Speed cameras are everywhere in Australia and it seems like they have replaced highway police with technology. I got my first speeding ticket outside the town of Berry my first week of driving. It was a $105 fine for driving 63km in a 50km zone. What frustrated me was the speed limit for the road changes from 100km to 50km right outside of town with little warning. I was leaving Berry, heading south, speeding up to the 100km sigh, but apparently the speed camera caught me from behind. I was not too worried though, I paid the fine and chalked it up to an Australian learning experience.
Australia is also full of toll roads. I did not register my car for the toll roads until I moved to Sydney. Before I did my mailbox was littered with several toll notices that arrived well after the due date, saddling me with extra charges. The first toll was from my Labour Day weekend trip to Melbourne. I arrived home in Nowra and found a $22.80 fine in my post box. Included in that fine was $11.30 in tolls and a $11.50 administration charge. I should have known better and pre-registered with Melbourne’s tolls, City Link, but I was not planning to go back to Victoria so I did not bother.
One month later I was caught by the Barry Speed camera again. And again I was going 63km in the 50km zone leaving town to the south. I was furious. I think that the NSW government had set up this area on the highway on purpose. It was straight, flat, and very easy to speed up to the 100km sign. I paid my $105 fine only because I knew that I had to re-register the car in January.
Nothing I had experienced in driving in Australia compared to the time when we first arrived in Sydney. Every freeway and tunnel in Sydney is a toll road: The Harbour Bridge, the Harbor Tunnel, the Cross City Tunnel, the Eastern Distributor, the M1, the M4, and the list goes on and on. The first week in Sydney Emily and I had several interviews all across town and we just drove where we needed to the fastest way possible. Compounding the problem was the fact that I charged addresses and was not getting toll notices sent to where we were living. I was going to get an E-tag set up, but it required a $40 deposit and $40 initial credit, and we were struggling to keep up with all of the other moving expenses, so I kept on putting it off. All the charges started adding up quickly. Sydney tolls are not cheap. The Harbour Bridge is $3 southbound, $4 during peak times, and a $5 administration charge. The Cross City Tunnel is $4.77, with a $10 administration charge. I received at least a half dozen of these notices in the mail totaling at least $60. The worse was still yet to come. I drove to my job in North Sydney on my first day, arriving around 6:30am. There is no parking provides in the construction site and only metered parking for many blocks around. All the meters in the street of the site had a two hour limit. I drove three blocks up and found parking with a 8 hour limit. I paid $20 for 8 hours with my credit card at 6:45am and went to work. I returned around 3pm to pay for my parking again and found a ticket for $99 in my window!! The parking rangers must have just been by as there was only a 15 minute period that I did not pay for. I worked until 5pm, so I just left the car there with the ticket under the wiper blade, hoping it would not be towed, and it was not. There is a parking garage next door to our work site with early bird all day parking for $26, and now it seemed like a bargain for the hassle of my first day. A few months later I drove to work for some reason I can’t remember and parked several blocks away in a non-metered two hour zone. When I returned to the car, sure enough I had another ticket. Maybe I am just so used to small towns but paying for parking makes me sick. Luckily the North Sydney train station is a 7 minute walk from my work so I will always take the train.
When Emily and I lived in Elizabeth Bay we were subleasing and a car parking spot was not available. The street we lived on, Roslyn Gardens was a non-metered one hour parking zone. Residents can have Sydney council parking permits for $50, but the problem was out lease was only a sub-lease, and the minimum period for a parking permit was 6 months. Many times I freaked out about parking on out street, worried about fines but for some reason we never were checked. I saw many parking rangers only a few blocks away, but I guess our street was always so quiet, they never checked.
It was only a coincidence that out Elizabeth Bay sublease expired one day before my car registration was due. When a car is registered in NSW, the entire year of liability insurance must be pre-paid and a vehicle inspection is required. The inspection was no problem. I paid $50 for a mechanic near my work to check things over, and he gave me the required “pink” slip. Next up was the “green” slip. The green slip was from an insurance company certifying that I paid the entire year up front. There are only four companies in NSW that do car insurance to there is not much competition. The average price for one year’s insurance was around $700 give or take $20, so I was stuck with forking over a lot of money with not much of a choice. The final step for car registration was to pay the yearly registration, which was an even $250. The total car registration amounted to just under $1000, about the same as I paid for the entire car! If I let the registration lapse, I would have to have the car comprehensively inspected and get re-certified with a “blue” slip. The blue slips were very hard to pass with an older car, with things like a cracked headlight being problems. Fines for an unregistered car on any road are $550 and every time I would drive past a speed camera I would be incurring that fine.
Australia loves to keep a big brother presence over everyone in my opinion The amount of certifications for any job is mind boggling and driver’s licences are no exception. When a learner driver is driving a car they have a giant ‘L’ magnet on the car. When teenagers are driving, the are required to have a green or red ‘P’ affixed to the car. An Australian who starts driving at 16 will not likely get their full licence until they are at least 21 or 22 years old. When I started my construction work in Melbourne I had to take a one day construction induction class to be allowed on any job site. The class cost $150 and all we did was watch silly youtube videos. Wages are much higher in Australia to compensate for all of the certifications. My first construction labouting job I was paid $21 an hour. I make $24 an hour at my current job, but I am supposed to have 33%of my wages withheld for taxes because I am a non resident. Australia also has compulsory retirement savings,called superannuation,where 9% of my wages are withheld from my checks and deposited into a mutual fund type account. I really like the idea of superannuation,but its not practical in my case. I am a backpacker and need as much cash as possible. I had two more speeding tickets on Easter weekend totaling $210, so I need money ASAP! I was wondering why everyone on Easter weekend was driving like grandmothers, double demerit points applied to NSW licence holders. I was allegedly docked 4 points for my driving that weekend, which I considered very normal. Don't get me wrong, Australia is an awesome country and I want to spend more time here, but man, they sure make it difficult.