Had to drop my son at preschool, so plan was, drop him at preschool, take car to get checked. I knew it would pass, it's a formality, no more.
Wouldn't you know it, I get pulled over by the police.
The officer was friendly and polite, asked to see my license, breathalyzed me. Then explained that he'd pulled me over because my car was showing up as unregistered. I explained that the car was booked in for rego check, and once my son was at preschool it was going straight there. He explained that he couldn't really let me do that, and that he should really be giving me a fine, but if I took the car straight to where it was going to get its check done, he'd let me off.
We were both friendly and polite to each other throughout, and so I thanked him for being understanding. Told him the route I would take to the rego checkers, and that if he checked there in a couple of minutes, car would be parked out front. Drove my car there, then walked my son to preschool, which was a about 2km, so a good walk.
Now, I would have been okay if he'd fined me. I would have been cross at myself at costing us money when our finances are a little tight, but the policeman was doing his job, and the world is a much poorer place when that doesn't happen. I'm glad he was understanding and let me off, naturally enough, but if he had chosen to fine me, well, it would have been my own fault. I knew I shouldn't detour to take my son to preschool but I chose to do it.
In fact, and those of you who know me well will know I speak truthfully when I say this, this morning I was kind of regretting the fact he didn't fine me. Because my son was in the car, and I would have taken it as a chance to explain to him that I had done the wrong thing, and so was being fined. In fact, I may have asked the policeman to explain to my son about it as well.
He would have seen me setting an example by not being rude to the officer, not trying to get out of it, and accepting my personal responsibility for what I did.
Too many people don't accept responsibility for their actions. Things are always someone else's fault. Someone else did it. I had a bad upbringing. Daddy never took me to the zoo. Mummy never bought me a pony. And the police are bastards - for catching you breaking the law - you know, for doing their damned job.
I'm not saying the police are perfect - there are plenty of idiots and mongrels in uniform, just as there are out of it - but they have a job to do, and if they are doing the job properly, fairly, like human beings, and within the guidelines of the law, they deserve our respect for doing what is a bloody hard job.
At the end of the day, the defining point has to be, did you know what you were doing was wrong? Did you know it might hurt or endanger someone? That someone might be deprived of their property due to damage or loss? Did you know that what you were doing was against the law? Were you scared of being caught? If the answer is yes, bloody own it.
As you may have gathered from the above, my treatment at the hands of the officer isn't what I'm angry about. I'm not even that angry at myself, because I made the choice to do what I did.
No, what has made me angry is that today I heard that Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott's Chief of Staff, just got let off a drink driving charge.
Now I don't care that she's Abbott's Chief of Staff. She could be Kevin Rudd's gardener, Christine Milne's Party Secretary, or Clive Palmer's overworked solicitor. I've got nothing against her. And she pleaded guilty - good for her. No seriously, I was glad to hear that.
The point is, she got let off with minor court costs and that's it.
Sorry but she was drunk while operating a vehicle. She blew 0.075 and so was over the legal limit. This means her driving was, by the legal definition of being over the limit, impaired by the amount of alcohol she'd had to drink. She was a danger to herself, and other people.
And she got let off.
Was it because of her good driving record? Was it because she could afford a much better lawyer than most of us? Was it because she was Chief of Staff to a political party? Was it because incoming attorney-general George Brandis wrote her character reference?
How many other people who have had equally good driving records, and have been known to be of good character, only blew 0.055, but have not had the charges dismissed? I suspect there's a few. And the Magistrate commented that Credlin already been subjected to public scrutiny by the media, as if that's punishment enough. I'm sorry but by that logic, every murderer out there should get let off!
It's crap. I'm trying to raise my kids to understand the difference between right and wrong. How am I supposed to do that when the message they get is that the rules are different for "important" people - you know, politicians, movie stars, singers, sports people - than for the rest of us?
Now maybe it is genuinely the Magistrate who is at fault. Maybe Magistrate Maria Doogan decided on her own to be lenient, and it had nothing to do with who Credlin worked for, or who the incoming attorney-general was going to be, or anything like that. A quick search shows that she's been slapped on the wrist a couple of times for amending sentences without telling people.
The point is, it shouldn't have happened, because it sends the wrong message a few days into the LNP's tenure. If I were Abbott, I'd be furious. It smacks of blatant favouritism. Maybe he doesn't care. Maybe it was favouritism. We can't know for sure, though I could make an intelligent guess.
As I said, I have no reason to wish for Peta Credlin to get a big fine, or to lose her drivers license. But I have every reason for her to pay the exact same sort of penalty that I would have paid if I had been in the same situation.
I have a pretty good record too. One speeding fine, gotten when my car's speedo wasn't working, while I had the migraine that became my stroke. No drunk driving. No real accidents. In fact, I've been driving a bit longer than her, too. I could probably get good references from dozens of people as to my character, and on my skill and care as a driver.
I would have gotten the fine at least.
This sure as hell sends a bloody clear message that some people are more equal than others.
So thanks to all those involved for helping solidify that in Australia, it is about us and them. The connected versus the unconnected. The haves and have-nots. That some people are deserving of compassion and leniency, and others, you can sentence them normally.
Thanks for making the task of being a police officer doing their job to keep our streets safe that little bit more dispiriting.
Thanks for making a parent's job of teaching their kids about fairness and the difference between right and wrong that little bit harder, and more thankless.