Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3592 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
where things fell down. I am not into banning fun. I strongly feel that the government has a responsibility to regulate appropriately and then, most importantly, to enforce those regulations properly. Why ban fun? Why not enforce the regulations or, even more sensibly, improve them so that there are fewer problems?
Why have the seriously noisy fireworks been available for purchase? Why haven't the retailers been dealt with by the legal system if they have broken the law? Why didn't the government in its first year in office regulate this industry so that the very noisy fireworks were not available for sale? If it has, where are the enforcers? It should not be a question of good and bad. It should not be a question of whether we should ban fireworks altogether or not. This is a straightforward problem of a lack of reasonable regulation and a total lack of appropriate and efficient enforcement.
Prohibition does not work and never has. To ban something that many people find really enjoyable simply encourages the usual response to prohibition: a thriving black market. Then we would have totally unregulated fireworks over which we would have no control. We would not be able to control the quantity of explosive material at all and the flash powder, which is the really noisy part, would be whatever the retailers want. Let us remember that it is the bang that many young people want. They want a big bang for their buck and they will pay quite a bit for it.
If this bill is supported, it will mean that a small minority of people will once again manage to ruin the fun for others. There are two small groups of fun spoilers: the irresponsible retailers who sell illegal fireworks to anyone, and those people-usually younger people-who misuse fireworks in situations where they cause upset to others in the community. There are also the wowsers who generally think that if something is enjoyable for others it must be stopped. I do not doubt that there are people who have been inconvenienced or upset by the noise of fireworks. I do not doubt that there are animals who have suffered during the fireworks season. But this is for a short time in the year. With better enforcement of the regulations, these problems would be very minor.
We can all cite examples of use and misuse of fireworks. I know of underage teenagers who walked into fireworks shops and dealers when they were at EPIC and were able to purchase any type of firework without any questions being asked. I am talking about really big fireworks; fireworks that are in effect explosives. These are supposedly illegal. I know teenagers who have bought these each year over the past four years, without permits and without any questions asked about their age. These things are like bombs. In fact, this year, these over-the-top firework bungers were also sold as vermin eradication fireworks; they were sold for blowing up rabbit burrows. The teenagers were told that they were supposed to take them across the border into New South Wales and then they would be legal. This was all against the law. Where were the enforcement people then? Where are they now? Where were the legitimate charges against these retailers? Why has the government in its first year not been able to regulate this industry appropriately? I stress "the first year"because the government has a new minister and I have faith in this new minister to bring about effective change.
I am also wondering about the previous government. Why couldn't they get the regulations right? Why couldn't they get the enforcement right? There is a team of people on tap who are very able when it comes to drafting legislation. We have an excellent police force in this city. Let us get them together and resolve the fireworks