All those road fines you’ve paid, the money has been wisely spent, no? Well, apparently not: cronyism and conflicts of interest rule, says a new WA report.
Saving lives demands transparency, not cronyism
The revelation that the $90 million a year taken from WA’s drivers is not being managed properly comes as no surprise, says Civil Liberties Australia.
“Unless that kind of money is spent on improving the state’s roads to reduce the risk of accidents, it simply represents a huge ‘slush fund’ which advocates of decreased speed limits and decreased freedom can plunder to fund their propaganda,” said CLA State Director Rex Widerstrom. “You certainly don’t see it funding debate about, for instance, whether it would be better for road safety to have all those cars currently hidden in bushes at the bottom of hills babysitting a speed camera actually painted in police livery and visible on our roads as a deterrent to bad driver behaviour.
“We’re about to face yet another round of penalty increases in two days. Doing 101 km/h on the freeway could cost you $100. Yet the vast amount of money this sort of over-enforcement generates isn’t being accounted for properly.”
A review, by former director-general of education Peter Browne, highlights the close ties between the Office of Road Safety, which administers the funds, and Main Roads WA, which is a beneficiary, and between the majority of members of WA’s Road Safety Council and organisations seeking funding. Mr Browne’s report says this leads to “criticisms of cronyism and conflicts of interest”.
“Of course it’s a conflict of interest,” Mr Widerstrom says. “These people are all in the same club – the one that believes more speed cameras and more fines are the best and only answer. There’s no room for anyone with an alternative point of view. One section of the club collects the money, another administers it, and another spends it. And they have the ear of the government, which hears no other advice.
“Some of that money could be spent on asking drivers what hazards they encounter on our roads. Slow drivers who speed up at passing lanes; people who sit in the right lane of a dual carriageway at less than the limit; tailgaters… there are dozens of issues if only the government listened to the people who elected them.
“Civil Liberties Australia supports the recommendations of Mr Browne’s report, particularly that funding be allocated by an independent panel of three experts – and they must be truly independent, not members of the ‘club’.”