Sausage sizzle? Wait, there's a snag or two
I hesitate to confess these things, but I ride a motorcycle and occasionally, on a Saturday morning, get the urge to mount up and burble off to find a sizzled sausage for breakfast at a charity stall.
We know, of course, that motorcycle riders risk all sorts of frightful injuries and sizzled sausages are no good for the heart, but there comes a time in a fellow's life when he'd rather take the occasional risk than shrivel up and wait obediently for the comfort of a nursing home.
Mercifully, concerning the motorcycling activities, more of which later, I live mostly in the ACT, which is a safe distance from Campbell Newman's State of Extreme Emergency, Queensland, more of which later.
The numerous authorities of Canberra, however, have the humble sausage sizzle in their beady sights.
Under regulations introduced by the Immensely Concerned But Tiny Government of the ACT, any organisation that holds more than five sausage sizzles a year, whether it be a Scout group or St Vinnies or a school trying to raise money to send students to a farnarkling competition, must now live in fear of a visit from a squadron or two of health inspectors.
The regulations require any such community purveyor of incinerated snags to appoint one of its members a food safety supervisor.
A prospective supervisor has to undertake a special course in the art of turning a sausage and pay $150 for the privilege, and he or she has to be contactable, by law, if the barbecue is fired up and the feared health inspectors drop by.
If there were kiddies involved in the stall, you'd likely also to have stump up $70 and undertake a police check for a Working With Vulnerable People certificate, although there would probably be penalties for any organisation allowing a kiddie within 150 metres of a hot barbecue plate. And it'd be best to equip everyone with high-visibility vests just to be sure you complied with occupational health and safety regulations.
Unsurprisingly, all sorts of community groups are jumping up and down and shaking their sausage tongs in outrage and, with a little luck, the government might just back off, although you wouldn't bet on it. The ACT government is fond of its regulations and the income that flows from them for, lacking much industry to tax, it relies heavily on money from penalising any individual or group unwise enough to outrage busybody sensibilities.
You really, really don't want to smoke cigarettes in the ACT, for instance, and if you do, don't think of doing so while having a beer. There is such a thing as a Designated Outdoor Smoking Area but the ACT's rules for establishing one at a bar or a cafe are so mind-boggling in complexity that just about no place bothers doing so. The result is that if you're having a beer outside a bar, you have to put down your drink on a sidewalk table and shuffle a few centimetres beyond the outdoor barrier, which may be invisible. You can still blow your smoke back over the drinkers the other side of the barrier, but the important thing is you're following the Rules. If you don't, the punishment is an on-the-spot fine for the evil smoker of up to $2000, and a further fine of up to $10,000 for the business that didn't spot you transgressing.
A chap with the temerity to be aggrieved by the ACT's tremendously responsible regulations pointed out in The Canberra Times this week that there is an upright piece of corrugated iron about three metres by four metres next to the bowling greens of a Canberra club. Bowlers are required to stand behind it to smoke because bowling is designated as entertainment and, under ACT law, no one is allowed to smoke while viewing any kind of entertainment. When he suggested the club should simply pass a law that club members closed their eyes while they smoked, he'd been told this wouldn't be in the spirit of the legislation.
I'm not entirely sure if I would be classed as an outlaw motorcyclist if I rode for breakfast to a Volunteer Bushfire Fighters' sixth sausage sizzle for the year in the knowledge there was no qualified food safety supervisor in close contact or, if I sneaked a durrie within sight of a lawn bowler, but I'd certainly avoid the idea of joining my mates for a motorcycle ride north to Queensland.
We wouldn't want to fall afoul of the terrifyingly named Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill 2013, which aims to bust up outlaw motorcycle gangs and toss their members in a special jail where they will be required to wear pink jumpsuits.
Few citizens, of course, want an Outlaw Motorcycle Club living next door, manufacturing and dealing methamphetamines, raising hell and dragging their daughters off to tattoo parlours and worse.
I was naively under the misapprehension that the police already had laws to deal with that sort of thing. Apparently not in Premier Campbell Newman's Queensland. It is intriguing to imagine his cabinet sitting around and coming up with the pink jumpsuit idea. Yeah, that'd teach 'em, haw, haw. Make those big thugs look like girlies.
Now, to the undies ...
The thing about Queensland's new laws, however popular they may be with quaking citizens, is that everyday motorcyclists are finding themselves stopped and harassed by police in case they have secretly left their bike gang's colours at home.
Police have taken to warning recreational bikers to phone police stations and inform the riot squad if their group of, say, biking accountants, is planning to venture by on a Saturday run intent on splashing out on a round of soy lattes, lest they find themselves required to assume the position.
Bikies aren't allowed to contact each other under the state's anti-association laws, either.
This created a marvellous moment in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court this week when three bikies turned up to testify in a trial. Police declared they were gathered in a public place and were liable to be arrested and jailed for a mandatory six months. They skedaddled rather than testify.
Weird stuff happens when over-zealous regulators get their drafting pens out. Who'd ever imagine in Australia you could get yourself on the wrong side of the law by riding to a sausage sizzle? Or strolling into a courthouse?