFID style devices cover electronic tolling. Car navigation devices under $200 ensure pretty accurate vehicle placement and speed on roads so at least in the cities, we probably don’t need very much extra intrastructure, and we certainly have the built environment needed to mount repeaters. The processing power needed for some of the other stuff we are talking about is about what one finds in contemporary mobile phones under $200 and with mass production, you could probably get that down.

    It’s pretty simple to conclude that if people know they can’t get away with stuff on the roads that they won’t bother trying. The most effective sanctions and rewards are not those that deliver the most pain or the most benefit. Ceteris paribus, those that are seen as most certain and closest to real time are the most effective. This is something that every teacher knows. The closer it gets to that standard, the more the desired behaviour becomes internalised and with that you get culture change.

    In such circumstances, you absolutely would see a massive drop in the effective rate of infringement and in the time the courts spent dealing with these issues. There would be fewer people drink driving and perhaps fewer people would get seriously drunk (another benefit). There would be fewer stolen/misused cars and thus fewer casualties.

    Harm declines. Lost working days tumble. Everyone wins. What’s not to like?

  58. Fran Barlow

    FC said:

    [The problem with it is that the citizen becomes a passive agent in determining right from wrong and gradually concludes that anything not outlawed, or any loophole he can slip through, is decent behaviour. You hear it every day whenever someone answers a moral criticism with the justification, “I broke no law.”]

    As NPP shows above, that is already the case. Indeed, (s)he wants the right to evade fines when nobody catches her/him infringing on the basis that we have “a greedy government”. NPP’s attitude (and that of those like him/her) depends on scope to evade detection. That is the right (s)he seeks to exercise. Making the system tighter will increase respect for the system.

    I see it the other way. While there may well be those who reason as you suggest, the vast majority will simply interpret the increasingly robust character of the compliance system as a mandate which goes without saying — what are you going to do? — and resent those who seek to evade it — what makes you so special?. Few admire free-riders. I know when I see someone driving recklessly, it annoys me that reporting them will not result in consequences. The other day someone drove past me on the F3 at about 140kmh — perhaps more. My son, who was in the car with me said — isn’t that car speeding? I answered that he was really risking the dsafety of everyone near him and in his car — which is a form of stealing. I felt quiet satisfaction 3-4kms up the road when I saw the highway patrol taking his details. Really though, it should not have occurred to him to speed in the first place. What I propose would have done that.

    What he thought about it doesn’t really matter to me. It is said that before the Roman Empire went Christian in 316 CE, the rulers didn’t care what you thought or said about them as long as you obeyed the law. I’m not sure if that was really so, but if the laws are sound and fair, I can live with that.

  59. no_party_preferred

    Fran, where do I start, you seem to be campaigning, conveniently ignoring the fact that you fail continuously to substantiate your arguments and claims while demanding substantiation from others. Along with that you make claims regarding the motives of my argument to seemingly discredit me (like I care). For the record, I am a proponent of taking responsibility for ones actions. It seems to me that you are no more than an idealistic academic with rose coloured blinkers.

    As for the prison state argument, In my OPINION… if you want an example of gradual erosion of civil liberties, you need look no further than the good old US of A. Post 911 with the introduction of the patriot act, the government has powers that have previously led to revolution and the much maligned second amendment. Detention without charge or trial, communications monitoring without warrant, and so on.

    Paint me as a tin foil hatter, (thought crime, really? I thought you were better than that FC) I really, truly could not give a fat rats a&se. But I’d be willing to bet if Tony Abbot was in power and he introduced such laws as in the US (and I wouldn’t put it past him) you would be up in arms.

    I wish people still thought like this guy;

    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Benjamin Franklin

  60. the man on the clapham omnibus

    @Fran

    I don’t like free riders either, an analogy might be the article in the AFR today reporting with that data mining software and information sharing the ATO can determine businesses (and eBay shops) that are outside bands in under reporting their cash sales and income… hopefully this brings some much needed income to our treasury for the programs we need.

    @Mark Duffet
    See your point to some extent but the UTS figures are from 2003, as we’ve seen recently mining and minerals are an incredibly powerful lobby group with ‘nominal australians’ who can outspend the government to protect their own interest.

    The $9 Billion is not increasing relative to the size of our economy but the other components are and I’d argue even looking at the minimal subsidy profile we’re in net negative territory in offering these.

    Fran’s points on all the other ‘costs’ associated with supporting fossil fuels should also be given strong consideration here that don’t slot neatly into the subsidy column but are definitely material costs.

    There is precious little incentive in the taxation or car registration systems for a person to reduce their driving or consumption of fossil fuels.

    Even for private users there are significant tax holidays on FBT for things like car parking and fleet vehicles that can encourage excessive driving kilometers over alternative forms of transport.

    I’d encourage you to have another look at the UTS report and look at all the other things they excluded form consideration and the broad range of externalities they list.

  61. drsmithy

    Harm declines. Lost working days tumble. Everyone wins. What’s not to like?

    Fundamentally, what you are proposing is rule by fear – people following rules not because they are reasonable, but because they are afraid of the punishment for breaking them.

    You may believe this is a good basis for civilisation. Personally, I consider it an abhorrently immoral one. I would certainly like to think, when push came to shove, most others would feel the same.

    The other day someone drove past me on the F3 at about 140kmh — perhaps more.

    And ? Was he driving dangerously ? Weaving in and out of traffic ? Following too closely ? Was he doing anything more than going faster than you ?

    I answered that he was really risking the dsafety of everyone near him and in his car — which is a form of stealing.

    No, it’s not. At all. You might as well argue that using a condom is a form of murder (and that’s before even getting into whether or not he was “risking the safety of everyone near him”).

    I felt quiet satisfaction 3-4kms up the road when I saw the highway patrol taking his details. Really though, it should not have occurred to him to speed in the first place. What I propose would have done that.

    Actually it probably would have occurred to him to “speed”, but he may have been so afraid of the punishment that he would have decided not to.

    Much like, in the old days, a woman too scared of the punishment for buying a drink at a bar wouldn’t do it.

    “Speeding”, in and of itself, should never be an offense. It should only ever be supporting evidence for a real offense of driving dangerously or recklessly.

    Again, I will make the point. There are numerous countries in the world that have speed limits higher than Australia’s. Many have lower (or similar) death tolls. The problem is not – as the mainstream media, and authorities, would have you believe – driving more than 100 or 110km/h, the problem is driving *dangerously*. I can – and have – cruised happily, calmly and safely down a German Autobahn at over 180km/h (and been passed by several other vehicles while doing so). I have driven along a French motorway at 140km/h, a Swiss motorway at 130km/h and an American motorway at 85m/h. I survived (for years). There is no reason whatsoever that I should not be able to drive down any number of Australian roads that are just as capable of safely carrying traffic at those sorts of speeds (or greater).

    The Big Brother/Nanny State objections don’t wash with me. The main problem with governments is not that they pay too much attention to the minutiae of the lives of their citizens, but that they pay too little.

    The solution you propose fundamentally requires everyone to be submissive and subservient. That is *not* the kind of society we have fought – for centuries, in voice and action – to create.

    Perhaps you would be more comfortable living in somewhere like China, where your blind faith that obeying rules for no other reason than their existence is considered normal ?

    Nobody is forced to have a car or a licence, […]

    Technically true, practically ridiculous. When you nearest *neighbour *, or the nearest post office/supermarket/police station/pub is tens of kilometres away, a car is all but a necessity.

  62. drsmithy

    Are speed limits the law, or aren’t they? Should you be allowed to break the law with impunity, or shouldn’t you?

    The law is wrong. The charge should be dangerous or reckless driving, not speeding.

    Speeding should be nothing more than evidence, never a charge in and of itself.

    Of course, there is far, far too much money being made from speeding fines for laws and regulations focussing on actual road safety to ever be enforced. Victims of road accidents are being sacrificed so governments can remain solvent.

  63. drsmithy

    You’d have the same access to the courts as now, so I see no problem.

    No, you wouldn’t, firstly because the devices would be considered infallible (as LIDAR and RADAR guns already are) and hence unquestionable in court, and secondly because the law you are arguing for would simply allow no excuse for speeding at all.

    Never mind that your brother was bleeding to death in the car after having his arm chopped off by some farm machinery and you were rushing him to the hospital – every 30 seconds (or whatever minimum sampling period was decided) over the speed limit would be another 6 points and $500 (automatically deducted from your bank account, of course – and let’s not forget that once you racked up 12 points, the car would and you wouldn’t be able to start it again, as a now unlicensed driver).

    That’s assuming you could even get going in the first place, since under your system a 15 year old, unlicensed individual would just have to sit nearby and watch his brother bleed to death since the car wouldn’t start for him.

    I’d be happy for those things to show up in road usage rates – especially driver training, but speed is the canary in the coal mine. Excessive speed is a marker of the driving equivalent of Dunning-Kruger.

    No, it’s not. There are many countries with higher speed limits (to say nothing of *actual* traffic speeds) with road safety statistics similar to, if not better than, Australia’s.

    One could easily design the device to give feedback about distance between vehicles and every time you went three months without a caution (I’d rig the speed thing to warn you before infringing you) […]

    Wait. You’d design the device to *deliberately* not enforce the law ? You do understand that exceeding the speed limit by any amount, for any period of time, is an offence under current laws, right ?

    Carrots and sticks.

    I have a better system. Drivers are able to complete advanced driving courses and tests that allow them to drive at higher (or “unlimited” = “appropriate to the conditions”) speeds. This is indicated proactively by an RFID-like tag in the registration sticker that is queried as part of the LIDAR/RADAR scan, or re-actively as a license endorsement after being pulled over.

    Of course, this would never fly, as no government in Australia has the slightest interest in pursuing actual solutions to road safety. There’s far too much money and political capital to be made with the status quo.

    Fran, you appear to be someone born and raised in some upper-class, inner-city suburb who’s never been out into the real world. Or, at least, I hope you are so you have some good excuse for your naive beliefs.

  64. drsmithy

    Dr Smithy, odometers don’t measure what gear you were in or whether you were sitting in the Bradfield Highway bottleneck for half an hour waiting to get onto the Bridge at 8am.

    That’s why you would need some sort of weighting system to account for city dwellers who cover lower distances, but probably emit more CO2.

    Fuel levies are still the best form of general road tax.

    Oh, I’m not disagreeing with that. 🙂 I’m just trying to give an example of a better way to tax by distance driven.

  65. drsmithy

    Amen to that, Fran Barlow, that’s something I’ve been saying for some time as well. Everyone, every time. If only because it would shut up all those whinging talkback callers and letter-writers who whine about ‘revenue-raising’ police, as if their traffic fine was anything other than their own fault.

    Can we conclude from this that whenever you see your speedometer 1km/h or more over the posted limit, you report yourself ASAP to the nearest police station ?

    Or, are you a hypocrite ?

    OR, are you the one person in the world who has never, ever exceeded the speed limit for an instant, even accidentally ?

  66. no_party_preferred

    As my previous comment is being moderated… ? …and will take an untold time to be seen, if at all. I’d just like to say that arguing with idealistic academics who seemingly have never left school and see everything as a black and white syllabus from an imaginary dictatorship’s re-education camp, is a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotion. First engagement… then invigoration… frustration… disbelief… annoyance… and now boredom.

  67. Meski

    @FreeCountry

    The problem with it is that the citizen becomes a passive agent in determining right from wrong and gradually concludes that anything not outlawed, or any loophole he can slip through, is decent behaviour. You hear it every day whenever someone answers a moral criticism with the justification, “I broke no law.”

    you mean we should end up like this?

    We said: “The Council does not know of this hole, so it cannot be forbidden.”
    And they answered: “Since the Council does not know of this hole, there can be no law permitting to enter it. And everything which is not permitted by law is forbidden.”

    That’s a quote from Anthem, by Ayn Rand, by the way.

  68. Fran Barlow

    Dr Smithy said:

    [Fundamentally, what you are proposing is rule by fear – people following rules not because they are reasonable, but because they are afraid of the punishment for breaking them.]

    That’s the backbone of any system of laws. If the mere fact that rules were just and reasonable as defined by them being proclamations of the incumbent and legitimate government were sufficient to secure 100% compliance, we’d scarcely need courts or prisons or police. Inevitably, for reasons which are often self-serving, ignorant, misanthropic and sometimes located in madness, that’s not enough. Some behavoiur has to be restrained whether eveyone agress on the restraint or not. People objected ro RBT, to seatbelts, to reatraints on the use of mobile phones, and mucxh else, but the measures worked. It doesn’t matter if you agree with them or noit — you still get the benefit.

    The question you pose arises before a law is passed, or after it is repealed, but not between those times.

    [You might as well argue that using a condom is a form of murder]

    Ah, another of the family of strawmen emerges — argument by analogy. Cue reductio ad absurdum next.

    [and that’s before even getting into whether or not he was “risking the safety of everyone near him”]

    He risked my safety and that of my son as he approached. He came up so quickly that when I checked my inside lane for safety if I wanted to change lanes, he wasn’t there. Had I decided to overtake the vehicle in front, there was a chance that I might not have been able to avoid a collision at speed. As it happened the vehicle in front gained speed and the need to overtake vanished. Yet even excluding that, if he had had a momentary concentration lapse, his margin of error and skill would have been tested — at my expense — he created an intangible risk at my expense — so theft is right.

    [Actually it probably would have occurred to him to “speed”, but he may have been so afraid of the punishment that he would have decided not to.]

    That works for me. I don’t really care why people don’t expose me to prospective harm. It would be nice to think they eschewed such conduct out of regard for others, but in the end, I’d just rather they didn’t.

    [Much like, in the old days, a woman too scared of the punishment for buying a drink at a bar wouldn’t do it.]

    Come on — you can do it. Come on — reductio ad absurdum, compostion fallacy — you know you want to …

    [It should only ever be supporting evidence for a real offense of driving dangerously or recklessly.]

    In practice if that came in we could dispense with most HP police and simply inflate our ambulance teams and forensic accident investigation units and courts. It would be a lawyers’ picnic every day.

    Don’t get me wrong — I regard some speed limits as far too low. I’d be happy for variable speed signs to operate so that when visibility was excellent, the weather and road surface dry, contention low and thus vehicle road space good, that speed limits could be higher (and in contraindicating conditions, lower). Why one should be limited to 100 k on parts of the M4 at 9.00 on a fine sunny Sunday morning is hard to work out. There are industral estates in Alexandria wioth wide roads designed for trucks which, after hours, are deserted — and 80-90kms would be perfectly safe. That however, is a different issue.

    [The solution you propose fundamentally requires everyone to be submissive and subservient. That is *not* the kind of society we have fought – for centuries, in voice and action – to create.]

    No it doesn’t. It “fundamentally” requires people to decide what policies they think apt and then requires that they apply as specified. If after everyone complies, we discover that it needs amendment, then we do that. Individuals don’t get to make up their own rules when their actions impinge upon the legitimate claims of others.

    [Perhaps you would be more comfortable living in somewhere like China, where your blind faith that obeying rules for no other reason than their existence is considered normal?]

    Ah, a red bait … this is a cultural thing isn’t it?

    [When you nearest *neighbour *, or the nearest post office/supermarket/police station/pub is tens of kilometres away, a car is all but a necessity.]

    It’s a choice to live in remote areas. If a car is essential — and one suspects it probably is — then you drive it safely and according to law.

    [Never mind that your brother was bleeding to death in the car after having his arm chopped off by some farm machinery and you were rushing him to the hospital – every 30 seconds (or whatever minimum sampling period was decided) over the speed limit would be another 6 points and $500 (automatically deducted from your bank account, of course – and let’s not forget that once you racked up 12 points, the car would and you wouldn’t be able to start it again, as a now unlicensed driver).]

    It might be of course that in remote areas the speed limit was a good deal higher. Perhaps you could phone your local emergency service before setting off — presumably you would have — and be given an emergency authorisation between your location and that of the nearest suitable casualty ward or paramedic location.

    I said:

    [One could easily design the device to give feedback about distance between vehicles and every time you went three months without a caution (I’d rig the speed thing to warn you before infringing you) {…}

    then Dr Smithy said:

    [Wait. You’d design the device to *deliberately* not enforce the law ? You do understand that exceeding the speed limit by any amount, for any period of time, is an offence under current laws, right ?]]

    But I’d be changing the current laws. A person who takes off from the lights but briefly and inadvertently exceeds 60kmh deserves a caution and if he heeds it, I see little advantage in infringing him. AIUI even contemporary speed cameras allow a small amount (about 5% IIRC) for speedo error.

    [Fran, you appear to be someone born and raised in some upper-class, inner-city suburb who’s never been out into the real world. ]

    Ah … ad hominem

    How sad. On another day you’d be having a go at me for being jealous of wealthy people. Today it’s socio-spatial angst.

    FTR … born in Paddington Hospital in 1958 — raised in boarding house in Cascade St — then a slum before my mixed ethnicity parents — one an Italian migrant who came out in 1951 and was working in the Tooths Brewery — moved first to Mt Pritchard near Liverpool and sent me to Mt Pritchard East PS. Copped abuse as a “wog”. Moved in with Anglo-grandparents in West Ryde while my mother secured part time work at Reckitt & Colemans as a process worker and father worked at what was then the Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board — as a labourer. Attended West Ryde Public School, then Ryde Public School and then drove taxis while studying at Sydney University. After a year, decided I’d had enough of that for a time and did a succession of jobs — bus driving, taxi driving, working at the Hoover Plant in Meadowbank building washing machines, fruit picking, worked on a fishing trawler … Eventually returned to universigty at Macquaries completing Arts degree with Honours in History, Politics and Sociology. Studied some Law non-degree. Completed a GDipEd and became a HS teacher. Still teaching. One husband, two children. Supporter of The Greens.

    Not that it matters a jot, because it’s not the messenger, but the message that counts.

  69. Fran Barlow

    {then Ryde Public School } oops left out Ryde High School … {and then drove taxis while studying at Sydney University}

  70. no_party_preferred

    “It’s a choice to live in remote areas.”

    Yes it is a choice to live in remote areas, but guess what, if nobody did you’d be living on lawn clippings. Food doesn’t grow itself. Someone with all that life experience should know that. So narrow minded, yet so verbose, in Latin no less (yes we are all impressed). You are just arguing for the sake of the last word now. I shudder to think what sort of a state you leave the young minds you shape in.

  71. Fran Barlow

    No_Party_Preferred said

    [Yes it is a choice to live in remote areas, but guess what, if nobody did you’d be living on lawn clippings.]

    Reductio ad absurdum Bingo! Yahtzee! I knew you’d get there. Thanks.

    Clearly, you have no substantive point to make beyond the fact that you fear others in general and the government in particular.

    I wish you well living in your skin, but IMO, you should ask yourself whether you are doing yourself any favours with that attitude.

  72. Captain Planet

    @ Freecountry 3rd March 2:40 pm,

    “Embarrassing to mention the fuel excises, of course, because ….. that particular carbon pricing mechanism has no effect on behaviour at all.”

    Anyone can choose to buy a small, Common Rail Fuel Injection, Turbo Diesel vehicle, which delivers 5 litres / 100km fuel economy or better.

    Many people choose, instead, to drive huge, petrol powered, inefficient gas guzzling 4WD’s for their daily commute, choosing 18 – 20 litres / 100 km fuel economy instead.

    Can you really claim that increasing fuel prices will have no effect on people’s behaviour? I accept your argument that SOME people have LITTLE choice about how far and how often they drive (unless they are willing to make tough decisions about where they choose to live and where they choose to work, and until local, state and federal governments wise up and change some of the variables you have mentioned, and until the market starts to deliver housing and transit solutions which reduce dependance on long distance commuting by car). I don’t accept that fuel consumption for commuting is anywhere near as inelastic as you have suggested.

  73. Fran Barlow

    It’s amusing that the people who say a price on carbon won’t make a difference are often the same people who say a price on carbon will drive business offshore. Contradiction doesn’t matter when you are pushing a cause.

    Just this morning, during a discussion of insurance, the issue of discrimination by insurers in Life and motor vehicles against males came up. The Europeans are insisting that males get charged the same as females, but if this is so it’s said that females will have to pay more and thus many females will elect to remain uninsured.

    Given the modesty of the difference, if true, this seems a pretty significant affirmation of what happens when you move prices about.

    Mind you — trivial price hikes such as those being bandied about here might not make much difference.

    At the moment, if petrol prices rose by the Abbott suggestion — 6.5 cents per litre — a vehicle consuming 7L per 100 k and travelling 18,000kms per year would face an extra cost of 22.4 cents per day — an amount you wouldn’t bend over to pick up in the street unless you were homeless and didn’t have a car. Even someone with a quite thirsty vehicle — consuming 12L per 100km would get out of it for under 40cents per day.

    The other day I was in Dick Smith awaiting service and some fellow was buying his 10-year-old an iPod. He was going to get the one on special at $258 but the daughter suggested he get one with 32GB of storage instead of 8GB. It wasn’t on special and cost $375. It’s better she said. The father just shrugged and paid up about a year and a half of Abbott’s asserted petrol price hike without stopping for a people’s revolt. I know that if we ever got to the situation in this country where a father might query his 10-year-old’s conception of marginal utility in iPod choice, I’d agree we’d been reduced to third world status.

    People aren’t always rational of course, which is why IMO, we probably need something more compelling than mere price to change behaviour. We need the marginal costs of vehicle usage to be in people’s faces.

  74. Captain Planet

    @ Fran Barlow,

    Although this road safety discussion is wildly off topic, you make some good points, and it is interesting that you are thinking outside the square as far as mechanisms of law enforcement and road safety improvements are concerned.

    I have some thoughts on these matters myself…. as a remote area dweller also, I have for many years found the 110 km/hr speed limit to be so restrictive as to be a hazard in itself.

    If you have to travel 1,400 km in a day, and there are only 11 hours of daylight in winter, and the roads become infested with hopping marsupials as soon as twilight hits…. and you’re riding a motorbike….. and the roads are in excellent condition and there is a cleared area for 50 metres either side of the road…. and it’s clear and dry and you know what your’e doing and your vehicle is designed for it…..

    Why shouldn’t you travel at 160 km /hr and arrive in daylight, unfatigued, and safe?

    Personally, I would advocate for the introduction of a high speed highway license. To be issued and utilised under the following conditions:-

    1. Minimum 5 years holding an unrestricted driver’s license with no suspensions.
    2. Zero demerit points (to be maintained at all times or high speed license to be cancelled)
    3. Only to be utilised with a vehicle registered for high speed usage – to be inspected annually for continuing compliance
    4. 0.000 % BAC at all times
    5. At least 40 hours of theoretical and practical tuition and assessment in advanced defensive driving prior to license issue
    6. only to be utilised during daylight hours (like oversized loads)
    7. Only to be utilised on designated highways and freeways (if appropriate) in the model of the old unrestricted speed limits.

    NOTE: As you will remember, the old “unrestricted” speed limits did not mean you could drive as fast as you liked. You could only drive as fast as was safe. If you had an accident at 120 km/hr it was your obligation to demonstrate that you were driving at a safe speed. Can’t get fairer than that.

    I personally am very concerned about your proposal for instrusive monitoring of vehicular speed. On the other hand, an intelligent interactive urban traffic grid, with governers on every vehicle which restricted vehicle speed to the speed limit, could work. The only downside there is, as one of your protagonists has already pointed out, there are times when it is advisable to exceed the speed limit in the interests of everybody’s safety.

    On a related note, how is it that one can buy a car in Australia capable of driving at 250 km / hr?

    Surely, given that the country’s highest speed limit is 130 km / hr in the NT, all cars should be fitted with a governer set to 130 km/hr? It insults everybody’s intelligence to allow sales of a V8 commodore capable of speeds in excess of twice the maximum legal limit.

    Either we have rules or we don’t. I’m all in favour of getting the rules right – I’m not at all in favour of using draconian and invasive monitoring to enforce rules which may not be right.

  75. no_party_preferred

    “Clearly, you have no substantive point to make beyond the fact that you fear others in general and the government in particular.

    I wish you well living in your skin, but IMO, you should ask yourself whether you are doing yourself any favours with that attitude.”

    I struggle to find where I let slip my paralysing fear of others, perhaps another weak attempt at trying to provoke aggression by stating falsely drawn sensational conclusions.

    “Reductio ad absurdum Bingo! Yahtzee! I knew you’d get there. Thanks”

    You think it’s an absurd argument? of course it is… if you don’t understand metaphors, (not an English teacher obviously.. Latin maybe) If you can’t draw a parallel between “living on grass clippings” and FOOD IS GROWN ON FARMS WHERE THERE ARE NO TRAMS then I really am wasting my time as I suspected. Clearly all your time as a teacher has left you none to learn anything yourself. Who do you think grows your food? Do you think everyone has little permaculture market gardens and sneaks th produce into the shop while your not looking?

    As for having no substantive point to make. I can’t believe you said that. So far you have not substantiated a single point you have made with anything other than your imagination. “one could easily design…. “you’d have the same access to courts….. nothing but speculation. What do you teach? advanced hypocrisy?

    You live in the city and your sight stops short at the city limits. With every post full of speculation, sensationalism and Latin intellectual muscle flexing along with a healthy dose of ignorance (all from somebody that I’m sure considers herself to be very open minded) you show how much your 52 years on earth has really taught you. It’s because of people like yourself that the Greens have a stereotype of inner urban, idealist, latte socialists.

    Captain..

    Anyone can choose to buy a small, Common Rail Fuel Injection, Turbo Diesel vehicle, which delivers 5 litres / 100km fuel economy or better.

    Anyone really? Can you tow a trailer full of carpentry tools with that? Do they come in a ute or a people mover? where can I get one?

  76. drsmithy

    That’s the backbone of any system of laws.

    No, it’s the backbone of an _oppressive_ system of laws.

    The question you pose arises before a law is passed, or after it is repealed, but not between those times.

    On the contrary, it’s a question that should be raised every day.

    He risked my safety and that of my son as he approached.

    How ? Was he weaving in and out of traffic ? Driving unpredictably ? Drinking a scotch and talking on his mobile phone ?

    He came up so quickly that when I checked my inside lane for safety if I wanted to change lanes, he wasn’t there.

    Ah. You mean you weren’t paying attention.

    Had I decided to overtake the vehicle in front, there was a chance that I might not have been able to avoid a collision at speed. As it happened the vehicle in front gained speed and the need to overtake vanished.

    Need ? For someone who insists that living outside of a dense urban area is “voluntary”, you have a mighty strange idea of what “need” means. I’m struggling to think of any situation where you would “need” to overtake as a matter of safety.

    Yet even excluding that, if he had had a momentary concentration lapse, his margin of error and skill would have been tested — at my expense — he created an intangible risk at my expense — so theft is right.

    How do you know they would have been tested ? How do you know he wasn’t from Germany and spent a decade driving on roads where vehicle closing speeds commonly exceed 100km/h ? How do you know he wasn’t a competitive driver, used to handling vehicles at much higher speeds ? How do you know he wasn’t a driving instructor in his spare time ?

    Theft is not even remotely the correct word. For theft to have occurred, you have to actually lose something (despite recent attempts by various media companies to redefine the word, that’s still what it means).

    In practice if that came in we could dispense with most HP police and simply inflate our ambulance teams and forensic accident investigation units and courts. It would be a lawyers’ picnic every day.

    Because…?

    No it doesn’t.

    Absolutely it does. It requires everyone to accept pro-active monitoring of their actions due to an assumption they are incapable of acting responsibly without supervision. This is almost guaranteed to then lead on to additional monitoring of other aspects of people’s lives, with similarly flimsy justifications.

    Further, it would deliver no meaningful benefits. The proportion of accidents that are actually caused by vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit is practically a rounding error.

    If after everyone complies, we discover that it needs amendment, then we do that.

    No. This is a terrible, terrible idea. You do not start with excessive laws and then think about dialling them back, you start with minimal laws and then – slowly and carefully – expand them.

    Ah, a red bait … this is a cultural thing isn’t it?

    No, it’s an observation that you have a strongly authoritarian bent, and that a better choice than putting the rest of us under a suitably authoritarian government might simply be to relocate to somewhere where it’s already in place.

    It might be of course that in remote areas the speed limit was a good deal higher.

    Or, back in reality, it wouldn’t be because the roads would not be as well designed (since they carry far, far less traffic, and there’s less money to spend on them).

    Ideally, for safety, speed limits of over 80km/h would only be seen on barrier-divided, limited-access motorways. In the last century we haven’t even been able to build one of those to link up the capital cities of the east coast, so I don’t hold a lot of hope they’re ever going to get anywhere near “remote communities”.

    Perhaps you could phone your local emergency service before setting off — presumably you would have — and be given an emergency authorisation between your location and that of the nearest suitable casualty ward or paramedic location.

    Awesome, more bureacracy, more technology, more expense and more things to go wrong.

    The solution to a bad idea is not to layer more bad ideas on top to try and fix some of the more obviously awful aspects of the first bad idea, it’s to come up with a better idea in the first place.

    But I’d be changing the current laws. A person who takes off from the lights but briefly and inadvertently exceeds 60kmh deserves a caution and if he heeds it, I see little advantage in infringing him.

    Wow. This after saying that using dangerous and reckless driving charges in leiu of automated speeding fines would be “a lawyer’s picnic”.

    AIUI even contemporary speed cameras allow a small amount (about 5% IIRC) for speedo error.

    That’s because legally your speedometer can be out of calibration by up to 10%. If you admit to a police officer who pulled you over for doing 107 in a 100km/h zone that you were only going 105, however, he’s still going to write you a ticket. That’s why the Victorians can get away with charging people for doing a mere 3km/h over the limit.

    Ah … ad hominem

    Yes, but a relevant one. The nature of your background and experience is significant as to whether or not you are able to make arguments from a position of authority and credibility.

    On another day you’d be having a go at me for being jealous of wealthy people.

    Were it relevant to the arguments you were making, absolutely. Ad hominem is not an inherently fallacious form of argument, despite the beliefs of many who like to bandy the phrase around every time someone disagrees with them.

    Reductio ad absurdum Bingo! Yahtzee! I knew you’d get there. Thanks.

    Fran, as much as you like your Latin, you should restrain yourself from just throwing it out there willy-nilly. Reductio ad absurdum actually requires an absurd position to be taken. Observing that, if no-one “chooses” to live in remote areas, we wouldn’t have farms (and the communities necessary to suport them), is in no way “absurd”.

    Clearly, you have no substantive point to make beyond the fact that you fear others in general and the government in particular.

    Wow. The person who described someone driving nearby at over the speed limit as “theft” is accusing others of being “afraid”. Pretty bold.

    Finally, an assumption that the Government will subsequently expand a system of monitoring far past its original intent and mandate is not “fear”, it’s a rational conclusion based on millennia of historical precedent.

  77. Fran Barlow

    Captain Planet:

    Your suggestions for rural driving spped provision don’t seem unreasonable. Road conditions, driver fitness and vehicle attributes permitting, higher speeds are possible. I’m not sure driving 1400 km per day is desirable, unless one has more than one driver with the competence to share the driving however.

    I don’t like the idea of governors on vehicles save as I described before, a safe shut down for serious non-compliance.

    [On a related note, how is it that one can buy a car in Australia capable of driving at 250 km / hr?]

    Probably because very few if any cars are designed with Australian regulations in mind and perhapos even more likely, because the attributes of most ICEs that can accelerate and haul at optimal speeds on roads give them a top end well in excess of speed limits. Few vehicles can travel at 250kmh of course and this is quite an intentional thing — a selling point for the super rich to distinguish them from ordinary mortals.

  78. Fran Barlow

    Dr Smithy said:

    [it’s the backbone of an _oppressive_ system of laws]

    You mistake compliance with the substance of the law. If a law is passed, we must have compliance. If we don’t care about compliance we ought not to pass the law.

    Let’s put down some markers for what is oppressive.

    1. The law that seeks to constrain or mandate conduct arises without a sufficient warrant from the community bound by its terms. One may ask — did or did not the community as a whole seek this measure? If the answer is no, then the law lacks legitimacy and then compliance measures can be regarded as oppressive. Yet the place where the rubber hit the road, to stay with out driving theme, would only be a derivation of the lack of warrant standing behind the measures.

    2. The law is held by the executive to bind in ways not contemplated or accepted by those warranting it. We have independent courts to clarify and resolve such matters, but if the courts were not independent of the executive or those enforcing the law ignored their writ and answered only to the executive then again one could argue that the law was oppressive.

    3. The law seeks to constrain or mandate conduct that is outside the proper purview of the community as a whole, and to reach into what is properly private and discretionary activity. Thus, requiring someone to hold or refrain from holding views or attitudes, to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular lifestyle that did not in any measurable way infringe upon the the legitimate claims of others would be oppressive. Equally, laws purporting to distribute or withhold privileges on bases not derived from a rational specification of the common good but decisively on the basis of attributes such as sex, sexuality, ostensible ethnicity etc would be oppressive.

    4. Laws not clearly aimed at augmenting or defending the practical scope of the citizenry to make the most of their lives or to discover their own potential as human beings or likely, on the balance of the best evidence available, to realise these ends at acceptable cost in resources and the infringement of private amenity would be oppressive.

    Subject to the above though, mere compliance cannot be oppressive.

    Dr Smithy quoted me:

    He came up so quickly that when I checked my inside lane for safety if I wanted to change lanes, he wasn’t there.

    Dr Smithy then continued:

    Ah. You mean you weren’t paying attention.

    I was paying due attention. I had seen the vehicle about 100 metres back. As I passed a heavy vehicle it had joined my lane but I was closing on a vehicle travelling at about 90kmh in front of me. I briefly considered changing lanes and checked over my shoulder to determine if a lane change to the fast lane would be safe. It was clear but before I decided to make the change the vehicle ahead of me accelerated and just as I abandoned the plan the much faster moving vehicle passed to my right, presumably because he had closed rapidly from behind the heavy vehicle behind me and had then emerged from the blind spot. Had I adopted his tactics we might well have tried to occupy the same point at the same moment with him above the speed limit and a heavy vehicle behind us.

    [ It requires everyone to accept pro-active monitoring of their actions due to an assumption they are incapable of acting responsibly without supervision.]

    I think it is clear that a statistically significant minority do require such monitoring all or most of the time and that even the majority need to have sufficiently regular monitoring to believe in the integrity of the law, if safety is to be maximised.

    [ This is almost guaranteed to then lead on to additional monitoring of other aspects of people’s lives, with similarly flimsy justifications.]

    Almost guaranteed your say? How so?

    [The proportion of accidents that are actually caused by vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit is practically a rounding error.]

    I’d love to see the analysis to support that. Really though, it is the wrong standard. In days long past miners would take a canary with them to determine if gas release in a mine could be toxic or set off a deadly explosion. If the canary died it was a sign that the miners should retreat even though they might be in no immediate danger, this side of a spark or some other contraindicating factor. In something approaching ideal conditions, exceeding the speed limit may well be safe. Sadly, the information the speeding driver has of his or her vehicle and its context is imperfect. The driver is banking on the absence of some contra-indicating factor, or betting it will not be large enough to infringe his or her margin for error. That is a bet in which the downside risk is carried not only by the driver but his passengers and other nearby road users who never consented to it. Some of them maybe making the same bet in other ways — assuming that nobody else will radically exceed the speed limit or try adjusting their radio or drinking their coffee or driving while fatigued — that they are the only one doing it. Perhaps none of them know that around the next bend that the left and middle lanes are partially blocked by a vehicle that has just suffered a collision. Margin for error is not a freely fungible commodity and to trade in it arbitrarily at the expense of others is just as much theft as is a lawyer with a trust fund using its proceeds to trade in high risk commodities is — even if the lawyer consistently wins and means to restore the funds when called.

    Dr Smithy quoted me:

    But I’d be changing the current laws. A person who takes off from the lights but briefly and inadvertently exceeds 60kmh deserves a caution and if he heeds it, I see little advantage in infringing him.

    Dr Smithy then continued:

    Wow. This after saying that using dangerous and reckless driving charges in lieu of automated speeding fines would be “a lawyer’s picnic”.

    A couple of things here:

    1. We don’t want the system clogged with people who trivially, briefly and inadvertently breach. Such breaches, if remedied very quickly, probably don’t impose decisively on safety. They tend to occur in situations where vehicles are keep up with traffic in multi-lane roads in fairly unremarkable driving conditions. In cost-benefit terms, it would be a misuse of resources to infringe.

    2. The law’s integrity depends in part on being seen as fair. A system of cautioning for brief and trivial infractions not only meets this standard but may, by reminding people of instances of non-compliance that they may have been unaware of, increase driver awareness of their own fallibility and underpin better compliance.

    3. If there is a system of rewards for not being cautioned, then even the caution is a kind of penalty and the desire of the driver to set him or herself the objective of avoiding cautions and “keeping a clean sheet” underpins positive attitudes to safety. A person in that state of mind may seek out training in defensive driving. We could begin to build a culture around people being good citizens on the road.

    Dr Smithy quoted me:

    Ah … ad hominem

    Dr Smithy then said:

    Yes, but a relevant one. The nature of your background and experience is significant as to whether or not you are able to make arguments from a position of authority and credibility.

    I don’t accept that you were in any position to infer anything about it. You simply assumed that anyone arguing as I had must have had the background you wrongly asserted I had, and then added as a catch-all that if I did not, then I had no excuse for holding the views.

    In any event I reject the dichotomy oft-repeated by self-styled populists between an asserted “real world” of work and an inauthentic world inhabited by theorists, bureaucrats or similar. Ultimately, this amounts to a disingenuous and self-serving appeal against reason, typically raised to serve some private interest. It’s a fallacious instance of argumentum ad hominem.

    [Ad hominem is not an inherently fallacious form of argument]

    I’ve often and recently noted this myself, and for just the reasons you raise. In this case though, you had no basis for raising it, and your appeal would have been unsound even if I had had a privileged background. People who are privileged are not inherently less likely than people who are not to be aware of predisposing factors in risk and uncertainty on the roads.

    [Reductio ad absurdum actually requires an absurd position to be taken. Observing that, if no-one “chooses” to live in remote areas, we wouldn’t have farms (and the communities necessary to support them), is in no way “absurd”.]

    In this case it is absurd. In practice, there is a demand for food. In practice, not all of that food can be raised in urban areas. In practice most food in Australia is raised by people living in areas, which, though temporally remote from the major cities, are within 50 kms or so of a casualty ward by a vehicle travelling at the maximum allowable speed limit. Much of our dairy industry is conducted on the heavily developed coastline. Most of our fruit and vegetables are produced near major towns. Large cattle and and sheep concerns are more remote of course but much of this is for export.

    So yes, there are some people who could fit your descriptors, but even if all of them decided to move somewhere handier to casualty wards people in cities would not be living on lawn clippings. Perhaps beef and lamb would be more expensive. Your scenario is absurd.

    [Finally, an assumption that the Government will subsequently expand a system of monitoring far past its original intent and mandate is not “fear”, it’s a rational conclusion based on millennia of historical precedent]

    Millennia? So you have good data on what the Hittites and Babylonians were doing in terms of monitoring the citizenry do you? Tell me — what level of surveillance of the citizenry did Julius Caesar or Charlemagne or any leader of the Ottoman Empire implement? How much detailed monitoring of the masses did the regime of Louis XIV of France do?

    Back here in a contemporary Australian context can you point to a single example of a society comparable to Australia in its political and economic development sliding into a Kafkaesque condition?

  79. freecountry

    Fran, the sarcasm is misplaced. As far back as the 4th century AD citizens in the Byzantine empire were spying and informing on their neighbors to state or state-backed authorities in regard to pagan worship and anti-canonical heresies, sometimes with very harsh results. That’s 1.6 thousand years ago. Surely you’re not going to argue that only a non-unitary integer qualifies for the plural “millenia”?

    Anyway, I made a point earlier that the more plausible slippery-slope argument is based not on government using Trojan stealth attacks on freedom, but rather on citizens becoming addicted to a state which defines all their norms for them. There’s no need for a premeditated stealth attack; the police state simply becomes necessary by degrees.

    Instead of refuting this, you agreed that it’s already happening, and then demonstrated the next logical step. Citizens learn to exploit any loopholes or gaps in physical restraint, and they have an increasingly valid defence for doing so: “If I were doing anything wrong, the state would stop me.” It’s a feedback loop.

    Meski asks if this implies a legal system where laws no longer proscribe what you may not do, but instead prescribe what you may do. And although I don’t know of any legal systems which formally work on this basis, that is how dissidents in many modern police states have described their regimes.

    Actually, it may be the solution to Fran Barlow’s concerns: would you rather the state simply cut to the chase, legislate what we may do and leave everything else forbidden by default, and save itself a lot of work chasing down loopholes and weaknesses in enforcement?

  80. freecountry

    Dr Smithy’s formula is far more consistent with the way Australia has historically become a successful state. Equip citizens with the means to better judge what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and hold them accountable if they are found to have failed in their responsibilities.

  81. no_party_preferred

    Fran,

    “In practice most food in Australia is raised by people living in areas, which, though temporally remote from the major cities, are within 50 kms or so of a casualty ward”

    Thanks for making my point for me

    Also..

    “Back here in a contemporary Australian context can you point to a single example of a society comparable to Australia in its political and economic development sliding into a Kafkaesque condition?”

    Patriot act, USA

  82. Fran Barlow

    FC commented:

    As far back as the 4th century AD citizens in the Byzantine empire were spying and informing on their neighbors to state or state-backed authorities in regard to pagan worship and anti-canonical heresies, sometimes with very harsh results.

    That’s not a case of a free society slowly slipping into a Kafkaesque condition though. Certainly your plebeians there weren’t of interest — all the spying involved rival claimants to authority. The Byzantine Empire didn’t have enough literate people to document “treachery” on any scale over time nor the technology to do it either. By comparison with the GDR, where is is said that perhaps 1 in 6 were informing — ludicrously, often on each other — and then found it lacked the paper shredders in 1989 to dedstroy the evidence, the Byzantines were exemplars of ad hockery.

    The GDR of course succeeded a number of regimes all of which were grossly authoritarian.

    [would you rather the state simply cut to the chase, legislate what we may do and leave everything else forbidden by default, and save itself a lot of work chasing down loopholes and weaknesses in enforcement?]

    Of course not. Restraint requires an ethical warrant (see above). In the absence of one, I assume no restraint exists.

  83. Fran Barlow

    No_Party_Preferred quoted me:

    Back here in a contemporary Australian context can you point to a single example of a society comparable to Australia in its political and economic development sliding into a Kafkaesque condition?”

    then said:

    Patriot act, USA

    Sigh … The Patriot Act was not the result of a slow accretion of powers from small surveillance. It was the result of an expressly political camapign run around fear of foreigners/terrorists. Nor was it anything new. Legislation of this kind has existed in the USA either at state or Federal level for most of the 20th century. The Smith Act was merely the most obvious. So too were Voorhis and Taft-Hartley. The RICO statutes too have been a good exemplar. None of these drew upon cultural attitudes to regulation boirne up by every day administration. These were explicit acts by the goverment to wage war on parts of the population.

  84. Gederts Skerstens

    All of Europe has stopped the subsidy clowning for windmills and solar panels that helped pretend they mattered. Carbon marketeers like Germany and Denmark are importing Nuclear-Produced electricity from France.
    Everyone by now knows Climatism is Lying for A Good Cause.
    So argue the Good Cause for its own worth: make a case for back-to-nature and Collectivism, in the same way as religious morality can be argued for without the fantasies of Heaven and Hell.

  85. freecountry

    Fran Barlow, you’ve shifted the goal posts. You challenged DrSmithy for saying “an assumption that the Government will subsequently expand a system of monitoring far past its original intent and mandate is not ‘fear’, it’s a rational conclusion based on millennia of historical precedent.”

    When I give an example, you argue that the technology for a “Kafkaesque condition” was not even available then, so now you’re arguing that no pre-20th century society could have possibly furnished such evidence even if it wanted to. Then the reign of the Thirty Tyrants in a parody of what had been democratic Athens doesn’t count, because they didn’t have the Stasi’s secretarial abilities, and the French Terror doesn’t count because they didn’t use electronic eavesdropping. Is that how you refute DrSmithy’s argument?

  86. drsmithy

    You mistake compliance with the substance of the law. If a law is passed, we must have compliance. If we don’t care about compliance we ought not to pass the law.

    Fear of punishment is not a morally justifiable basis upon which to build a free society.

    The law is not a means unto itself. Acting in accordance with the law, purely because it is the law, is never sufficient justification.

    Let’s put down some markers for what is oppressive.

    How about we start with the simplest and most obvious, the one you are advocating: extracting compliance through fear of punishment.

    Had I adopted his tactics we might well have tried to occupy the same point at the same moment with him above the speed limit and a heavy vehicle behind us.

    No, IF you had you changed into another lane without looking, and IF he had not acted to avoid your careless maneuver, you MIGHT have had an accident.

    There is no blame in this scenario that can be attributed to the other drive. It is your responsibility to know where other vehicles around you are, and maintain a safe distance from them.

    I think it is clear that a statistically significant minority do require such monitoring all or most of the time and that even the majority need to have sufficiently regular monitoring to believe in the integrity of the law, if safety is to be maximised.

    I don’t. Indeed, the underlying removal of the presumption of innoence (“we know you’re going/want to do something wrong, these devices are just here to punish you when you do”) is scary enough to find the idea repulsive.

    If a majority of people are breaking a law, then it’s nearly a given that law shouldn’t exist in its current form (there are exceptions, but they are few and far between).

    Almost guaranteed your say? How so?

    Exactly what it says. That’s the typical outcome, but on rare occasions an expansion of powers and scope may not be occur.

    I’d love to see the analysis to support that.

    Sadly, you won’t find it in Australia. Far, far too much political capital is invested in the “speed kills” mantra for any evidence to the contrary to ever be considered, even when something as simple as a quick holiday to France or Germany can demonstrate its invalidity.

    No-one in this country is genuinely interested in road safety. It’s too expensive, both in terms of dollars and politics, to implement policies that would actually be effective.

    Sadly, the information the speeding driver has of his or her vehicle and its context is imperfect. The driver is banking on the absence of some contra-indicating factor, or betting it will not be large enough to infringe his or her margin for error. That is a bet in which the downside risk is carried not only by the driver but his passengers and other nearby road users who never consented to it. Some of them maybe making the same bet in other ways — assuming that nobody else will radically exceed the speed limit or try adjusting their radio or drinking their coffee or driving while fatigued — that they are the only one doing it. Perhaps none of them know that around the next bend that the left and middle lanes are partially blocked by a vehicle that has just suffered a collision.

    How are any of these things different for the non-speeding driver ? What happens at 1km/h over the limit that changes the fundamental principles of vehicle control ?

    We don’t want the system clogged with people who trivially, briefly and inadvertently breach. Such breaches, if remedied very quickly, probably don’t impose decisively on safety.

    It is not difficult, at all, to come up with an example of where this is incorrect. Pretty much any scenario involving pedestrian-heavy areas, for example.

    If there is a system of rewards for not being cautioned, then even the caution is a kind of penalty and the desire of the driver to set him or herself the objective of avoiding cautions and “keeping a clean sheet” underpins positive attitudes to safety.

    No, it doesn’t, it simply reinforces the idea that so long as you aren’t being “cautioned”, you’re driving safely. This is already apparent today, with Australia’s brutal speed enforcement policy and “speed kills” propaganda having bred nearly an entire generation of drivers who are more focussed on their speedometers than the roads and footpaths around them.

    I don’t accept that you were in any position to infer anything about it.

    Nevertheless you gave the kind of answer I was expecting – someone who grew up, and spent most of their life in, relatively dense urban environments and probably hasn’t spent a great deal of time travelling or living outside of Australia.

    So yes, there are some people who could fit your descriptors, but even if all of them decided to move somewhere handier to casualty wards people in cities would not be living on lawn clippings. Perhaps beef and lamb would be more expensive. Your scenario is absurd.

    Fran, you seem to have forgotten that the original context was your assertion that “nobody is forced to have a car or a licence”. Even in a regional city of ~75,000 people like, say, Rockhampton, living without a car (ie: depending wholly on public transport) is a proposition ranging from impractical to near-impossible, depending on how far away from the middle of said city you are.

    Heck, there’s no shortage of places *within the boundaries of capital cities*, that living without a car is impractical.

    So, no, the idea that we could move everyone into areas well serviced enough by alternative transport such that owning a car was really optional, but not be able to support the same farming communities we do now is not even remotely absurd. Indeed, it’s practically inescapable. The only place I’ve been in my life where this would be even close to feasible is Switzerland, and that’s because it’s a phenomenally rich country with an excellent system of governance with a land area about the size of Tasmania.

    Incidentally, 50km to the nearest casualty ward (ca. 45-60 minutes for an ambulance round trip, in ideal conditions) when you’ve just had your arm ripped off by some piece of farming machinery, is a long, long way.

    Back here in a contemporary Australian context can you point to a single example of a society comparable to Australia in its political and economic development sliding into a Kafkaesque condition?

    Germany in the 1930s is, of course, the obvious example.

    America’s various “anti-terrorism” laws over the last decade (indeed, their law enforcement in general) are probably the next most obvious example. Boarding a flight in much of the USA now means submitting to either being virtually strip-searched, or subjected to a physical examination that in any other situation would be considered sexual assault. Legally monitoring someone’s communications used to be a difficult a drawn-out process, now a wiretap and GPS tracking can be applied to someone without even getting a warrant.

    A marginally less obvious example are sex-offenders registries, driven by “save the children” hysteria.

    Then of course there’s the good old “War on [some] Drugs”.

    The point here is that laws and regulations, once created, nearly always expand and very rarely contract. “Monitoring” is but one example among many, the one that was relevant to the discussion. This inevitable expansion is why they should only ever be created to perform the absolute minimum – with very clear, obvious and easily demonstrable benefits – and revewied frequently. Indeed, in my opinion every single law and piece of legislation passed should be required to have a sunset clause in it of no more than ten years.

  87. no_party_preferred

    Fran, the rate at which these reductions in liberty take place have little to do with the fact that they happen. In the case of the patriot act, and Howard’s sedition and firearm laws, they happened quickly because there was a major event that gave the public -via the media- a strong focus along the the required amount of fear to enable the government to enact a change.

    Here’s a hypothetical. Drug overdoses kill a comparable number of people a year to traffic accidents and most of these drugs are currently illegal. Regardless of the fact that like driver training, drug education is a far more effective method of harm minimisation to enforcement, would you submit to mandatory random urine testing of all Australian residents coupled with a tiered monetary penalty structure?

  88. Fran Barlow

    Dr Smithy said:

    [Fear of punishment is not a morally justifiable basis upon which to build a free society.]

    No, but it is an adequate basis for ensuring the rule of law, providing of course that that law meets the tests I outlined above. People can disagree with the law, and if they wish to accept the consequences of their actions, ignore its mandates. That’s actually one of the ways of testing the law’s integrity (see: “civil disobedience”). The fact that people are willing to endure sanctions shows that they are serious and may lead to them having their day in court to argue affirmatively for change.

    [No, IF you had you changed into another lane without looking, and IF he had not acted to avoid your careless maneuver, you MIGHT have had an accident.]

    I would have looked, but given that his information and mine might have been decisively inadequate, due to his malfeasance, the blame for any collision would have fallen upon him but the harms would have been randomised.

    [the underlying removal of the presumption of innocence]

    No such action is contemplated. Data is gathered and the driver may challenge it. The driver remains innocent until due process runs its course.

    [If a majority of people are breaking a law, then it’s nearly a given that law shouldn’t exist in its current form]

    Statistics are always hard but I’d be surprised if the majority of drivers had not ignored a stop sign, changed lanes without sufficient indication, used a mobile phone while driving, parked in a no standing zone, picked up too close to a school crossing etc …

    It doesn’t mean that these provisions should be discarded.

    [What happens at 1km/h over the limit that changes the fundamental principles of vehicle control ?]

    Nothing much if anything — and that is my point. The speed limit is an approximation based on a political compromise with the class of people driving and a judgement about the most common conditions obtaining. Having lots of different speed zones and then tweaking them would create uncertainty and indeed drivers quite rightly complain of this very thing.

    That said, we think that most of the time, the speed limits are about right for most people. As I suggested above, with realtime real world road signs and in vehicle advice we could perhaps tweak the system to create a better match between safety and the driver’s wish to travel at his or her preferred speed. We wish to avoid a sorites paradox of course but neither can we allow open slather because if someone does do the wrong thing we don’t want a lawyers’ picnic. Our aim is safety and low cost not lots of administration.

    [Fran, you seem to have forgotten that the original context was your assertion that “nobody is forced to have a car or a licence”. Even in a regional city of ~75,000 people like, say, Rockhampton, living without a car (ie: depending wholly on public transport) is a proposition ranging from impractical to near-impossible, depending on how far away from the middle of said city you are.]

    That may be so, but the question of whether you do or don’t choose to operate a vehicle or live in Rockhampton is still a choice. You can decide to live somewhere else, or live there and make arrangements with others to drive you about, or get a bike or have a car and play by the rules. Nothing I’ve suggested is onerous.

    [Incidentally, 50km to the nearest casualty ward (ca. 45-60 minutes for an ambulance round trip, in ideal conditions) when you’ve just had your arm ripped off by some piece of farming machinery, is a long, long way.]

    Indeed it would be, but the marginal difference between driving a vehicle 50km @ an average speed of 90kmh and an average speed of 110kmh per hour is about six minutes. As I said above, I’d be pretty happy to have a situation in which you could get clearance to exceed the speed limit and in any event in places like that I’d be pretty happy, on major routes when contention was low to have a substantially higher limit — say 130-140 kmh.

    [Germany in the 1930s is, of course, the obvious example.]

    No, it isn’t. Germany in the 1930s followed an anti-democratic regime that had waged a failed war, then turned on its own people on at least one occasion during the Kapp Putsch, had murdered leftists by the score, then had hyper inflation and a succession of unstable regimes and the depression and had had a very long history of anti-semitism. What about Australia reminds you of that?

    [Boarding a flight in much of the USA now means submitting to either being virtually strip-searched, or subjected to a physical examination that in any other situation would be considered sexual assault. Legally monitoring someone’s communications used to be a difficult a drawn-out process, now a wiretap and GPS tracking can be applied to someone without even getting a warrant.]

    Again, this is nothing new. The US, like Australia, interned “enemy nationals” during WW2. They trampled all over civil rights for much of their history — long before they had cars and traffic regulations. They have always picked and chosen which civil rights they fancied.

    Now personally, I’m very much against the kind of swingeing “anti-terror” legislation you point to. I’d like to see it done away with. I’d be in favour of abandoning the concept of the war on drugs and having a much less custodial-centred justice system. But that has nothing to do with how best to get road safety.

    No_Party_Preferred said:

    Drug overdoses kill a comparable number of people a year to traffic accidents and most of these drugs are currently illegal. Regardless of the fact that like driver training, drug education is a far more effective method of harm minimisation to enforcement, would you submit to mandatory random urine testing of all Australian residents coupled with a tiered monetary penalty structure?

    Of course not. I’d be in favour of legalised and regulated production through properly audited and licenced suppliers of most of the recreational drugs now on the blackmarket.

  89. freecountry

    Fran, your take on German history in the 1930s is very unusual. You seem to suggest that the national socialist movement did not win immense popular support. And you seem to imply that it did not gain traction first by expanding the state to solve problems in health, education, gun control, regulation of business, getting unemployed back into work … a whole host of common garden variety socialist issues which had nothing to do with conquering the world or gassing ethnic minorities. The main warning sign to conservatives at the time was not the far-fetched musings the leader had written while he was in prison, but the fact that the state considered its scope of authority and interference to be unlimited, and the growing sense of, “either you are with us or you are against us”.

  90. Meski

    So our speed limits are based on the performance of the worst cars and drivers on the road, Fran? Better to remove (both)

  91. Mark Duffett

    @Meski “circular argument”

    If I were arguing that greater enforcement of speed limits will reduce the road toll that would be true, but that’s not (necessarily) what I’m saying. What I’m arguing for primarily is the rule of law, and the principle that every time it’s transgressed, you should cop a whack.

    @Dr Smithy

    Can we conclude from this that whenever you see your speedometer 1km/h or more over the posted limit, you report yourself ASAP to the nearest police station ?

    Or, are you a hypocrite ?

    No, and this does not make me a hypocrite, any more than (say) a supporter of a carbon tax who nevertheless consumes coal-generated electricity.

    OR, are you the one person in the world who has never, ever exceeded the speed limit for an instant, even accidentally ?

    No, that would be my wife 😉

    I should point out that the system I envisage would exact penalties proportional to excess speed multiplied by the time for which the limit has been exceeded.

  92. drsmithy

    I should point out that the system I envisage would exact penalties proportional to excess speed multiplied by the time for which the limit has been exceeded.

    So someone who spends half an hour driving down an empty multilane freeway at 130km/h deserves more punishment than someone who spends ten seconds racing past a school at 70km/h ?

  93. Mark Duffett

    You got me there, Dr S, I hadn’t thought of that (though I’d contend it’s likely that anyone speeding past a school would be speeding everywhere else as well, so the upshot wouldn’t be that disproportionate). However, given that the whole thing would be GPS-based, it would be straightforward to throw in a ‘potential impact factor’ based on where and when the speeding occurred, or simply the general principle that exceeding the limit by 30 km/h is more serious in a 40 zone than 100.

  94. Meski

    I obey school speed limits, but not others, completely. (so I might ignore the recent 50 in a 60 zone silliness), and as for outback driving… Australia’s too large for the outback speed limits it has, and is too large for them to be adequately enforced. (who was it said you shouldn’t have laws that can’t be enforced?)

  95. freecountry

    Or you could just rate the performance of police highway patrol squads based on the overall trends in road injuries and deaths, rather than on the number of interventions each officer performs, and formulate traffic-safety policies and settings based mainly on their advice.

  96. Captain Planet

    @ No Party Preferred (Saturday 5th at 1:49)

    “Anyone can choose to buy a small, Common Rail Fuel Injection, Turbo Diesel vehicle, which delivers 5 litres / 100km fuel economy or better.” (My original post).

    “Anyone really? Can you tow a trailer full of carpentry tools with that? Do they come in a ute or a people mover? where can I get one?” (No Party Preferred).

    Do a Google Search. I would suggest that either a 4WD Jeep Patriot (2.0 Litre Volkswagen TDi engine, 6.9 litres / 100 km and towing capacity of 2000 kg) would suit your needs admirably. I drive one, and I can tow well over a tonne and fit 5 people and a dog in the car and I still get better than 7.5 litres / 100 km on the highway.

    The Nissan Xtrail has almost identical specifications and economy.;

    In the People Mover vein, the Holden Calibra seats 7 people and gets < 7 litres / 100 km.

    The comment about 5 litres / 100 km fuel economy was referring to people whose primary need for a car is for commuting in the city. Understandably, as you have pointed out, some people need more functionality than that. My point is that cars ARE available which will deliver that functionality and still give excellent fuel economy.

    On the other hand, if commuting and a bit of highway driving for up to 4 people is all you need, less than 5 litres / 100 km is easily achieved. Check out the new ford fiesta at 3.7 litres / 100 km.

    http://www.caradvice.com.au/44542/ford-fiesta-econetic-australias-most-fuel-efficient-car/

  97. no_party_preferred

    Captain,

    Thankyou, point understood and well taken. I personally drive a turbo deisel nissan navara that sits at about 8 – 9 l/100. Lamentably my other car, a 6 cyl. deisel landcruiser, is closer to 15, but it does very driving. I apologise for holding you to account for a technicality in your post as I think that is small minded.

    That being said, I think it is very important that people in their thinking and their comments consider that Australia could be divided (unfortunately) into 2 communities, the majority (city) and the minority (country). Years ago most people in the city had country cousins that they would visit and would visit them, and the disconnect between the two was not a evident as it is today. Both the country and city communities are becoming increasingly insular and ignorant of each other’s roles in our society. Having spent probably 2/3 of my life in the city, my observation is that the city is far more ignorant of the country than the other way around and that will become more of a problem as time passes. It would only take people to watch landline every now and then to start to get more of an idea of the massive amount of investment that farmers put into their practices to ensure sustainability.

    This comment is not pointed at you in particular and to be honest most people probably haven’t read it as I am not in the same league of highly educated (but sometimes entirely ignorant) contributors on this site. I’m just a dumb arse tradesman after all. I do, however feel better having put it to print.

  98. drsmithy

    You got me there, Dr S, I hadn’t thought of that (though I’d contend it’s likely that anyone speeding past a school would be speeding everywhere else as well, so the upshot wouldn’t be that disproportionate). However, given that the whole thing would be GPS-based, it would be straightforward to throw in a ‘potential impact factor’ based on where and when the speeding occurred, or simply the general principle that exceeding the limit by 30 km/h is more serious in a 40 zone than 100.

    You’re still stuck inside the “exceeding the speed limit is the problem” box and are hence limited in your solutions to just coming up with more complete ways to enforce existing speed limits (though you have struck on one of the reasons the existing system is even dumber that it might otherwise be, since it has fixed brackets rather than proportions).

    This will not improve road safety. If anything, it will make it worse, as drivers spend more and more time trying not to speed, and are conditioned to the attitude of “if I’m under the limit, I’m driving safely”.

    The focus should be on dangerous driving. Exceeding the speed limit, in an of itself, should not be an automatic infringement, except perhaps in particularly pedestrian-heavy areas. Turn off all the speed cameras, increase highway patrols, tighten up licensing standards (and introduce an additional license class for large 4WDs) and the road toll will drop.

    Australia – particularly Victoria – has probably the most stringent speed enforcement in the world, and has been tightening it more every year for quite a while – yet the road toll has been basically flatlined for over a decade.

  99. freecountry

    And mandatory ongoing driver training, at the license-holder’s expense. Imagine if half the cost of ripping open cars to scrape out the body parts could be redirected into advanced driver training. Then if someone loses it on a bend or tail-ends the vehicle in front or goes for a wander across the lanes, the driver has no excuse and the law can really go to town on him.

  100. drsmithy

    And mandatory ongoing driver training, at the license-holder’s expense.

    No, it should be either “free”, or heavily subsidised. Despite what many might like to insist, it’s not feasible to live without a car in the vast majority of Australia, and that is unlikely to change in the forseeable future.

  101. Meski

    In the fine print somewhere, the license is the property of the government department, so you’re saying that the government department should pay :^) (which is ultimately the taxpayer, anyway, and I don’t see why yet another tax should be levied on road users and then diverted to general revenue)

  102. drsmithy

    In the fine print somewhere, the license is the property of the government department, so you’re saying that the government department should pay :^) (which is ultimately the taxpayer, anyway, and I don’t see why yet another tax should be levied on road users and then diverted to general revenue)

    I’m saying that if the government wishes to impose restrictions such as mandatory driver (re-)training (something I 100% support), then it has a duty to subsidise those who cannot afford it, in light of the impracticalities of living in most of Australia without a car, particularly for the poor.

    That various forms of taxation against road users are funneled into general revenue when they shouldn’t be is an entirely separate (and irrelevant) issue.

  103. Mark Duffett

    Dr S, you’re misconstruing what I’m saying. To repeat what I said earlier: I’m not, here, so much interested in the road safety problem, as the more fundamental issue of the rule of law. What I take issue with is the attitude encapsulated by Meski @ 3:21. I just don’t accept the notion that people can arbitrarily decide for themselves which laws they want to obey.

    Whether those laws are the best way of addressing road safety problems is a separate issue. I’m simply saying the laws we have should be enforced to the extent that practicality permits. @Meski “you shouldn’t have laws that can’t be enforced”? This is precisely my point. With mobile wireless and GPS technology, they can be, universally.

  104. Meski

    No. There was an attempted defence using GPS, and the court threw it out for inaccuracy. (compared to lidar, IIRC) So I’d really doubt if you’d get away with using it for prosecuting. Where are you going to get the GPS data, BTW? (or the mobile wireless, for that matter) With the defence case, it was provided by the defendant, but you’d hardly be providing data that would incriminate you.

  105. drsmithy

    Dr S, you’re misconstruing what I’m saying. To repeat what I said earlier: I’m not, here, so much interested in the road safety problem, as the more fundamental issue of the rule of law. What I take issue with is the attitude encapsulated by Meski @ 3:21. I just don’t accept the notion that people can arbitrarily decide for themselves which laws they want to obey.

    In which case we roll back to my original point. If you believe the rule of law is paramount – that laws should be followed regardless of their validity or morality, but simply because they exist – then by not explicitly rendering yourself to the legal system every time you break a law, you are demonstrably condoning the philosophy you “don’t accept”.

    Ie: you’re a hypocrite. You claim that obeying the law is all that matters, but you do not do so yourself.

    I’m simply saying the laws we have should be enforced to the extent that practicality permits. @Meski “you shouldn’t have laws that can’t be enforced”? This is precisely my point. With mobile wireless and GPS technology, they can be, universally.

    At significant cost, for negligible benefit. The money could be far better spent on something that might actually work, and didn’t set terrifying precedents.

  106. Mark Duffett

    No, this does not make me a hypocrite, as I illustrated earlier, nor do I claim that obeying the law is “all that matters”. What I do claim is that if I or anyone breaks it, they should expect to pay a penalty. Or at least (getting back to my original point) they shouldn’t complain if they’re caught.

  107. Meski

    Chinese repentance: we aren’t sorry for breaking the law, we’re sorry we got caught. It’s rare enough that I’m back to having 12 points ‘free’

  108. drsmithy

    No, this does not make me a hypocrite, as I illustrated earlier, nor do I claim that obeying the law is “all that matters”.

    Well, it does, because your example wasn’t really similar at all. Someone who advocates a carbon tax may not have any feasible way of accessing non-CO2-intensive energy, or may believe that a carbon tax is a suitable way of offsetting the environmental costs of CO2-intensive energy.

    If your example had used someone who argues for a CO2 tax and then specifically tries to evade paying that tax, despite using services that are subject to it, you would have had something more accurate.

    I’m not sure how else to interpret your comments thus far as anything but “the law is all that matters”. Especially with comments like this:

    Amen to that, Fran Barlow, that’s something I’ve been saying for some time as well. Everyone, every time. If only because it would shut up all those whinging talkback callers and letter-writers who whine about ‘revenue-raising’ police, as if their traffic fine was anything other than their own fault. Rather, they’d be harking back to these as the good old days.

    If you’ve never in your life drifted a single km/h over the speed limit, you have the right to attack others who complain about speed enforcement. If you haven’t, you’re just a hypocrite.

    What I do claim is that if I or anyone breaks it, they should expect to pay a penalty. Or at least (getting back to my original point) they shouldn’t complain if they’re caught.

    I (and everyone else) has every right to complain if they’re punished for breaking a bad law. Would you complain if you were successfully sued for copyright infringement because you had songs on your iPod before 2006 ?

    I have very little respect for an argument of “you should obey the law because it’s the law”. It’s the same sort of authoritarian mindset that produces and reinforces attitudes like “I was only following orders”.

  109. Climate Change

    One well know broker had this to say on our state of affairs today

    “But firstly let me just tell you why macro funds are selling Australia.

    Firstly they think our Federal ‘Government’ can’t be trusted. They believe Australia has high regulatory risk (we agree).

    Secondly, they think our RBA has tightened too aggressively.

    Isn’t it interesting that just as Julia Gillard was getting six standing ovations in Washington that US investors were dumping Australian equities due to her policies, or should I say the Green’s policies.

    This is the conundrum at the moment, Australian equities are being de-rated not due to corporate management incompetence, but due the Federal Government incompetence.

    Foreign investors I speak to rate Australian corporate management very highly, yet rate our Federal management very, very lowly.

    This incompetent Federal government have given foreign investors a plethora of reasons to head for the exit and they have been accepting that invitation.

    We underperformed the world on the way up, now we are underperforming on the down days too.

    Unfortunately foreign investors only have one way to register their disdain for the Federal government and that is to indiscriminately sell Australian assets.

    However, it must be remembered this ramshackle excuse for a Federal government we have is held together by a shoe-string, and we are only one by-election away from it falling apart.”

    Fasten selt belts, close tray table and put your seat back upright

  110. Meski

    @ClimateChange: Foreign investors are selling? That smells like a buying opportunity to me. THe rest of the world’s likely going to be doing the same thing, when the investors realise this, they’ll buy back. Step 3 – PROFIT!

  111. Meski

    PS: And you assume that an independent or a Green or Labor won’t win the by-election. Stats to back that up?

  112. Climate Change

    @ Meski,

    Excellent tip, perhaps all those MP’s in NSW that have jumped ship will spend their retirement payouts on Aussie shares and save us all

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