Citizens Opposed to Bureaucratic Bullying and Excessive Regulation

Revenue Raising

Revenue Collectors

The only justification for local government is to serve its people. Sadly, some local governments in Australia have degenerated into grasping exploiters.

Take for example the current trend in fining the public. Last year alone, several MILLION people were fined!  A lot of this had nothing to do with deterring anti-social behaviour, but was a way for bureaucracies to score a fast buck.  This is not government FOR the people.

The only legitimate reason for street parking fines in a democracy is to ensure that all citizens get a fair share of the parking. There is no justification for local government agencies to send out fine-collectors at hours when there is no pressure on parking spaces.

Local governments do not own our roads and cannot rent them to us.  Paying for street parking (meters etc) is reasonable to finance a Council system for sharing out time and space that is scarce.

But when an area is mostly empty, a parking officer has no business there. This is the COBBERs RULE on parking fines.

(from Newsletter #1)

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Gold Spots & Highwaymen

Since bureaus have been able to keep fine money, the number of fines imposed has shot through the roof. Fair excuses for over-parking for example are routinely rejected.  Citizens are automatically treated as liars.  For the bureau, missing out on a possible fine is considered a greater evil than unfairly penalising a citizen.  This is not GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE.

Many thousands of citizens every week are being fined unreasonably. But any one case is not important enough to be told in the media.

Bureaus today deliberately plan high levels of random punishment. This fining racket is spoiling life in Australia. Councils boast of not raising rates, but they’re increasing their income in fines and new charges.

It should also be noted that the new fining and charging frenzy is regressive  —  it widens the gap between rich and poor. A $165 speeding fine takes a poor person’s entire week’s income. This self-feeding of enforcers, will, if unchecked, eventually turn Australia into the sort of country people will want to migrate from rather than to.

Just for the record, let me publish here two examples of unreasonable traffic fines. I have been ringing the alarm about the fining rackets long before these two incidents occurred. These examples fell into my lap just in the last few weeks before I wrote them up.

GOLD SPOT: Unreasonable traffic fine example #1

My wife and I [POC] were driving through the country on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I rarely see her drive, so I was watching closely. I was fascinated how unhurried, careful and attentive she was. I said to myself, If everybody drove like this, there would be no road toll. [I swear I am not making this up]

We crossed a bridge and entered a town  –  at 52 km/h. Halfway through the town, we were stopped by a policeman. You are booked for speeding at 80 in a 60 area. We couldn’t believe our ears. The officer knew we wouldn’t understand. He explained triumphantly that there was a 60 sign outside the town. (I have since found it, 100m before the bridge). We were obviously not driving in any way dangerously or irresponsibly. The sign was easy to miss, at an unpopulated place  –  there were only trees on one side and a deserted showground on the other.

The officer lay in wait at this gold spot knowing many good drivers would miss it  –  instead of attending to a black spot where accidents might occur. Besides, if we were going 52 km/h only 100m later, without any dramatic deceleration, it’s a very petty application of the rule. If this were a genuine issue of road safety (which it isn’t), then instead of laying in wait to catch good citizens at this gold spot, they would put up a bolder sign.

ENTRAPMENT: Unreasonable traffic fine example #2

My cousin-in-law is also a very careful and responsible driver. She drove up to a inner suburban intersection, needing to turn right. There was a police car in the lane opposite, facing her.  The lights went green, but the police car stayed, apparently immobilised.

She waited until all traffic had passed through the intersection, and then went slowly around in front of the police car. Suddenly the police car came to life, chased her down the street and booked her for turning right before letting it pass!

Such desperate tactics by police to impose fines clearly indicate that there is some kind of pressure on officers to collect money from citizens.  This is a rotten practice.  The citizens know it.  The police know it.  The police know that the citizens know it.

It must be stressful for the young officers, feeling the resentment of decent people being robbed, and seeing their police service used in this way. It is unfair of the police authorities to put their young officers through this demeaning and antisocial activity.

And it is foolish of the police to progressively alienate more and more of the public  —  whose support they need  —  just for a few (million) shekels.

(from Newsletter #2)

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COBBERs Newsletter #1 has been sent to every politician in the country. Along with it, we sent a brief covering letter urging a change in legislation to remove the corrupting influence of FINING FOR PROFIT.  Here’s what we said:

Change the Law  —  Abolish Profiteering from Punishment!

Several million punitive fines were levied by bureaus in Australia last year. Many opportunities are being found to extract money from citizens. Most of this “punishment” has nothing whatever to do with anti-social behaviour. It is largely revenue raising.  Bureaucracy today is preying on its own people.

The policy of user pays makes sense when the service provided is voluntarily chosen by the user. But we have no choice of police, Council, and other bureaus. They are an absolute monopoly. Their present fining regime is an oppression of the people.

The legislative solution is very simple . DISALLOW THAT BUREAUS CAN KEEP ANY PART OF THE MONEY THEY COLLECT IN FINES.

(see COBBERs 2nd Legislative Reform)

Let these bureaus be funded up-front, out of taxes or rates. Let fine takings be remitted strictly into general revenue with no targeted beneficiary. Eliminate the ulterior motive.

Let fines be imposed only for genuinely anti-social behaviour, and where public education measures have failed. A bureau should be judged by social outcomes, (citizen satisfaction) not by fine takings.

(Note on bureaucracy: In a democracy, a bureaucracy is superior if it is able to deliver its service with less punishment of the people, not more.)

(from Newsletter #2)

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Enterprise Bureaucracy

Poor productivity can destroy a business, leaving its owner bankrupt and its workers jobless.  Thus we have traditionally seen greater efficiency in private enterprise than in departments of government which are immune from bankruptcy.  Bureaucracies have no proprietor, no one who watches over the standard of service and the financial efficiency so as to protect his or her personal investment.

Nevertheless there has been a push in recent years to have bureaucracies operate as enterprises  –  to pay their way, to win performance bonuses, to fund projects from unrelated charges, to raise revenue for the government.  But there are several things wrong with this concept.  If you have to make money, you naturally try to grow.  But while growth is a virtue in business, it is a vice in bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy grows by interfering more in the lives of citizens, and grasping more of their disposable income.  Thus the rise of enterprise bureaucracy directly threatens both personal freedoms and the standard of living. 

Another fatal flaw with the concept of enterprise bureaucracy is monopoly. We citizens are not real customers, we cannot turn away from our bureaus and seek out better service providers.  Even the world’s greatest hive of enterprise, the United States, has laws to constrain super  monopolies.  But we have no such protection from enterprise bureaucracy.

The entire concept of enterprise bureaucracy is a fallacy. It creates a greater evil than the old bureaucracy, namely malignant growth. Bureaucracy should not be seen as a business, but as a benevolent protector of the social order  –  funded by the community. Let people and communities live their own lives, and let bureaucracy be involved, as modestly as possible, only where necessary, to ensure peaceful co-existence and minimum standards.

As with a good doctor, the democratic local government bureaucrat tries not to be needed.

HOW THEN SHOULD BUREAUCRACY OPERATE?

  1. Minimise controls, penalties and charges
  2. Privatise services that do not involve governance
  3. Levy rates according to property
  4. Levy taxes according to income
  5. Direct all fine takings into consolidated revenue
  6. Restore total transparency to book-keeping
  7. Restore authority to elected persons to watch over the standard and efficiency of the service.

(from Newsletter #3)

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The Fining Frenzy

The car: we love it and we hate it.

The motor car is the greatest cause of untimely death and bodily damage in society today.
We begin each week in each region knowing that it will end with several casualties of the car. Nevertheless we choose this, weighing life and limb expendable against the convenience and commerce generated by cars, which are a dominant feature of our current way of life.

This leaves the regulator with a riddle: life is sacred, but don’t stop the traffic. The only sure thing you can extract from this dilemma is a fortune in fine revenues. No matter how unreasonably they regulate speed, they can always invoke, “We’re trying to save lives.”  Who dares argue with that? In reality of course, only a zero speed limit would eliminate the toll.

The behaviour of drivers must be regulated. There are occasionally irresponsible drivers: such as the reckless; or people driving when drunk, drugged, or distressed; or when their senses are failing or their reflexes gone. But the majority of fined drivers today are not guilty of irresponsible driving at all.  No judgement is exercised in the imposing of most fines. The regulators have found a way of financially exploiting society’s dependence on the car.

(from Newsletter #3)

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www.cobbers.org.au