Where’s the Fire(works)? – Part Two - The Centre for Independent Studies
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Where’s the Fire(works)? – Part Two

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
That gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Today is the anniversary of the infamous 1605 plot to blow up the British Houses of Parliament and, with them, King James I of England. Although the assassination attempt was thwarted, it remains one of history’s most commemorated events. Throughout Britain, and in parts of the Commonwealth, the foiling of the plot is celebrated each year on Guy Fawkes Night with effigies of the head conspirator burned on festive bonfires. An attempt to rectify decades of religious state intolerance towards Catholics, the plot was unquestionably an act of terrorism – prompted by unendurable government interference in the private lives of its citizens.

Last week in Ideas@theCentre, in a milder and less explosive form of protest against government control, we asked for reader suggestions regarding illiberal and intrusive laws in Australia that need amending. Among the complaints were:

  • Obligatory bike helmets (the most common comment).
  • Council permission (naturally with an with attendant application fee) for tree removal or pruning on private property.
  • Restrictions on day care providers – where previously 'a woman up the street looked after our kids,' all childcare providers must now be qualified and expensive professionals.
  • Child car seat legislation. Given that the majority of parents 'care about the safety of our children, why is it that governments think it necessary to pass laws that force parents to buy expensive seats and limit the options they have for accommodating children in vehicles?' And what happens when a situation arises where there is the need to transport an additional child? Without having access to an extra government-approved seat, 'do we leave the (other) family in the lurch or do we break the law?'
  • Restrictions on home handyman jobs such as basic plumbing, roofing and electrical work.
  • Restrictions on property owners personally handling eviction and debt collection matters.
  • 'Draconian land tax on aggregate value' that impedes property owners and investors.
  • Privacy laws that restrict family members from assisting each other with phone or electricity accounts, small-dollar-amount credit card queries, etc.
  • The addition of fluoride into public water supplies
  • And, perhaps the most interesting regulation, the Victorian Council of Whitehorse’s recent cat curfew requiring all domestic cats to be locked indoors between 8pm and 6am every day. According to an article in local paper, the Whitehorse Leader, ‘Whitehorse will employ a new, full-time staff member to administer the program and spend $9,000 on 30 cat traps.’ In addition, non-compliance will result in a $119 fine, so residents had best make sure they adhere to a curfew themselves and are home each night in good time to put kitty to bed.

Given that pyrotechnic displays are synonymous with Guy Fawkes Night, the ban on the sale of fireworks should also be mentioned. Children and teenagers might not be mature enough to handle fireworks responsibly, but should this warrant the prohibition of cracker and Catherine wheel sales to adults? Unsurprisingly, the total ban has now resulted in a thriving and potentially dangerous black market.

Perhaps tonight we should reconsider what we need to toss into the bonfire: a Guy Fawkes effigy or all the petty, controlling and counterproductive government regulations that intrude into our private lives.

Meegan Cornforth is Events Manager at The Centre for Independent Studies.
Click here to read Where’s the Fire? – Part One