By Andrew Klein
It occurred to me the other night how many revenue-raising bodies now exist in Australia. There is a plethora of taxes and levies upon the people that sometimes defies imagination. The other interesting fact being that many of these entities have been sold to private interests, that paid handsome fees in advance for the right to collect such taxes and levies (thus giving governments a temporary yet handy cash flow – often used together with the words of retiring public debt).
These entities have connections with overseas interests and range all the way from private prisons and prisoner transport (imprisonment being the most severe levy any member of the public is liable to) to the operation of tollways and means of communication between people and so much in between. Then there are all those ‘fine’ collecting bodies, private entities but state-sanctioned.
Miss paying your train fare, you don’t get a chance to have a chat with a nice customer service person but meet an enforcement officer. Now given that these Private Public Transport Providers are ‘private’ entities, I asked myself if this was not a case of a civil debt rather than a criminal matter. This is just my own perception and possibly flawed given the extent of current legislation and the crossover between bodies created by legislation or those of a common law history (the Sheriff’s Office) and even the Public Trustees Office that deals with intestate matters and the management of monies deemed to be in the hands of those labelled as unfit to manage their own affairs.
There are so many bodies that ensure compliance with a huge body of law, but few that offer to guide a person through them. Legal Aid is always struggling to meet the needs of those facing charges (innocent until proven otherwise – yet we give a ‘discount’ to those pleading guilty). The language used by those in public office wobbles between the language used to give the impression that there is a persistent state of war and one that mimics the babblings of infants trying to soothe one another under the supervision of a not very pleasant nanny.
Basically, we have created a new social/commercial class in Australia. I would call them ‘Tax Farmers’: entities that have bought to right to impose taxes and levies on the population without offering credible redress or due process to challenge the imposition of such financial burdens. Such Tax Farmers appear to operate in the dark, unknown personally to most of us. On the other hand, the collection agencies work on broad daylight setting up roadblocks to seize cars for unpaid fines and there is a trickle upward effect even from the utility bills that we pay to companies that act as middlemen rather than selling something they have actually created.
When you see the population as a huge ‘Tax and Levy Farm’ forever focused on ensuring compliance and collecting monies for non-compliance there are two serious matters raised. One is the ugly reality that simply living and doing ordinary things, an act of innocent non-compliance creates criminals with records and debts to those entities.
The second is that there must be a huge amount of money generated by this process of tax/levy farming that is never questioned, so where do all these funds go?
How long can any state sustain such a disconnected and openly callous system before it collapses and if it does start to fail because there appears to be a never-ending shortfall of monies available for the public good, what penalties will be imposed on those entities that act as farmers in name but have no idea as to how to look after the health of the flock (the population).
I get the impression that much of the money collected appears to be extortion by a more civilized name, the ubiquitous ‘Non-Compliance Penalty Notices’.
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