From city slickers to countrymen there is one commonality that unites us all in this land girt by sea. No, it’s not the Baggy Green. It’s this country’s ridiculous laws.
The term ‘nanny state’ gets thrown around a lot in relation to modern Australian life. Our ‘nanny’ implies being cared for, nurtured, rocked back and forth and softly sung to while mummy has her third chardonnay with the girls on the patio. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that many small businesses across the country feel far from any of those things.
With Sydney’s notorious lock out laws set to be withdrawn (mostly) in January (2020) following the sudden and shocking realisation by the NSW Premier that they were negatively impacting the night-time economy, it felt more than appropriate to take a look at some other laws helping businesses across the land thrive(!) to their fullest and most prosperous potential.
Consider for a moment, the good ol’ Aussie sausage sizzle. Save for Russell Crowe and Rolf Harris, what could be more Australian than a public sausage sizzle? Some would say the bread, onions, and sauce combination elevate the barbequed sausage to a national dish frontrunner. As a new business owner, it is also a stellar way to draw immediate attention to your business, raise some quick money, and get your name out there.
But selling food in Victoria is a particularly risky business. Setting up a sausage sizzle stall requires a Food Act registration application to be made to your local council. If the application is approved, then a Statement of Trade will need to be lodged to the council that you’ll be trading within. Once these two processes are completed and are done to the standard detailed in the Act then – and only then – may you, the humble temporary food provider, sizzle your sausages.
There are copious fact sheets and online resources to guide business owners smoothly through the process.
There’s a lot of controversy on the correct way to build a sausage snag; with onions, without onions, with sauce, without sauce. But if you’re unfortunate enough to like eggs, or bacon with your sausage sizzle there’s a price you’ll have to pay. The above regulatory process only applies to traditional sausage sizzles which are deemed a ‘class 4 food’. The traditional sausage is officially defined as a combination of the sausage, bread, sauce and onions. Eggs, bacon and vegetarian patties however are a ‘class 3 food’ which have stricter regulations on their sale and a more extensive application process!
The sausage sizzle is just one example of the many, many, strange laws and regulations that plague this spacious land. Opening a business has never been harder and accidentally committing a minor offence has never been easier. A brave new world indeed.
Of course, you’re probably wondering, why is this so? Why do Victorians have such onerous laws about cooking sausages?
The truth is, we live under many thousands of ridiculous laws. Most of them have become so commonplace that like the story of the boiled frog, we’re unaware we’re being cooked ourselves.
Modern Western democratic governance is extremely risk averse. Governments get punished in the short term when someone gets sick from a dodgy sausage sizzle, but the costs of such regulation are spread over time and millions of people. Eventually, one day folks look back at the silly laws and repeal them, but not before everyone has suffered without even realising it.
For example, NSW required travel agents to be licensed between 1986 and 2014. Western Australia required barbers to be licensed until 2009. Presumably both sets of legislation were the product of someone getting a poor consumer experience and some media moral panic.
It all leads back at the end of the day to what the role of government is. Sadly, most Australians today believe it’s the government’s job to protect them from any risk.
I can’t possibly understand why anyone would want a bunch of folks who can’t even build a canoe to decide what is best for them. Anyone who’s ever run a business knows that governments just put up roadblocks to success. Certainly, they mostly mean well. But the road to ruin has always been paved by good intentions.
The key therefore, is to get back to that rugged individualism that Australians have always been famous for. We rely on those we trust. Governments should exist to provide us with police, courts and the armed forces. Let’s keep it limited to that please.
Kyle Kutasi is a solicitor with Solve Legal, www.solveonline.com.au.