Every Government in Australia seeks to be my Nanny
In the last few years we have been inflicted with the DON’T factor. These are the amazing number of rules based on health and safety, against just about every aspect of what used to be carefree living – drinking, smoking, children tucking into fast foods, driving, cycling, popping down to the bottle shop after 10pm, late night clubbing in certain parts of Sydney, tossing a shrimp – Paul Hogan style – on the barbie close to a neighbour’s property, pitching a tent in a clearing in the woods, cooking a sausage on a fire that is not in a designated area, swimming out of the sight of a lifeguard and so on.
There are too many to discuss all, here eight prize laws which have brought misery to many:
Cyclists: In recent years they’ve lost more than they’ve won. While cycle paths have been introduced beside city roads in Sydney, hardly anyone uses them – and the negative aspects for riders are cruel.
Riding without a helmet has incurred a fine of $319 (£184) which is more than some speeding fines for motorists, while riders who pedal through a red light, even if the road is clear, are hit with a fine of $425 (£245). Next year, adult riders will have to carry ID or – yes – be issued with a $106 (£61) penalty.
Bicycle courier Matt Nudman, 46, said: ‘The regulations are very tight for cyclists, with heavy fines for all kinds of rule-breaking. If you don’t have a bell, for example, it’s $400, but bells are not well accepted by the non-cycling public. They see it as a sign of aggression and get very angry.’
Ricardo Servin, 28, archaelogist: ‘There’s madness out on the roads, which is why you’ll see me frequently pushing my bike on footpaths. The rules have been made to protect cyclists, such as it being the law to wear a helmet and have a bell – but not to ride on the footpath. I’ve come close to being killed several times by mad drivers and even mad cyclists.’
Smokers: While health and safety is behind introduced regulations, smokers who insist on continuing the habit for their own enjoyment complain bitterly about not being able to puff away in government buildings, pubs or even at cafe pavement tables and say the rules don’t work.
They insist that no-one is going to develop cancer from someone smoking outdoors and plain paper packaging introduced to reduce smoking has led to an increase in the use of cheaper, illegally imported cigarettes.
Kat Carmichael, 23-year-old waitress: ‘I’m a smoker – and I hate the rules that insist smokers stay well away from public buildings. The regulations make you feel a little bit dirty.’
Stephanie Blake, 22, studying for a travel and business diploma: “I’ve been smoking since I was 16 and no matter what rules they’ve introduced they haven’t stopped me smoking – which is what the overall plan is. Australia is such a contrast to Europe, which I’ve visited, where people smoke in bars all the time – wherever they like.’
Footpath Dining: Speaking of outdoor dining, local councils are restricting the enjoyment of al fresco by ordering cafes and restaurants with a footpath area suitable for eating in the open air to obtain a permit ‘for the safety of both diners and pedestrians’.
Paul Borghetti, owner of Grind Into Gear cafe, Sydney: ‘I have outdoor tables but the rules ensure that I can’t just set them up as I want, or I’ll be fined. I have to make sure they don’t encroach too much out onto the pavement, but if someone wants to move their chair a little to sit in or out of the sun, I’m liable if a passer-by walks into them – even though that’s not likely to happen.’
Barbecues: The great Aussie larrikin himself, Paul Hogan, is credited with a rush on sales of gas and charcoal barbecues Down Under, but then along came the fun police and took the enjoyment out for many. It’s not possible to set up a portable barbecue just anywhere in the open and those tenants who create smoke from their balcony units fall under laws that prohibit smoke drifting next door.
Public Parks: It’s here that the fun police have a field day. Signs carry so many DONT’S that one joker suggested it would be quicker to read a novel than to go through the list of restrictions which, in general, include unleashed dogs, horses, golf practice (even with a plastic ball), soccer or cricket (unless with a permit) and picnics. Gatherings on beaches of more than 20 people or which are advertised on social media also draw fines unless a permit is obtained.
Barbara Damiani, professional dog walker: ‘As you can see, these two Australian bulldogs I have with me on a lead are desperate to break away and run free. But there aren’t many places around Sydney where you can let them off the lead, without facing a fine. When I take dogs out, they just have to accept that if I let them off I’m breaking the law and I’ll be fined. The rules are there, so you just have to keep to them.’
Naomi Woodall, 37, mother of five-month-old Beau: ‘While many aspects of the rules make life less efficient they definitely make things safer while at the same time making life less enjoyable.’
Alcohol: Bottle shops (off licences) must lock their doors at 10pm at night, while what are known as lock-out laws mean that clubs and pubs cannot allow entry after 1.30am and can’t serve alcohol after 3am.
Mirell Gallini, 29, manageress of Mad Pizza Bar in Darlinghurst, adjoining Kings Cross: ‘The lock-out rules, preventing people coming in to licenced places at certain times in this area, have hit establishments very badly. Our takings are down considerably.’
Anna Schefer, 21-year-old barmaid in Kings Cross: ‘People who haven’t been in the area for a while, not since the lock-out laws were brought in, look around at the place and ask me “What happened to the Cross?” They can’t believe that you can’t come back into a place after 1.30am once you’ve gone out and here in this bar after 10pm all drinks have to be served in plastic glasses. It’s to make sure nobody gets drunk and becomes involved in a fight with a glass.’
Advertising: Children are mainly the target of advertising bans, which restrict marketing on TV, billboards and even radio that could influence them – including ‘unhealthy’ fast foods and, of course, alcohol. But this also restricts the viewing of adults.
Paul Sharp, 46, owner of a travelling shark museum: ‘I travel around the country in my 1957 British Leyland Royal Tiger bus with a stuffed great white shark in the back – so you can imagine the problems I have with permits to pull up in a new town and open the bus for spectators. In the old days, before the fun police stepped in, I’d just drop off a carton of beer to the local council and they’re happy for me to stop and open the bus. Those were the good old days of ‘No worries mate!’
Age Restrictions on Websites: What many parents say is pointless, regulations on websites have been targeting children, meaning, for example, that alcohol websites can only be watched by people over the age of 18. However, parents say there is no way of verifying if the user is over 18.
It could be worse:
Britain Has Second Most Controlling Government in European ‘Nanny State Index’
People living in the United Kingdom are the second least free in Europe in terms of access and freedom to enjoy tobacco, alcohol, and sugary food and drink, according to a new study which records increasing regulation on such items across the continent.
Britain is second only to Finland in Europe for paternalistic overregulation, “lifestyle regulations”, and “nannying”, coming ahead even of nations like Sweden where access to bought alcohol outside of bars and restaurants is limited to strictly controlled, and highly taxed government owned stores.
The Nanny State Index, compiled by the free-market focused European Policy Information Centre, found the 2016 survey year saw widespread crackdowns on vaping, or e-cigarettes, with bans and taxes on vaping fluid being introduced in a number of nations.
Criticising the motivations of governments who moved to tax e-cigarettes, the report said: “Although some governments have been slow to recognise the health benefits of safer nicotine products, they have been quick to see their potential for raising revenue.”
The report also noted the introduction of wide-ranging anti-tobacco laws by the European Union, which amongst other changes banned ten-packs of cigarettes, flavoured cigarettes, and made health warnings mandatory. The United Kingdom and France went beyond the letter of the new EU law, also forcing cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging, a move that has been called on to be expanded to alcoholic drinks and foods.
Whilst taxation levied on tobacco, alcohol, and sugary drinks are often justified to voters through the health benefits of artificially increasing prices, the Nanny State Index showed there appeared to be diminishing returns from ever-more restrictive laws and taxes. Rating the propensity to overregulate on a scale of 1 to 100 and comparing the place of nations on the Nanny State score to average life expectancy, the survey showed there was no correlation between high regulation and health.
By contrast, the European nations with the highest life expectancies were among the lowest scoring on the Index — these nations included Germany and the Czech Republic.
Quoting historian A.J.P. Taylor on the old default of British liberty before the Great War: “Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state”, the report is highly critical of Britain’s modern position on regulating the minutiae of daily life of residents.
Commenting on the “rising tide of lifestyle regulations”, the paper notes:”The UK has some particularly punitive sin taxes. It has the highest taxes on cigarettes and wine in the EU and the second highest taxes on beer” and that “Anti-smoking policies are now being rolled out to food and soft drinks.”
Despite the very poor rating of being the second least free nation for lifestyle choices in the EU, the report notes the rating given to Britain actually makes it seem more liberal than it really is, given the scope of the study does not encompass “the food reformulation scheme which has led to chocolate bars shrinking and food products becoming less tasty as Public Health England pushes food manufacturers towards reducing sugar, salt and fat content. Although this scheme is technically voluntary, it is backed up with the threat of legislation.”