The Einfeld Audits: Making Dead Drivers Tell Tales

I thought you said you were a good driver!”  No no, I never said I was a good driver. I said I was a good parker.” (Jerry and George, “The Parking Spot” episode of Seinfeld)

You don’t understand. A garage… I can’t even pull in there. It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay, when if I apply myself, maybe I could get it for free?” (George)

When former Nationals MP and Parliamentary Secretary, Steve Cansdell had to resign last week over a false statutory declaration to keep his drivers’ licence, the ready comparison was made with the fate of former Supreme Court Judge and Human Rights Commissioner, Marcus Einfeld.

To avoid a $77 speeding ticket in 2006, Einfeld made a declaration that he was not driving the car at the time of the offence. It transpired that the named driver had been dead for several years before the offence.

After three years of legal to-ing and fro-ing (during which he lost, among other things, his profession as a barrister), he pleaded guilty to the offences in 2009 and served two years in prison.

In October 2006, owing to the brazen fraud and Einfeld’s profile, the then Treasurer, Michael Costa, ordered an audit of every “someone else was driving” stat dec going back to September 2003.

With Cansdell making his false declaration in 2005, it would have been covered by the audit. Though, from the parameters reported in the likes of this article, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the audit was to find (or not find, as the case may be) every old person who’d never had a licence, and was now dead and/or overseas.

The audit amounted to over 700 000 stat decs over the three years (out of at least 7 million fines issued). In its 2006-07 Annual Report, the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) said that this audit found 294 people who had used false stat decs, involving 5799 disputed fines.

In 2007-08, the SDRO said that of the 480 000 stat decs audited there were 39 occurrences involving 372 fines.

Since then? Well, in 2008-09, the SDRO reported that it had received 390 000 stat decs. But there was no mention of any audit.

Similarly for 2009-10, when only 210 000 stat decs were received. But no audit.

Incidentally, that’s quite an astonishing drop in the number submitted, which might suggest Einfeld’s conviction and imprisonment in 2009 might have been a cause of some significant shrinkage.

But it seems the audits quietly stopped in 2008-09. The SDRO probably disputed (in what would be a fair case) the need for continuing audits, given the extensive resources involved.

But why didn’t the SDRO make a show of now doing nothing?

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