This really will be the most frightening story you have ever heard. But, for it to qualify as frightening for you, you have to be either:
a) Currently living here in Australia as a Permanent Resident (PR) or….
b) Hoping to move here soon as a Permanent Resident.
If either of these applies to you, read on, it will scare the pants off you! If neither of the above does apply, instead of being scared, you will probably just be horrified instead.
Let us begin…..
Chapter 1: Public Transport in Brisbane
Once upon a time, when I first arrived here in 2007 actually, this was how public transport worked in the city.
1) Decide to catch either a bus, CityCat or a train.
2) If bus or CityCat, get on bus or CityCat and buy ticket.
3) If train, buy ticket from station then get on train.
4) Get off when at destination.
Just three months after I arrived, in February 2008, that all changed. After having the same idea many other major cities have had, and having invested $134 million, Brisbane launched the go card. It’s an electronic ticketing system.
A go card is the same size as a credit card. Simply add credits to it (pay $$$) and then “touch on” and “touch off” your go card with the card readers located at all train stations and on each bus or CityCat. No need to bother the bus driver to buy a ticket or take up the time of those working in the ticket offices in train stations or on the CityCat.
More fair dinkum!
But not quite. The go card has been dogged with problems since its introduction.
- There were concerns over people’s privacy with these electronic cards recording everyone’s journeys.
- There was outrage as standard ticket prices were hiked up by as much as 40% to persuade people to switch to go cards.
- Users with less than perfect vision had problems reading the information on the reader screens.
But the biggest problems revolved around the equipment’s failure to work on so many occasions. Stories of a 10% failure rate, stories of 2,500 errors a month, stories of system breakages costing $2,000 a week in uncollected fares……
Go card isn’t exactly a winner in these parts.
Chapter 2: Moving to Australia
It’s not easy to qualify for a PR visa to live in Australia. To be successful, you will usually need to be under 50 years of age, have a good education, speak English fluently and, normally, have a work skill for which there is a shortage here along with acceptable qualifications for that skill.
In addition, you will need to be in good health and prove you have no criminal record by providing a fresh and up-to-date police records check.
One man who did manage to get through the stringent qualifying criteria was Brit Mark Littler, 30. Mark, described as a hard-working engineer, was on his way to a Christmas party in 2009. He needed to catch a train from Morningside into the city, but his go card didn’t work when he tried to “touch on” at the unstaffed train station.
He boarded the train anyway.
According to Mr Littler, he reported his faulty go card to a transit officer at the earliest opportunity after boarding the train. The officer took his details and gave him a warning and later he received a $200 fine.
He appealed and it ended up in court. The judge upheld the fine and recorded a conviction against Mark Littler.
He now has a criminal record.
As a general rule, anyone who lives here on a PR visa, and keeps their nose clean (no, not with a handkerchief, but by staying out of trouble) for a period of four years, has an excellent chance of becoming an Australian citizen. Australian citizens cannot be deported, people living here on PR visas can.
But now Mr Littler has a criminal record, what are his chances of becoming an Australian citizen?
According to an immigration spokesman, his crime would be regarded as a “minor fraud offence”, and could affect his application, although each is considered on a “case-by-case” basis. The judge noted that the conviction would “materially affect his application”.
So it seems to me that thanks to a dodgy electronic ticket system resulting in an unpaid $2.65 fare and bureaucracy gone mad, one skilled and hard-working Britain may find it very difficult to extend his stay here in Australia.
That is not fair dinkum!
Having said all that, I did not attend the court case and have not read the transcripts. All I know about this case, I got from an article in the Courier Mail. From my experience using go card, the company that operates it are usually quite forgiving in many circumstances, maybe because they know the system is not so good.
So I can’t help thinking that there may be more to this story. Although it’s difficult to believe that, whatever happened, Mark Littler should be on the receiving end of a criminal record. As the Courier Mail article says, others have done far worse with out having a conviction recorded.
What the story does illustrate though, without doubt, is that you should be very very careful indeed about how you conduct yourself whilst living here in Australia on a PR visa.
I’ve only got three months to go before I can apply for my citizenship, perhaps I will stay in until then.