The latest example of “Big Brother” surveillance in Australia is disguised as a public safety program. In a News.com.au report, the government is installing surveillance cameras that are sharp enough to spot drivers who are using their mobile phones at the wheel. The drivers will then be fined without their knowledge.
Line-of-sight detection by trained officers is the main method by which Australian police catch drivers who are violating the law on mobile phone use on the road. It is supplemented by long-range cameras and smaller units perched atop the helmets of motorcycle policemen.
These will be replaced by stationary cameras that will send an infringement notice to the driver. New South Wales (NSW) police officials claim the new cameras will provide the photographic and video evidence they need to curb mobile phone use.
Melinda Pavey, the Minister of Roads for NSW, called the surveillance system the first of its kind in the world. She claimed it was one of the priority projects of the state government’s Road Safety Plan 2021.
Part of this plan involved NSW Government sponsoring the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety) Bill 2018. The bill will legalize the use of surveillance camera technology for enforcement of mobile phone use law.
Furthermore, the Road Safety bill will give authorities the power to conduct oral testing of cocaine on the road and increases penalties for driving under the influence. NSW is the first Australian state to come up with such legislation. (Related: AI is the “enabling technology” for the coming global surveillance state… you will be watched by artificial intelligence.)
Mobile phone usage is one of the most common causes of vehicular accidents and road fatalities in Australia. Drivers who get caught are fined and their driver’s licenses are marked with several demerit points.
Demerit points last for three years. Getting too many of them will result in revocation of the driver’s license. Motorists are only allowed to touch their phones if the device is securely mounted inside their vehicles.
In 2017, NSW police reported issuing 42,000 fines to drivers who got caught using mobile phones on the road. The penalties in that state are a $330 fine and a loss of four demerit points for both first time offenders and repeat offenders.
The mobile phone use laws in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are harsher. Motorists who are caught sending a text message or checking their social media are fined $528 and lose four demerit points. Western Australia also specifically targets drivers who text while driving, but their penalties are lighter.
Meanwhile, Queensland doesn’t care if the vehicle is waiting for a red light or stuck in a traffic jam. Police will impose penalties the moment a driver touches his or her phone. Motorists who repeat an offense or commit a new one within one year of an earlier violation get double demerit points.
In 2017, the city of Melbourne tested a red-light surveillance camera in the Eastern Freeway. The camera reported 272 violations in just one lane during the course of five hours. The violators comprised only 7.1 percent of the drivers who used that lane.
Surveillance cameras like the one tested in Melbourne will be set up throughout New South Wales. Other Australian territories are considering the installation of similar systems, which are already being used in other countries like Saudi Arabia.
Companies like One Task are touting red-light surveillance systems as the best solution for mobile phone usage on the road.
Find out about all the new ways the government is violating your privacy at PrivacyWatch.news.