David Hurley

Nov 13, 2011

A dangerous line to believe

There are several posts' worth of hideously mi

Pure Poison IconThere are several posts’ worth of hideously misleading and dishonest “stories” in today’s Herald Sun (if you want a preview, we’ll cover a disingenuous attack pretending that The Age exposing the ALP for holding private details on ordinary citizens in its database is a “hacking” scandal, a dishonest double-page spread claiming the Greens want to wipe out car manufacturing jobs and a nasty smear against a retired lawyer who was charged – not found guilty, mind you – with “drug trafficking” at University IN 1993 – I doubt we’ll have time to even mention the union-bashing “PURE RAGE” front page).

But let’s start with the misleading and destructive line they’re publishing about how “easy” it is to avoid paying tollway fines: “Magistrates wipe tollway fines because motorists cannot pay.”

A Sunday Herald Sun investigation has revealed about 15 people a week appear at Frankston Magistrates’ Court alone to fight fines for EastLink and CityLink.

A prosecutor at the court, who asked not to be named, said motorists facing fines of between $7000 and $70,000 for not paying their tolls were regularly let off.

I’m not surprised that prosecutor didn’t want to be named, because they’d have their words quoted back at them by defence lawyers who know perfectly well that that’s quite the opposite of what prosecutors tell the court every day.

And of course they know, as Herald Sun readers might well not know, that the figures quoted there are not the actual toll amounts. Under the Kennett government’s tollway legislation, a toll charge of a few dollars can very quickly turn into hundreds of dollars by the time it comes to court. $7,000 worth of fines might actually be from a few hundred dollars’ worth of tollway usage.

It’s also the case that people get lumped with the fines of former partners, who conceal the envelopes until it’s far too late for the person whose car was used to actually dispute them. The legislation makes it very difficult or impossible to challenge these fines once a certain time has passed.

And, of course, it is not an easy matter getting a court to waive fines at all. Firstly, if you actually do have money or assets, the court will order your employer to pay the inflated fines, and they can and do order your property sold.

According to prosecutors, people do not have to show special circumstances to avoid paying their fines or being sent to jail.

“People are coming along saying things like ‘I have two children to support’ and they are avoiding jail,” the prosecutor said.

Now if you’ve got nothing, and no income, and thus no way whatsoever of paying the money, it is true that under the Infringements Act 2006 a Magistrate has the power to discharge outstanding fines:

If the Court is satisfied that, having regard to the infringement offender’s situation, imprisonment would be excessive, disproportionate and unduly harsh

But it’s not in any way simply a matter of showing up to court and merely “claiming [you] cannot afford to pay”. The test above is a high one – not simply “I have two children to support”. The court is much more likely to make a defendant go and do community work, and pay an amount out of their already below-subsistence-level Centrelink payment.

And in cases where there is genuinely no prospect of recovering that money, what would David Hurley and the unnamed prosecutor rather we as a community do? We don’t have debtors’ prisons any more, so we shove these poor people into the general population with actual criminals? We spend tens of thousands of dollars locking parents with dependent children up in prison for months or years, and traumatise those children by finding them new foster parents in the meantime?

A word of warning to Herald Sun readers: if you think this story gives you carte-blanche to ignore tollway fines and just rely on having them wiped by some overly-kindly magistrate, and you act on that assumption, I suspect very strongly you might come to regret it.

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15 thoughts on “A dangerous line to believe

  1. SBH

    And as for the greens and car manufacturing, why doesn’t the hun report that far from being some fifth column conspiracy, it is the official policy of the Victorian Government to move out of all manufacturing and into financial and other service sectors as the economy ‘restructures’?

  2. Aliar Jones

    [In all fairness though, there is a certain age group for which porn can serve as an ad-hoc source of much sought after information.]

    ah so that’s what you’re doing instead of thinking…

  3. Aliar Jones

    [The dullards and dolts of the general public not voting the way your enlightened self would like them to?]

    More like the revelation you’re not very well informed either..

  4. SHV

    Listen to the link, Cuppa.

    That happened recently under an ALP government.

    Nobody doubts the LNP is just as bad. But that stopped being an argument for supporting the ALP a long time ago.

    The ALP loves News Ltd every bit as much as the LNP. In fact, it’s just a great big circle of love.

  5. both kinds of politics

    […] Posted by Chris, on November 14th, 2011 Derp overload at The Hun […]

  6. Cuppa

    Imagine for a moment the position the Coalition would be in if they didn’t have the advantage of the virtual one-party media behind them. If they had to compete with the progressive parties on a level media field, they would be going, going … gone!

  7. Howard,B.

    Yeah, well, people keep buying porn, too – but at least that’s not pretending to be informing anybody about anything.

    Maybe keep News publications in plastic wrapping with appropriate warnings, at the back of the shop? In all fairness though, there is a certain age group for which porn can serve as an ad-hoc source of much sought after information.

  8. Howard,B.

    70% newspaper + 99% raving shoutjocks + compulsory voting = ??

    The dullards and dolts of the general public not voting the way your enlightened self would like them to?

  9. Aliar Jones

    Maybe they’re ramping up the bullshit to put on a good show while the boss is back in town.

  10. SHV

    Yes AR, but it’s not the compulsory voting that has to go.

    Example = USA

  11. AR

    70% newspaper + 99% raving shoutjocks + compulsory voting = ??

  12. Matthew of Canberra

    So … they’re basically telling people they’ll get away with not paying speeding tickets if they try.

    How is that not some kind of incitement? They’re actually telling people that penalties don’t apply.

    What’s really needed is some kind of publicly funded organisation that does nothing but broadcast 24/7 corrections of the misinformation printed and broadcast by murdoch’s rags and fairfax’s AM stations. Sort of “media watch”, but with its own channel. It’s tragic, and no doubt would be decried by the newly-minted free-speech crowd (who like speech best when nobody’s correcting them), but what else can we do when “70% of our nation’s media” are handing out factually bogus legal advice like this? They lie about crime, they imperil australians awaiting trial overseas by yelling about rubbish media deals, they actively encourage migrants to attempt dangerous boat crossings by lying about the deals they receive when they get here, they actively misinform the electorate about policies, laws, statistics, economics and people. They’ve interfered in hostage situations, meddled in peacekeeping operations, undermined confidence in the police and courts – and not even when they’ve deserved it.

    And what’s news got to defend itself? Well, clearly it’s doing something right, because people keep buying it. Yeah, well, people keep buying porn, too – but at least that’s not pretending to be informing anybody about anything.

  13. SHV

    Be still, my boiling blood.

    I find it almost impossible to describe my seething contempt for absolutely everyone associated in any way whatsoever with News Ltd. I don’t even read this rubbish, but I see the effect it has on those who do and, far more dangerous, what it allows politicians to do while they pretend they are answering to community concerns.

    Can you imagine a pregnant woman being nabbed at the shops over unpaid fines, sent to jail for six months and being hand-cuffed to the bed while giving birth in custody while she has six children at home with a sick husband. That’s precisely why I feel so strongly about News Ltd.


  14. monkeywrench

    All this and Miranda too. My dear dotty old father-in-law buys the Sunday Sun for the Lotto numbers, he doesn’t believe me when I tell him I can get them on the internet. He then ceremoniously brings the whole sad collection in to the lounge “so you can have a read”. After a suitably polite delay I throw it in the recycling.

  15. Bob Biggs

    I think what we’ll see here is a similar reaction to the Hun’s cordon-bleu-cooking-in-prisons stories where the readers at once think that the guilty have it soft while doing everything in their power to make sure they never get caught doing anything wrong. There’s a part of their brain that knows damn well what the story is, they just won’t let it get in the way of a better story.

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