In 2007 I had the good fortune to travel to Turkey with the Australian Intercultural Society. One of my companions was a Victorian policeman called Ken Lay. We were a small travelling group of six, so we got to know each other pretty well, and I can say without fear of contradiction from anyone who knows him that Ken is a top bloke. He is very conscientious about his work, and has entirely deserved his promotion to the role of Assistant Commissioner for Traffic.
I really feel for him, therefore, in his current situation, in which a speeding offence he committed last October has become public. Apparently he was clocked doing 80km/hr in a 70 zone in a small Victorian country town. This was potentially embarrasing as the police were about to launch a new campaign against speeding with Ken as it’s public face (in fact, I enjoy telling my kids whenever we pass one of the billboards with his face on it: “That’s my friend, Ken”), , so it was not made public.
But why should it have been? Our speeding laws – which give very little leeway for error (coupled with the seemingly omnipresent and covert use of cameras) – provide perhaps one of the easiest ways to commit an unintentional offence in this state. I have had more than my share of speeding fines, the last time also being in 2007 when travelling the vast open spaces of country Victoria back from Adelaide to Melbourne. It ended up costing me more than the airfare from Melbourne to Adelaide and back. These days I try to be careful – I am paranoid of speed cameras and can’t afford speeding fines – but still I find myself sometimes over the limit without knowing it. These things happen to the best of us.
And Ken is one of the best. Prior to this, he had a 35 year record without a speeding fine. That, I reckon, still makes him one of the safest drivers on the road today (or one of the luckiest!). The media are complaining that his offence was “kept quiet” – but what law or what moral code says that he was required to declare his offence? Are we not all entitled to privacy on these matters – even those of us who are charged with policing the traffic? And does the fact that he was speeding – an offence which is, as I said, easy to commit unintentionally – invalidate his campaign? Does it not in fact prove his campaign (“We will catch you”)?
As I see it, let the one who has never speeded (sped?) let alone been caught speeding cast the fist stone.