('Happy-After-Court-Hour' at The Rose Hotel, Surry Hills)
...And so it was that yesterday it was Baby No.2's turn at the Downing Centre to give evidence as to why she should be found innocent of her conscientious objection to mandatory bicycle helmet laws.
Initially she played 'musical magistrates' and moved from one court to another, but eventually she arrived in a court where the magistrate was prepared to hear her evidence.
Prima facie, not all of her evidence or her experts' evidence was accepted. In fact the general court sentiment was that the evidence pertaining to risk compensation and serious brain injury was equivocal; and that the existence of climate change was still in scientific dispute, and/or was common knowledge (therefore didn't require an expert to comment upon it), and/or was certainly not imminent.
Notwithstanding the long day with many external interruptions dotted with the usual comings & goings of busy-court life, BN2 was formidable and I could barely contain my admiration. The prosecution was pretty formidable too and played a great match, nippy in the corners with some great long passes landing neatly in goal - full marks.
...and whilst the prosecution seemed to be angling for more penalties against BN2 when it was clear that necessity had not been made out in terms of climate change and /or immediacy, it was with relief as the final whistle went that the 'referee' deemed she was only to receive a section 10(1)(a) dismissal.
Oh boy! oh boy! & then followed some heart-warming magical-moment stuff:
The magistrate looked at me and asked BN2, 'is this mum?'
'Yes,' she replied.
'You must be very proud!'
'Yes,' I whispered in an almost inaudible gasp of bursting maternal pride!
...and he proceeded to declare to the court at large how admirable it was to see someone so young arrive in court with such principled convictions but that the aim must always be to leave without one.
He praised her for her courage, and her eloquent well conducted argument; expressed admiration for her deep commitment to the environment; & predicted that she would be an asset to the legal community upon the completion of her degree.
As of today, my driver's licence is suspended so I intend to enclose it with my letter of complaint to the AG which I will write and despatch later on this morning.
When you consider that two months ago Parliament agreed the March 2011 amendment to the Victims Support & Rehabilitation Act was a bad decision and that it ought & will be repealed at a date to be proclaimed, it's quite 'gob-smackingly' unbelievable that i'm still to be punished anyway by those very bad provisions.
...where's the justice and/or procedural fairness in all of this?
Lucky I love my bicycle & the journeys that I take on it!!!
HUNTER VALLEY, 10 November 2011 – The new Courts and Other Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2011 introduced into the NSW Parliament during September is a welcome development, according to some politicians, advocacy groups and voters.
In the new Bill, a conviction will not include an order made under section 10(1)(a) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 in relation to an offence that is not punishable by imprisonment.
The Hon. David Shoebridge stated that the Greens had spoken out against the earlier amendment moved by the previous Government , when it greatly ‘expanded the reach of the provisions of the Victims Compensation Support & Rehabilitation Act... even where a conviction was proved but the charges were dismissed under section 10.’
He also reminded Parliament that ‘when one considers that all those minor offences had to provide a $67 payment to the fund, the administrative costs involved in issuing notices and chasing up payments would have exceeded the $67 that was recovered in due course.’
Yet despite this turn of events, Sue Abbott of Scone is still required to pay into the fund.
After her last court appearance at the Scone & Muswellbrook Local Courts in July 2011 where she received a second section 10 (1)(a) dismissal for her crime of riding a bicycle without a helmet, she was amazed to receive a bill in the post a week later for $67 to be paid to the Victims Compensation Levy.
‘Exactly who,’ she asked herself, ‘was the victim?’ Appalled at the arbitrary tax nature of the levy, she commenced an active letter writing campaign with the NSW Attorney General, the Hon. Greg Smith.
Whilst the Attorney General acknowledged in correspondence with her that ‘Parliament recently decided that the levy should not apply to charges that are dismissed under s10(1)(a),’ he sternly advised her that she would still be required to pay the now vastly-increased levy as it is ‘imposed automatically under the law and as such is a debt owed to the Crown’.
Mrs Abbott said ‘this is analogous to pointing out to a bull-dozer driver that there are a 1,000s of people standing on the road he is bull-dozing, and him then saying “ok no worries but the first 20 or so along the first bit of road are going to get caught up in my braking process!”
She has now received a ‘Suspension of Driver’s Licence Notice’ to take effect next Tuesday 15 November 2011 and she is prepared to forgo her privileges as a motoring road user.
“It says a lot about Australia that the first tactic used to force your hand is to threaten you with removal of car privileges even when dealing with a bicycle user - in reality they’re the ones who are going to miss out on considerable revenue because I probably won’t ever renew my licence again, & therefore won’t need insurance, petrol, oil, tyres, cars – any of that Big Oil stuff.”
Let's face it; we all know that ostensibly bicycle helmet laws were introduced to provide safety for bicycle users.
But in reality all they've done is (i) deflect criticism from half-arsed attempts to incorporate bicycles as fully recognised vehicles in the Australian transport landscape...
...& (ii) accentuate undesirable and unintended consequences.
Yet instead of conceding political error of political ways, our politicians continue to posture in a paternalistic manner, and to demand even more 'figures'...
Smoke & mirrors! - they have 20 years worth of figures - what exactly do they do with them all?
Clearly they don't collect them for collation purposes.
But the veneer of helmet law consensus is wearing thin, and maybe, just maybe, the catastrophe that is our urban transport landscape is inadvertently assisting people who like to use bicycles because we're witnessing more & more people using them and less & less people using helmets and/or cars!
Notwithstanding the whiff of unrealistic expectation, bicycle helmet laws offer no certainty of protection, and have patently failed to deliver on what they purportedly set out to do in the first place.
Yet basic gumption is missing at every bureaucratic level and no-one is prepared to tackle the problem 'head-on'.
Australian politicians should be asking themselves honestly whether bicycle helmet laws have been worth:
$$$ the money
$$$ the upkeep
$$$ the political capital invested in them
The honest answer would be 'NO'
Whilst mandatory bicycle helmet laws clearly say nothing about bicycle protection, they say a lot about us as a nation in that we're quick to react but glacial to reflect & evaluate constructively.
Sigh - just because we want to believe in the 'easter bunny' doesn't mean there is one!
When the notice arrived in the post today informing me that my driver's licence is to be suspended next Tuesday 15th November 2011, I felt quite sick - it's clearly getting to the 'bureaucratic businessy-bit' of bicycle helmet crime and the pink & white paper is intended to be a frightening jolt - it was & I nearly jumped on-line...
...the inequity & the procedural unfairness of it all prevented me from typing in the numbers from my plastic bank - this scary piece of paper is not representative of a fair hearing.
Right from the start in March this year when the Victims Compensation Levy was amended, NSW voters and legislators objected to 'Section 10(1)(a) dismissalees' (aka me) being automatically caught in its web. Consequently no-one was surprised a few weeks ago when the NSW Parliament subsequently rejected it.
Yet the AG will not grant me an exemption.
What else do I have to do to get one?
What exactly did the ones who got them do?
Surely the pile of letters from me to him (& pointlessly supplied to the SDRO and the Muswellbrook Local Court who never communicate with each other) is testimony to the fact that this matter has given me great cause for concern and therefore might raise the notion that I could be an eligible candidate for exemption.
I am troubled by the arbitrariness of the whole process.
Even though the amendment was acknowledged by Parliament as grossly unfair, now an unwieldy departmental-time-warp has kicked-in & refuses to allow the 'outlaw' fine to be waived for my non-existent crime that should never have been a crime and is now no longer a crime.
Who can absolve me from the whims of administrative NSW justice?
...on the last day of September, I lodged a complaint with the ACCC concerning regulation 256 of the NSW Road Rules, the mandatory bicycle helmet standard, and accompanying product material in licences, print advertisements, helmet promotion campaigns, legislation and online material (collectively, the promotion) produced by SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government.
I set out for them in letter format that I believe the promotion displayed in Australia from the early 1990s to today has predicted safety benefits of the helmet device whilst having no proof that such benefits could be attained. Consequently, I continued, I believe that the promotion is an example of ‘safety washing’ akin to the notion of ‘green washing’ despite the very broad and general prohibition of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (the Act) to engage in misleading or deceptive conduct. I contended that upon the facts I feel that SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government have breached the Act by:
• engaging in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive; • engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct; • making false or misleading representations that goods are of a particular standard, quality, value or grade; and • making false or misleading representations that goods have performance characteristics, uses or benefits.
Supposedly, within the Act, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) has been structured to uphold our rights to receive accurate and truthful messages about the goods and services that we buy. As ‘persons’ engaging in conduct, occurring ‘in trade or commerce’ , demonstrating conduct that is misleading or likely to mislead, SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government have contravened s18(1) of the ACL.
As far as I can make out upon my reading of the Act, it makes no difference whether SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government intended to mislead or deceive consumers but rather how the conduct of their business practices affected our thoughts and beliefs. The overall impression left by their promotion of safety accorded by bicycle helmets has created a misleading impression in people’s minds. I continued with my contention that Australian consumers, including myself, are vulnerable to SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government’s promotion, particularly with regard to comprehending the need for and receiving claimed protection.
The ACCC have written back to me to say:
'...thanks but no thanks & BTW we've popped it on our confidential data-base.'
Currently, I contend that I feel empty, disillusioned, & very bored with Australia