Saturday, April 01, 2006

driver's license in Oz

It was dark when police were flagged down in Australia's Northern Territory earlier this week by a couple in a parked car who said they needed directions to Ayers Rock. (You must have seen photos of Ayers Rock; it's reddish monolith that rises 1,115 feet from the Outback and ranks right up there with the Sydney Opera House, the kangaroo, and the
koala as Australia's most famous symbols. It's so huge that the road around the perimeter is almost 6.5 miles long .) On the surface, the request wasn't particularly unusual, even though it came at night and after the peak summer tourist season.

After all, Ayers Rock is in a wilderness area almost 300 miles from the nearest city, and one doesn't want to become lost or stranded there. Still, the cops almost immediately became suspicious, and as a result the driver is due in court May 18. So why is he in trouble? Well, for one thing because at the time he was parked only 100 yards from the imposing mound and his headlights were shining on it. As you might guess, he failed a breathalyzer test. He also couldn't produce a driver's license.
30 March 2006 Christian Science Monitor on-line

What the Monitor reporter failed to acknowledge is that in Oz drivers do not have to carry their driver's licences. If stopped by police, the driver has 24 hours to show up to the local police station with license in hand. In other words, at no time in Oz do citizens have to carry their identification with them.

Sounds like an open society to me. There is trouble afoot in Oz though. Current govt. officials are trying to get legislation passed that would foce citizens to carry identity cards. Somehow, it seems to me that's not an idea Aussies will take in good humour.