SMS: Whatever Else Shorten Is, He’s A Public Menace

FOOTAGE of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten simultaneously driving his car on Kingsway in South Melbourne and apparently sending a text message shows that whatever else he may be and whatever people otherwise think of him, Shorten is a threat to public safety and a menace to other road users. Regrettably, he isn’t Robinson Crusoe in this sense, and it’s time Police got serious about removing this scourge from our roads once and for all.

I will be back later today with another article more attuned to matters political, and for once I’m not going to tear into the deficiencies of Bill Shorten on the (many) grounds this column has pursued him, with increasing vigour, over the past two years.

But for the second time in not much more than a month, he has been “at it again” on Melbourne’s roads; this time — thanks to the Murdoch press — footage has surfaced of Shorten driving along Kingsway in South Melbourne, at the very minimum reading something on his mobile phone if not actually sending a text message himself, and it comes in the aftermath of the opposition “leader” crashing a different vehicle into a row of parked cars in inner-city Carlton, on the other side of town.

On that occasion, Shorten admitted he’d spilt hot coffee in his lap — begging the question of what in hell he was doing drinking coffee whilst driving in the first place — and whilst many people, both in the comment sections of online newspapers and in general chit-chat, suspected he may have been driving with a phone in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, nothing to substantiate such suspicions emerged at that time.

This time, Shorten hasn’t been quite so lucky.

This column has, in the past, sporadically published content specifically dealing with the menace this type of driver misbehaviour poses — see here, here and here — and it frustrates and incenses me that not only is the message about appropriate conduct at the wheel of a motor vehicle not sinking in, but that so rampant is the practice of phone use whilst driving that even supposed leaders like Shorten are guilty of it: so much for leading community standards by example.

The attached article from the Herald Sun (and the damning footage Shorten didn’t even try to deny) has it all: the car didn’t take off when the traffic light turned green. It swerved in and out of its lane, hardly surprising when the driver — Shorten — was too busy doing something else. It was travelling about 20kph below the 60kph speed limit, and on a road like Kingsway that handles vast volumes of traffic every day, drivers who sit so far below the speed limit are irritating enough anyway (and at 11.07am, the excuse of peak hour didn’t apply to Shorten) without them senselessly endangering other drivers’ lives with this sort of thing.

Anyone who knows that part of inner southern Melbourne at all knows that there is a multitude of side streets and slip lanes into which a driver could quickly and easily turn, safely stop their car, and either make a call or read and/or return a message. If you look at the footage the Hun has posted today, Shorten actually drives past several of these streets with his phone in his hand and makes no attempt to deviate or stop.

As the Hun notes, the fine in Victoria for mobile phone use whilst driving is $443 and four demerit points: it is to be hoped Victoria Police issue such a penalty against Mr Shorten at their earliest convenience today, and I would add that his admission of guilt, having been confronted by the footage taken by the Herald Sun reader who filmed it, does not and must not exonerate him from the punishment that would be meted out to anyone else doing the same thing.

I spend a huge amount of time every week on Melbourne’s roads and, for one reason or another, get a good look at driver behaviour in Sydney and Brisbane regularly; the problem is everywhere, and given the propensity for drivers to kill people through using their phones in their cars it is to be hoped an example is made of Mr Shorten: not because we are utterly opposed to him politically, but because a high-profile miscreant engaging in dangerous and potentially culpable road behaviour is an opportunity to send a message to ordinary motorists who also think they are entitled to endanger the lives of others — and themselves.

I will be back later in the day, as indicated, with another article on a different subject, but whatever else people think of him, Bill Shorten has repeatedly shown himself to be a threat to public safety, and is representative of a menace on our roads that requires a concerted and sustained effort to stamp out and eliminate. It simply isn’t good enough.



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