Sunday, April 27, 2014

Andrew Constance Could Not Be Trusted With Fines, Should Not Be Trusted With Treasury

by Ganesh Sahathevan

The new NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance's  methods of improving NSW  state revenue at all costs,  disregarding even the law,  while  in his former finance and services portfolio, makes him unsuitable to be put in charge of the more senior Treasury portfolio.

As Minister For Finance Mr Constance sought to increase state revenue by enforcing parking fines. In 2012 alone he added $ 177 million to state revenues by imposing parking fines on apparent over-stayers at parks and hospitals, hitting the sick, elderly , and students.
When questioned on that strategy  Mr Constance said:

"If a driver believes they have been fined incorrectly, they can seek a review from the Office of State Revenue (OSR)."

However, there is evidence that the OSR , led by the Commissioner For Fines, Tony Newbury, and Mr Constance, appear to have in place a scheme where reviews are routinely rejected and the appellants told instead to seek redress via the legal system , in the expectation that the costs of legal challenge will discourage doing so, and the fine paid without challenge.

In a recent incident where this writer was involved, an attempt was successfully made to make Mr Constance and Mr Newbury reveal  their methods when  justifying  a fine.Email queries were sent Mr Newbury , Mr Constance , and then Premier, O'Farrell.

In response, Mr Newbury, in a letter sent on behalf of Constance and O'Farrell, admitted that:

a) they could not detail the actual facts of the offence upon which their penalty was premised.
They had earlier determined to justify the penalty on a fabricated story which involved  a child that was supposed to be the driver's , the child climbing out of the car,and  child walking then walking towards the car ; all of which was false.

b)  there was disagreement between the time of offence stated in the penalty notice, and their own photographs which they furnished as evidence of the crime. In fact , the times were clearly transposed, raising the issue of whether the time of offence had been deliberately misstated to justify the offence.
Nevertheless, this was explained away as a failure to adjust their cameras for daylight saving, but then;

c) could not say  how the time of offence was actually determined

Given that most fines, including the one described above, are for a few hundred dollars and given that legal fees are usually upward of a thousand, most fines are paid without any legal challenge, regardless of the facts.Indeed judges are angered by litigants who disregard  "commercial realities".
However, Mr Constance does not seem to have realized that being a politician, the court of public opinion is what really matters to his future. If the best he can do is cheat to raise public revenue, it is unlikely that he possesses the skills necessary to balance the state's books.