New age of road surveillance snares innocent drivers in Queensland

Cairns News

While far northern motorists have been discussing and complaining about a greatly increased traffic police presence on highways, the former Queensland LNP Government ensured the game was sewn up, with no escape.

Contractors with roadside cameras and cameras fitted to all highway patrol cars are busily recording your every move sending images of your vehicle and in some cases its occupants to a massive data bank held by the Main Roads Department and police.

The cameras record the registration number, speed, time, date and direction of a vehicle whenever it passes a camera.

Well that’s probably not such a bad thing, some motorists reckon, “why I don’t have anything to hide”, said a Cairns truck driver.

It does seem rather innocuous, and after all motorists have been exposed to mobile radar speed devices for many years.

The new age of surveillance by Big Brother has been in full swing since the former state government abolished car registration stickers, to save a measly few million dollars when the Treasury is raking in more than six million dollars a week in traffic fines.

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Cairns News recently interviewed a Townsville builder who had a very disturbing story to tell about state government surveillance that he got caught up in October last year.

He was completely unaware that he had been on “police radar” for some weeks.

The consequences of this roadside spying could have cost him his livelihood,   yet he broke no laws in pursuit of his occupation.

We will call the builder Mike.

His story:

Mike,42, was a normal hard-working ‘chippie’ who owned a four wheel drive utility and a work trailer in which he carries his tools of trade and a few personal belongings.

He lives close to Townsville with his family and often works in remote parts of western Queensland.

His work requires him to do a lot of driving, returning home after working at townships like Hughenden, Julia Creek or Pentland, a comfortable distance from his base.

Sometimes he has to drive to Townsville during the week to buy building materials, normally unavailable in smaller towns.

He was returning from Townsville with a load of materials for a job when he was intercepted by police at a roadblock west of Charters Towers.

Present at the parking bay were several Main Roads Department inspectors and traffic police checking truckies’ work diaries, licences, vehicle roadworthiness and conducting drug and alcohol tests.

Well, again such an offensive is probably in the interests of road safety, motorists would claim.

Mike’s vehicle was searched by over-zealous constables, starting with his trailer.

“The young coppers pulled everything out of the trailer and tossed my valuable electric tools into the very dusty ground,” Mike said.

“I was a little upset because there were thousands of dollars of equipment that I depend on for my job.

“I asked the cop to be careful and he looked like he was about to bash me.

“The situation got worse when they started on my car and then they were about to pull all the frozen stuff out of my car fridge.

“I got really angry because before they started I told them I had nothing illegal in my car.

“Fortunately a senior officer appeared and told the young cops to stop and leave me alone.”

The conversation Mike then had with this officer shocked the easy going tradie father of three.

Mike asked the officer why his car was being searched and why he had been picked out of a large number of vehicles stopped on the roadside.

“The copper said I had been on their radar for a while because I often travel between Townsville and the west and they wanted to check me out,” Mike said.

“He told me they had lots of photos of my car passing the fixed camera at Woodstock and from other cameras in Townsville and they thought I was selling drugs.

“I told him I was a tradie and often had to go to Townsville for materials and they knew my movements because he said I was spending too much time on the road and would have been tired.

“He said if I had an accident because I was tired the insurance company could get the camera information and possibly not pay out any damages.

“I said I drove no more than five hours at a time and do not drive when I am tired.”

The Main Roads Department has advised Cairns News:

“The fixed roadside cameras on Flinders Highway, near Woodstock, are Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. 

We use this state-of-the-art technology to collect information about travel patterns of vehicles using the road.  

The cameras take an image of all passing vehicles. 

Infra-red cameras and illuminators are used to automatically capture the registration number, date and time of passing vehicles, providing statistical data on travel times, volumes and vehicle types.  

ANPR cameras are strategically placed at key locations to provide:

  • Journey time,
  • Congestion information,
  • Origin and destination information, and
  • To monitor the use of the network by heavy vehicles. 

Collected data helps us understand vehicle movements, plan for future improvements and achieve efficient control and management of the road network. 

The cameras are also used to detect unregistered and uninsured vehicles. 

Only authorised officers, including Queensland Police and TMR Transport Inspectors are able to access information from the ANPR cameras where an offence is suspected.”

This covert surveillance of law-abiding drivers heralds a new age of motoring in Queensland.

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You have been warned.

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