Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Townsville

I CAN’T help feeling a certain pride.

Antisocial of me, I suppose, but I feel like one of Robin Hood’s merry men, cheating the Sherriff of Nottingham of his taxes.

So the twin cities owe the government $10 million, do they?

Or rather, we owe the government $10 million. You and me.

Well, not me. I haven’t been fined for anything, so it’s you! You must feel a bit like Ned Kelly, and that can’t be bad.

You and 160,000 other people. Come to think of, it’s unlikely that many five-year-olds have been caught speeding, or that many 90-year-olds have been drunk and disorderly. Not in public anyway. So if you cut out all the people under 16 (the legal driving age) and all the people over 70 (the age when you’d like to incur a fine, but you’ve forgotten how) then it’s 136,000 of us Ñ of you Ñ who owe the Queensland Government $10,106,132.

And 71 cents. What’s more I bet the bastards demand it right down to the last tarnished one cent coin, even though it’s no longer legal currency.

That’s $73 each; slightly more than the Townsville Bulletin quoted this weekend when it included babies in strollers and old people in hospital beds in its calculations.

Enough, said the Bullie, for three parking fines each.

But I don’t drive, so my wife must have six.


I knew it. That must be the reason she left me: she knew I’d find out sooner or later.

In fact I urge you to ask your spouse tonight how much she (or he) owes in fines. And while you’re at it, ask them what for, too.

There will, of course, be some who are beyond the pale. Internet pornography doesn’t sound like a Ned Kelly thing to me. But an unpaid parking fine? That’s a definite case of the establishment forces grinding the faces of the poor. Not for nothing do we have a Premier (Anna Bligh) who is related to the notorious Captain William Bligh whose tyrannical ways led his crew, 220 years ago, to set him adrift in an open boat.

Frankly, I like the idea of owing the government $10 million. That strikes me as definitely being one of those uniquely Australian qualities that John Howard used to go on about: mateship, good humour Ñ and not giving a brass razoo about people in uniform.

Trouble is, the world’s changed. You can no longer take your horse and hole up in the bush somewhere until someone accidentally mops up a tea spillage with your page out of the court records. They have computers; and long memories; and laws to help them.

People wait years to get their money in civil actions, but if you break the laws Ñ even the parking laws Ñ they’ll turn up with a piece of paper that entitles them to tip you out of your knickers, if that’s the only collateral you’ve got.

I see the potential for a new trend in oneupmanship, not unlike the modern rush to claim a convict in one’s ancestry.

Dinner table conversation will turn to outstanding fines. Guests will vie with each other for the biggest debt. They’ll be hitting policemen with their handbags just to secure pole position.

Funny really, how we search for villains in our past. If you live in Townsville you’re surrounded by them! Just so long as we keep our doors locked, and when we hear the troopers ride up, the coal scuttle will make a handy helmet.