Is there a Legislator in the house?

by on 29 June, 2011


Steven Ciobo MP argues that instead of an ever-encroaching nanny state, we all chant a collective 'harden up':

No-one can really pinpoint where it all began; the slide by all tiers of government to legislating our way to a safer, cleaner, friendly, less exploitive world. Well, at least that is the rationalisation.

The nanny state is alive and well in Australia. In fact, it is flourishing. If it were a plant it would be one of the strangler vines – a weed that thrives by spreading over the trunk and branches of other plants. Eventually it strangles its 'host', the vine constricting any trunk or branch growth.

Like the strangler vine, Australia is rapidly becoming a land of rules, regulations and laws that choke our creativity and innovative spirit as tier upon tier of Government pass more laws and more regulations.

It seems now we've evolved from figurative cries of 'is there a doctor in the house?', past 'is there a lawyer in the house?', to arrive at 'is there a legislator in the house?'.

Any claims of harm are immediately responded to with calls to introduce a law to ban or regulate the activity.

Let's be honest, it is a political no-brainer that if someone or a group claims they have suffered as a consequence of some activity (or inactivity!) then it is far better to sympathise and promise political action; rather than ask hard questions like 'is there something you, the apparent victim, could have done to protect yourself?'.

Modern Australia simply no longer believes in the principle of caveat emptor.

Like the Tassie Tiger, personal responsibility has died out.

If you:

Drink too much – why weren't the staff at the licensed venue complying with the responsible service of alcohol policy?

Lose money on an investment – must be the banks/financial planners/real estate agents fault.

Dive into a sand bar at the beach – the local Council should have warned you of the risk.

Hurt yourself at work – your employer obviously just does not care or you were not warned.

Buy a franchise that fails – clearly the franchisor misled you.

Unfortunately I have been present all too often as law after law passes through the Parliament to 'fix' some problem that has been identified as needing urgent reform.

Mea culpa is all I can say. Indeed, this article is a chance for me to restate my commitment to smaller government. I will attempt to persuasively argue the need for less regulation and hope I can persuade more of my colleagues, on all sides of the House, to commit to it too.

Increasingly, I find myself thinking it is not this new law that is required, rather, it is a good dose of 'toughen up and stop blaming others for your bad decision'. Some straight talking along the lines of the lecture you would get from Dad or Mum when you did something stupid.

We have developed a national pattern of behaviour that is now entirely predictable. Someone complains they are an innocent victim, the media undertake some kind of expose, politicians race around tut-tutting and demanding action, and we pass yet another law or regulation on the premise of making sure it can never happen again.

It is exceedingly difficult to know when exactly it all went too far. Each new rule is certainly well intentioned.

What's more, the 'victim' is always grateful and those stakeholders who might complain about the new red tape and compliance costs are routinely dismissed as being too concerned about their own circumstance and defending the status quo.

Now we have arrived at a point where we are an international laughing stock. Australia is up there with the worst global offenders for bureaucracy and red tape.

More concerning though, in the contest for capital, in the contest for investment and ingenuity, Australia is choking off innovation and creativity because we can not make it fit our framework of rules.

As armies of local, state and federal government bureaucrats march forward to enforce all these rules and regulations, our innovators and risk takers run in the opposite direction for the less regulated and simply more straightforward countries in which to deal.

How about we chant a collective 'harden up' next time some group claims more regulation is the answer to their poor choices?

Steven Ciobo is the Federal Member for Moncrief. Originally published at The Drum and reproduced with permission. 

Leave a Reply