Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bits and Bobs: Life in Australia

Used to the sight of street children, begging adults holding children at traffic lights, and South African debates about how to best deal with street children and beggers, I found the following article in our local newspaper interesting: Our local McDonalds (or Maccas, as it's known here) recently called the police when a mother sat down with her children (boys aged one and four) on the median strip in a busy road after buying food for the children from the fast food outlet. The McDonalds staff were concerned and called the police, who found the 32 year old woman was doped up on valium, having taken the drug just before their outing. She pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the life of a child.

Cash toll booths have been closed on two of our nearby motorways. We have a tag inside our cars that registers as we go through the toll, and when we reach a minimum amount of credit, the next instalment is charged to our credit card. Although the tags have been available for some time, it is only in the last month that the cash toll booths have been closed. There are now various ways to pay -- either using the tags as we've got, or using a video system which enables you to have an account and the video of you going through the toll to be matched to your account and your toll fee deducted. You can also charge your credit card for a period of travel (between one and 30 days) -- included in the charge is a video matching fee. While the system is still being phased in, if you don't have any of these systems in place when you go through the toll, you'll have three days to go into a centre and pay your toll! (By the way, there was also an advert in the local paper thanking the toll collectors that had made a significant contribution to Queensland Motorways for the past 23 years. The advert states: "With less than a week to go before the toll booths close on 22 July, we encourage you to take the opportunity to farewell your favourite toll collector as you pass through the toll booths." How nice is that?

The Lord Mayor of Brisbane Campbell Newman refers to the problem of dumped shopping trolleys that I mentioned in a previous blog. Relatively speaking, of course, this is a really serious problem. Writes the Lord Mayor: "These abandoned trolleys are smashed into cars by vandals. They are pushed into creeks or left in the middle of the road to be struck by unsuspecting motorists. It will now be an offence to walk down the street with a shopping trolley without a good reason." Talking about other by-law type legislation, the Lord Mayor says that the council will also be going after people who litter the city with unauthorised billboards and posters. "These new local laws will allow us to target the people who authorise the distribution of these posters and not just the poor mugs who get paid a pittance to put them up, unaware of the legality." Newman concludes by writing: "I want each and every one of you to be fiercely proud of your local suburb but it's hard to be proud of your local suburb when it looks like a garbage dump."

Residents of Holland Park, a suburb covered by the community newspaper that we receive, are being offered free one-way screws to secure their car registration (number) plates after a recent spate of licence plate thefts. What a crime prevention initiative! The crime prevention police launched Screws on Crime enabling residents to secure their licence plates with one-way screws. The plates were being stolen by thieves wanting to commit 'petrol drive-offs' or other crimes. The police said that in the current economic climate registration plates are often stolen and fitted to another vehicle so the vehicle can be filled with fuel and driven away without paying. Of course, the stolen registration plate makes it difficult to track down the responsible person.

Footpaths are another issue that were raised in a recent magazine column written by Lord Mayor Campbell Newman. This financial year Brisbane council will spend at least $23million on footpaths -- about $9million more than last year. Newman writes: "Believe it or not, footpaths are one of those issues that split communities -- like traffic calming. Many people don't want a concrete footpath. They prefer grass, while others want sure footing as they walk down the straight. Those who do want a footpath would prefer it goes on the other stide of the street and so on and so forth. It's a real balancing act." Whew. Not being used to the general availability of footpaths, we've just been really appreciative to have them at all!