Why are lawyers so expensive?

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Everyone complains about the cost of lawyers, but few look at the cause: occupational licensing laws. Occupational licensing requires anyone who intends to become lawyer to comply with a range of requirements to practice law. These including studying a law degree that is too long, formally applying for “admission” into the profession in an unnecessary ceremony, as well as meeting cumbersome training and supervision requirements that are sometimes unnecessary. These requirements cost law students years of time and tens of thousands of dollars to comply with. The more expensive it is to become a lawyer, the fewer lawyers there will be and the more they can charge. There can be no doubt that this partly explains why lawyers are expensive.

The sheer expense of hiring a lawyer undermines the individual right to obtain legal representation. It means that hiring a competent, effective lawyer can be unaffordable for poorer members of the public. Even wealthier people may find their resources drained by legal fees. The expense of becoming a lawyer also undermines the right to pursue a career of one’s choice, especially poorer students who lack the financial support to study full-time for years and comply with red tape. Lastly, these laws reduce the quality of legal services. The fact that competent would-be lawyers are being excluded from the profession means that existing lawyers have less incentive to operate competently because they have less competition.

The problem starts with the law degree, which must include 11 “core compulsory subjects” but takes three years of full-time study to complete as a result. The degree costs about $10,000 per annum with government subsidies and more without them. Many solicitors may never encounter some of those subjects in practice. Few lawyers practice in constitutional or administrative law. Some solicitors exclusively practice in criminal law or commercial law. Only some do both. It is simply not necessary to study them all in order to practice law. Students should have the choice of studying criminal law and procedure, commercial law subjects or both. Splitting up the degree will reduce costs and create new pathways to legal practice.

But the red tape doesn’t stop there. Graduates must undertake “practical legal training” before they can practice law. They must pay several thousands of dollars to learn what they otherwise should be learning as junior lawyers. If they are not, they can take the course. The problem is that everyone is forced to take it whether or not they have learnt the basics of legal practice. Even experienced overseas barristers have been forced to undertake this training. Forcing this requirement on everyone is unnecessary and wasteful.

Formal admission ceremonies further increase costs. As of 2015, Victorian admission ceremonies alone cost $926. This is a substantial hit to the savings of many graduates. The ceremonies take place monthly, but applicants must apply months in advance to become admitted—further delaying their careers. In the meantime they are simply expected to make ends in meet.

The restrictions pile on after admission. As of 2011, would-be barristers must pass a bar exam and undertake a 2 month readers course, costing thousands of dollars in total, to practice. The exam is unnecessary: barristers typically spend hours to prepare for specific cases, and thinking up answers on the spot will not get you far in the courtroom. Moreover, the exam covers material that graduates may have just covered at university. It’s no wonder practising barristers, even junior barristers, weren’t required to sit the exam: it has nothing to do with upholding standards.

Similarly, solicitors are required to practice for two years under the supervision of another lawyer before they can do so independently—unless they are overseas, or happened to open a practice before that rule was imposed. The inconsistencies in these requirements expose both their arbitrariness and their actual purpose: keeping people out of the profession.

Running a law firm is also unnecessarily cumbersome. By law, all practitioners must obtain “practising certificates” and insurance coverage from a single government-appointed insurer. A competitive insurance field would reduce costs. On top of that, barristers must buy robes and wigs. Costumes can cost thousands. Renting chambers (if practitioners choose to do so) and paying for practising certificates and insurance every year, taken together, costs thousands more.

While there is a great deal of concern about the supposed oversupply of law graduates, the simple fact of the matter is that they are legally forbidden from working without complying with these requirements. The expense of doing so means they cannot compete with established practitioners, which brings prices up.

It is also hard to argue that these regulations protect the public, given that so many current practitioners were exempt from them when they entered into the profession.

By contrast, deregulation will help society at large—especially the poor. Legal fees are just one factor at the margin that can lead to financial insecurity. Reducing costs will help those who are financially at risk.

Nor are regulations the only way to protect the public. Lawyers’ societies could still accept, reject or expel members on the basis of reputation, skill, honesty or competence just as the regulators do now. Ratings systems and online review websites  can also serve an important role in keeping the profession honest. These measures are informative and cost effective. Lastly, in serious cases incompetent lawyers can still be sued by clients for breach of contract, just as they are today.

Those concerned about upholding the standards of the profession forget that some legal work is already competently performed by non-lawyers with knowledge of the law. Tax agents and accountants, police prosecutors, patent attorneys, and industrial advocates all provide legal representation in their chosen fields right now. Indeed there are prosperous, stable nations with reliable justice systems like Sweden and Finland in which anyone can practise law without a licence. There is no reason why Australia cannot adopt a similar system for lawyers or other trades and professions, for that matter.

The case for deregulation is clear: it empowers the poor, the public as a whole and law students. Occupational licensing laws must be repealed. The law must recognise that for many lawyers, the years of study and tens of thousands of dollars spent obtaining a licence to practice is unnecessary.

“Move on” laws target civil liberties, protesters, and the homeless

Victoria's unions should be proud of their efforts to strengthen freedom of association in Australia.

Victoria’s unions should be proud of their efforts to strengthen freedom of association in Australia.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Do you think police should have the power to fine anyone they like on the spot for any reason? New South Wales’ new “move on” laws come dangerously close to doing exactly that. They empower police to fine anyone for just looking suspicious, even if they are innocent of any crime. Backed by the Baird government and the NSW Labor opposition, they are an affront to our civil liberties, including the right to freedom of movement, a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. And they are also a danger to the homeless, who will be their most likely victims. Still, we should be thankful that it is not as extreme as its recently repealed Victorian equivalent, which imposed extraordinary restrictions on the right to freedom of movement and protest.

“Move on laws” have created an entirely new category of victimless “crime”, which consists entirely of arousing police suspicions. Bear in mind that suspicions are, by definition, unfounded beliefs. So the laws empower police to fine any person who refuses to move on from their current location if that person is suspected  being a hindrance to passersby, or of committing a crime or even of being likely to commit a crime. It is not clear how the police can judge you likely to commit a crime; however if we assume police possess the supernatural power to predict the future then we can begin to make sense of these laws. The scope for  abuse of these powers is enormous.

Importantly, innocence is not a defence to the “crime” of arousing police suspicion. Police are entitled to fine you even if you are innocent of any crime. If you choose to fight the fine, all the police had to do was show that their suspicions were “reasonable” when they fined you. Far from being a tool to fight militant unions or extremist protesters, the evidence indicates that move on laws have primarily targeted homeless people.

The power to fine individuals on the basis of police suspicions, without any proof of guilt, is an extraordinary attack on our right to freedom of association, the presumption of innocence and a fair trial. Most people simply will not fight a fine in Court. Some of the fines issued by police may be unjust. They might be caused by simple mistake or selective prosecution and vindictiveness. We are not likely to know this simply because such fines will go unreported.

While the Victorian Liberals claimed that these laws were necessary to clamp down on militant unionism and extremist protesters, they have not pointed to a single instance in which these powers have actually been used against militant trade unions or extremist protesters. Nor have they produced any evidence that these laws have played any role in reducing crime. This is because there is no such evidence.

The Victorian Liberals’ claim that the police have failed to enforce the laws on the books to deal with militant unionism or extremist protesters is simply false. Threats, intimidation and violence are already illegal. They are criminal acts, punishable by jail time if necessary. If the prosecution proves that a person has committed an act of violence beyond reasonable doubt than they will go to jail. If people are not being prosecuted it is because there is not enough proof to prove their guilt. It is that simple. There is no evidence nor any suggestion that the police are too incompetent or unwilling to prosecute violent offenders simply because of their links to trade unions or extremist political organisations and frankly, if that were the case there is no reason to believe that police would be any more capable or honest if they were given more powers. This is not to suggest that none of the protesters have broken the law; it is simply to say that we deserve to know whether they have or not before we punish them. If we punish them without knowing if they are guilty or innocent, we could well face the same treatment next. The Victorian Liberals’ claims are a substance-less scare campaign, pure and simple.

Thankfully, NSW police have no power to move on those who appear to be protesters. Nor, thanks to the Andrews’ ALP government, do Victorian police enjoy that power. But the existence of these powers is objectionable regardless.

And there is always a risk that police will use these powers against protesters anyway in the hope that they might get away with it if the protests do not take place directly in the public eye.

One thing we do know about move on laws is that in practice they are used to drive homeless people into the criminal justice system. As Lucy Adams of legal support organisation Justice Connect notes,

“Laws that regulate public space are rarely intended to punish people for their homelessness – but this is often the effect…. Circumstances that cause people to be sleeping rough, begging or drinking in public are almost always health and social issues, not criminal ones… prison should not be a substitute for supported housing, mental health care or substance dependence treatment.”

It is worth noting that police are also empowered moving on persons affected by drugs or alcohol in New South Wales, and the likelihood is that the homeless will still be targeted by these laws as well as other move on laws.

In practice, move on laws target the homeless on the nonsensical premise that it is better for them to be in the criminal justice system than receiving support and care from charitable organisations.

Not only are these laws totally ineffective in reducing crime and a means for police to harass innocent citizens; they probably increase crime rates by needlessly throwing already marginalised groups such as the homeless, youth and Aboriginals into the criminal justice system. Indeed, in Queensland, 76.8% of homeless persons surveyed reported having received a “move on direction” by police. For example, because the homeless cannot drink in their own homes, they are more likely to be moved on as some of them may get drunk in public instead. These groups face an increased risk of police confrontation or detention that could needlessly open the gateway towards a life of crime. It is a destructive process, it unnecessarily burdens the criminal justice system and, ultimately, endangers the public far more than being a nuisance in public ever would. In that respect, police involvement in the lives of the homeless will prove not only pointless but dangerous.

Of course, it doesn’t help that begging for money is actually a crime in Victoria, which means police can actually take money from the homeless as the supposed proceeds of crime, fine them $100 for begging and further involve them in the criminal justice system. I daresay that if it were anyone but the police taking money from the homeless they would be pilloried as the worst kind of despicable thief. But these are the laws our elected officials have instituted and continue to maintain, and these are the laws our law enforcement agencies enforce every day. It is simply shameful.

The strengthening of NSW’s “move on laws” is an appalling development which should be condemned.  By contrast, the winding back of these laws in Victoria should be cause for celebration.

Notes:

1. NSW’s move on laws are defined in sections 197-204B of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW). The laws were introduced in mid-2011 by the O’Farrell Liberal government.

2. Victoria’s move on laws are now largely equivalent to New South Wales. See s6, Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic).

A modern day witch hunt: how unexplained wealth laws victimise the innocent

Pictured: how unexplained wealth laws combat organised crime

Pictured: how unexplained wealth laws combat organised crime

We like to think of ourselves as superior to our ancestors, but as I look at Australia’s unexplained wealth laws I venture to disagree.  The laws have empowered police to confiscate the property of the innocent without a trial, and they have been introduced in every State, every Territory and federally. Indeed, in New South Wales, the Coalition is promising to increase their scope in the run up to the election. Punishment without a trial is a process that is equivalent to a medieval witch hunt.

All of your property—gone. Unexplained wealth laws empower law enforcement officials to permanently confiscate your property without being convicted of a crime. If you’re suspected of committing a minor criminal offence, the police are empowered to confiscate everything you own. In Queensland, it can be as trivial as recreational marijuana possession. There is no need to even accuse you of having committed a crime in obtaining the property; no need to charge you with a crime; no need to bring your trial; and no need to prove you guilty. Punishment without a trial or due process is the agenda. It’s up to you to defend yourself in Court against the allegation that you obtained the property unlawfully.

Absurd law, absurd results. In one instance, recreational marijuana possession was in fact used as the pretext for the confiscation by police of almost $600,000.00 of cash belonging to one man, Mr Henderson, and his siblings in 2002. [1] Mr Henderson proved in Court that he obtained that money legitimately from the sale of a family heirloom belonging to himself and his siblings. But the money was confiscated anyway, for the absurd reason that he could not prove that the family heirloom was legally acquired by his now-dead parents. Police did not offer any other explanation as to how the property was acquired. They did not produce a victim claiming the heirloom was his, or even a police report. They did not allege that Mr Henderson or his property acquired the property illegally. They weren’t required to. Mr Henderson was a member of the vulnerable underclass which unexplained wealth laws seem to target and victimise.

That money sure looks suspicious. Unexplained wealth laws also empower the police to permanently confiscate specific items of your property on the suspicion that it was acquired illegally. Again, the onus is on you to get it back.

Carrying cash is a crime? Thus in another case in Western Australia, police targeted a man, Mr Morris, for carrying around his life savings of over $100,000.00 in cash in a plastic bag.[2] It was suspicious. So when police pulled him over while he was driving back in 2011, they took the cash. He kept his savings in cash because he was suspicious of banks; he had lost his meagre savings due to a bank failure in the 80’s. He was planning to use the money purchase and open a fitness training centre. Police did not allege that the man had committed a crime of any kind. They simply suggested that he had obtained the bag of money from a friend. This single suggestion was the entirety of the prosecution case. Mind, they had no proof of it. No witness came to the stand in their favour. Nor did they offer any evidence the man’s friend had gotten the money illegally.  Mr Morris got his money back, but the case took two years to be disposed of—a punishment in time and money in and of itself. If Mr Morris had been subjected to the traditional process of criminal procedure, this would never have happened at all. The police could not and did not charge him with the “crime” of carrying around a bag of money. But with unexplained wealth laws, they confiscated it anyway. This is not justice.

No evidence of effectiveness. Witch hunters could only practise their trade because witchcraft was popularly thought to be real and dangerous. Similarly, our modern day law enforcement officials confiscate on the premise that they are combating organised crime. The dangers of organised crime are no superstition, of course. But then again, neither were the diseases witches pretended to cure. And much as peasants never asked witch hunters for evidence, few people seem to ask for any evidence that these laws do anything to combat organised crime. There’s a reason for that. There is none. Unexplained wealth laws are designed to catch people who haven’t been proven guilty of a crime. That does nothing to assist police in their investigation of actual crimes.

A wider net catches more innocent people. It is more likely than not that some of the people caught by police will be innocent. Some indeed might be guilty of something, but if they are subject to unexplained wealth laws then we often cannot be sure what they are guilty of, if anything. With unexplained wealth orders, there need be no convictions or sentences, nor even any reported crimes to justify a confiscation. The accused and the prosecution can simply consent to an order being made against the accused for his property to be confiscated. Nobody knows what they are accused of or whether the punishment is in proportion to the crime.

Disproportionate, draconian punishments. We should not assume that the punishment is just simply because the accused did not contest it. The accused may not have had the funds or the time to contest the accusations against him. While he may have been guilty of some offence that might justify confiscating the proceeds of crime, it does not follow that law enforcement officials should be empowered to take everything that person owns. The punishment has to match the crime. The typical punishment for a marijuana user is a counselling session or a small fine—not the confiscation of all of their property.

A pointless, hysterical distraction from punishing real criminals. Finger pointing hysteria may sweep up a lot of innocent people together with the guilty. But there’s no evidence that organised crime is likely to suffer as a result. Indeed, unexplained wealth proceedings will distract police from the actual task of investigating real crimes and real criminals. They will be too busy investigating loosely hypothetical possibilities that might warrant a confiscation order to worry about any real criminals. Therein, I suspect, lies the appeal. Police and politicians can look like they are doing something about crime without doing much at all.

Reversing the presumption of innocence undermines our liberal society. The Coalition like to market themselves as tough on crime, but unexplained wealth laws punish suspects, not proven criminals. Punishing suspects means punishing more innocent people. The traditional, conservative view of law enforcement sees the presumption of innocence as the cornerstone and a distinguishing feature of the English legal system. It is as old as the English Treaty of Magna Carta:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Or as famous English jurist Sir William Blackstone put it:

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

People must have confidence that the legal system will not unfairly target or persecute them. With the introduction of unexplained wealth laws, the Coalition, the ALP and the Greens have renounced their commitment to this fundamental principle of liberal society. They have undermined a core, embedded principle of our legal system and our society. This is a remarkable and troubling tri-partisan consensus indeed. The only politician to have spoken against these laws to date is David Leyonjhelm of the Liberal Democrats. Leyonjhelm has separately pointed out that reversing the presumption of innocence is tantamount to accepting the “just world fallacy”:

The just-world fallacy holds that a person’s actions always result in fair and fit consequences, and it exists because people are uncomfortable accepting [that] suffering is random and that sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all. It is common to believe people must have done something to deserve what they get, including being accused of a crime. The argument goes: if bad things only happen to those who deserve them and I am a good person, then I can be sure nothing bad will ever happen to me.”

Unfortunately, the world is not fair, and law enforcement officials are not perfect. They are fallible human beings. They are capable of making mistakes. They are capable of persecution, not merely prosecution. Judging people guilty before proven innocent is tantamount to a sacrilegious worship of law enforcement officials as nigh-infallible human beings. Unexplained wealth laws turn them into the witch finders of our modern day witch hunts.

Revenue raising gone mad. Add to the mix the fact that confiscations generate revenue for the government and you will see a dangerous combination at work. Police who return more money towards government coffers than they put in will naturally be in line for more funding. Politicians will be more inclined to give it to them. It is not hard to see how law enforcement officials might be more inclined to prosecute law abiding citizens when their pay packet is on the line. That’s the experience in the United States, at any rate, where law enforcement officials get every penny they confiscate back into their own local police department. Then they spend it on holidays, nice cars and other like perks, as the Institute for Justice, an American civil liberties law firm, has recorded. If law enforcement officials get their way we could witness much the same here. It is a comfortable revenue stream indeed.

Would you do it to your neighbour? A final thought. If you took your neighbour’s property and refused to return it to him, without even telling him why or caring to prove that he acquired the property illegally, what would that make you? A thief. It’s one thing to confiscate the proven proceeds of crime, but unexplained wealth laws are something else entirely.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

[1] See Henderson v Queensland [2014] HCA 52.

[2] See Director of Public Prosecutions v Morris [2010] WADC 148. (Note: you will need access to a subscription service such as LexisNexis to access this decision).

Goodbye, Newman

1609697_10152650821929989_322121146_nZeev Vinokurov examines the follies of the Newman government

There are a range of lessons to be drawn from the Newman LNP government’s one-term government. I don’t pretend to have all the answers; the Newman government’s campaign was riven with problems. I will fix on a few of those problems: the government’s divisive and illiberal VLAD laws, their contempt for the separation of powers and their contempt for the public. I don’t pretend that these were the causes of Newman’s downfall, though I wish they were. But I do think they posed an unnecessary distraction for the government. The anti-association “VLAD” laws proved a distraction precisely because they targeted innocent people and persecuted them for spending time with one another, both on the road and off it. The VLAD laws were designed to lock up any group of three or more persons who associated with one another and were deemed members of a club which the government or a court deemed to be unlawful. The punishment was six months imprisonment; the maximum punishment for club members involved in criminal activity was also increased dramatically. Dramatic as these punishments might seem, it does not appear as if they had any effect on crime rates. Crime was steadily going down before VLAD and it was steadily going down after it. But VLAD turned an entire community of motorcycling enthusiasts, numbering in the tens of thousands, into anti-LNP sympathisers and activists.  What’s more, the government’s attacks on the legal profession, its scurrilous suggestions that the ALP enjoyed links to organised crime, and the transparent bribery of the election season cemented the LNP’s reputation for transparent demagoguery.

The VLAD laws had other offensive features. For example, as a final humiliation, those charged under the VLAD laws would be segregated from the general prison population and forced to wear pink jumpsuits. The government declared a number of motorcycling clubs to be illegal on the spot, but it was always open to a Court to declare that any association was unlawful if it had a criminal purpose. For instance, a football club that was engaged in a minor brawl once might become a target of the VLAD laws.

There was never really much going for the VLAD laws: they were introduced on the flimsy premise that the acts of a few club members should condemn the membership to persecution. The additional punishments imposed on club members guilty of other offences were arbitrary. The nature of the deed, not your associations, should dictate the punishment a person should receive on committing a criminal offence. But they made for a good law-and-order campaign for the public to swallow up. At least that’s what Newman thought.

Faced with criticism from the Bar Association and the legal profession at the draconian nature of the laws, Newman fired back with accusations that any lawyer acting for a VLAD law defendant was a “hired gun” in cahoots with organised crime. This extraordinary comment elicited a suit in defamation, as well as criticism from across the legal profession and even the normally impartial judiciary.

Unsurprisingly, the VLAD law proved incredibly divisive. Polling commissioned in early 2014 demonstrated that almost half of the electorate was more likely to vote against the LNP because of their enactment. Perhaps a little incredibly, the poll predicted that the LNP could lose up 30 seats as a result. Moreover, in July 2014, the electorate demonstrated their willingness to do so by voting out the LNP in the Stafford by-election. Newman seems to have partly attributed the loss to the enactment of the VLAD laws, which he immediately wound back in response. Prisoners would no longer be segregated or forced to wear pink jumpsuits, but the rest of the VLAD law would remain in force.

It was too little, too late. Queenslanders were tired of seeing their fellow citizens harassed for their choice of friends or their motorcycling hobbies. Innocent recreational riders were repeatedly harassed on the roads by police. The Vietnam Veterans’ motorcycling club was raided by police. A librarian, with a clean record, was charged with the crime of entering a pub with two of her fellow motorcycling club enthusiasts. Five Victorians on holiday were charged with the same offence. Another five Queenslanders got similar treatment. Newman refused to back down. Even as he afforded a minor concession to VLAD law opponents, he offered them more contempt. As he put it then:

“I’m sorry today, if I’ve done things that have upset people.”

That is to say that he wasn’t sorry in the least. Apparently, anyone who disagreed with him was being irrational.

It’s worth noting that in opposition the LNP campaigned against a milder version of the VLAD law backed by the governing ALP government in the 2009 election. At the time, the then-opposition leader Lawrence Springborg observed:

“The Bar Association, the Law Society and the Council for Civil Liberties have justifiable and fundamental objections to this bill, including its attack on the freedom of association and the application of a civil standard of proof in what is otherwise a criminal proceeding…[.].”

Springborg was Health Minister under Newman’s former government. He did not breathe a word of criticism against the VLAD laws on their introduction.

Of a similar piece was Newman’s decision to promote the controversial Chief Magistrate Carmody to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland. That saga began when the then-Chief Magistrate emailed his fellow Magistrates, warning them of the danger of realising persons in motorcycling clubs on bail. The move was seen as a clear sign of support for the Newman government. When the bail applications kept going, the Chief Magistrate arbitrarily reserved all such bail applicants for himself. He was then promoted to Chief Justice on the retirement of his predecessor. The legal profession and the judiciary regarded his elevation as a clear act of political favouritism. His appointment ceremony was boycotted by the other Justices of the Supreme Court. Justice Muir even called on Carmody to refuse the appointment given that the Bar and the judiciary lacked confidence in him. Carmody refused, and even went on talkback radio to defend the government’s decision to appoint him. It was a political act that was clearly inappropriate given his judicial appointment. The appointment itself smacked of clear political favouritism and was an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

As the State election drew closer, Newman dug in. The ALP had committed itself to repealing the VLAD laws, so the Premier accused the ALP of being in league with organised crime. (The commitment was later watered down to a review.) Newman offered no proof, but asked journalists to “google it.” The best that might be said of his claim is that there is a video on YouTube in which an Electrical Trades Union official, speaking at a protest against the VLAD laws, admits to having accepted donations from motorcycling clubs. This is not quite the same as showing that those motorcycling clubs are criminal. That is, and remains, a baseless accusation. Newman miscalculated; without proof, the media portrayed the claim for what it was: a base slander.

To make matters worse, Newman engaged in transparent vote-buying. Of course, every politician promises taxpayer-funded, so-called “free” goodies to his electorate during election season and Newman was no exception. But not every politician has the temerity to threaten to withdraw the goods on offer if the seats in question aren’t held by his party. The problem is that the threat lays bare the pretence that these spending measures are for the public good. That is much harder to do when the message is “if you don’t vote for us, you don’t get a pool.” The media blasted Newman for it, and quite rightly so. Rarely does one see such openly displayed appeals to avarice. Politicians are usually more subtle than that.

The Newman government’s extraordinary excesses were not the only factors responsible for his downfall, but they were undeniably factors. You simply cannot make enemies of tens of thousands of motorcycling enthusiasts in Queensland and across the country, not to mention the legal profession and the judiciary, without losing votes and winning the ire, and even the fear, of the electorate. There is a lesson to be drawn from this. I, for one, am not sorry to see Newman go.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.