Governments love to champion the virtues of deregulation. Then proceed to quietly change into their nanny uniforms to introduce pointless and costly regulation, in the name of public safety and maternal-like benevolence.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the recent implementation of the NSW government’s 2013 legislation on mandatory childproof safety locks on windows in all apartments above ground level.
We know that regulation creates costs and inefficiencies. This is why any regulation:
- should be proportionate to the size of the problem it is trying to solve; and
- the benefits of regulation should outweigh the costs.
But in practice, it is often impossible to satisfy these two criteria. Governments often have little clue about the size of a problem or able to prove that regulation will fix the problem.
What are the proven benefits of mandatory window locks? Simply put, there are none. The NSW government has not even attempted to prove that the law will reduce child injuries. After all, people are not being forced to use the locks – just to install them.
And the size of the problem? In fact, annual child injury rates are relatively low, according to figures cited by the NSW government. Each year, around 50 children are reported to fall from windows or balconies in Australia.
Obviously, any child injury is very sad and should never happen; but the problem should not be exaggerated. Put into context, there are over 3 million children aged under 10 in Australia. That translates to one injury for every 60,000 children.
Compare that to car accidents, which hospitalise over a thousand children each year. In effect, children travelling in cars involves 20 times the risk of open windows. Based on that logic, we would ban children from travelling in cars altogether.
Furthermore, the costs of mandatory window locks are substantial, with over half a million apartments in NSW and owners having to cough up the time, effort and costs of installation. Bizarrely, even households with no children must comply.
Unfortunately, these rules are just another manifestation of the nanny state, where personal responsibility is replaced by infantile dependence and adults are no longer trusted – even to close a window.