May 16th, 2012 at 09:26am
Perhaps I’m just shocked by this because it’s coming from a government which I generally think are doing a good job, and so an occasional disagreement has more of an impact than an ongoing series of disagreements (when was the last time I launched a tirade against the ACT Government…I’m just so used to disagreeing with them that it hardly seems worth the effort to spend multiple hours per week reinforcing the fact), but this one really gave me a shock this morning.
The New South Wales Government has proposed the banning of a number of things on people’s own apartment balconies including smoking and, wait for it, drying underwear! Apart from the obvious fire hazard of forcing both activities indoors, and the potential of having smoke waft through air conditioning between apartments if people smoke indoors, I can’t help but worry about the seemingly unnecessary intrusion in to the goings-ons in private property by the state. What worries me even more is that people are seemingly willing to cede authority over what happens in private dwellings to the state, rather than dealing with it themselves or through existing means.
SMOKERS could be banned from lighting up on their own balconies under proposed changes to NSW strata laws.
Thousands of submissions were made in the first public consultations on a sweeping review of laws governing strata schemes, and were dominated by complaints about smoking.
Residents also wanted to ban balcony barbecues and the keeping of snakes “given their propensity to escape”. But they asked to be allowed to dry clothes on balconies “except underwear, which should be dried on racks out of sight”.
A report to the government, to be used to create a discussion paper, said smoking “was a significant bone of contention”. “The overwhelming majority of correspondents strongly objected to being subjected to second-hand smoke in strata buildings and demanded smoking be banned from communal areas and open air balconies,” the Global Access Partners strata laws online consultation report said.
The snake one I understand, but we already have laws about how domestic animals have to be kept. We can amend those if necessary, but it’s silly to legislate about such a thing in unrelated legislation about management of apartment buildings.
The smoking one I find bizarre. I live in a unit, and occasionally I receive wafting smoke from my neighbours, but if you are going to live in an apartment then you are surely accepting that you are living in close proximity to other people and, as such, will be less immune to the activities of these people. It’s a situation which calls for a bit of common courtesy, not government legislation and intrusion.
In my case, a quick word with the neighbours resulted in an understanding that they would make an effort to prevent smoke from drifting towards my place, although it was understood and accepted that it would not always be possible. To the same extent, I make an effort to prevent the two doggies from making too much noise. Obviously they’re going to bark when they’re concerned about noises or when they’re chasing a ball, but I try to limit such barking when there is no threat to the security of the property, and by limiting their playtime outside of daylight hours. It’s just common sense that when you live in close proximity to your neighbour, that you need to be mindful of what effect you are having on them.
If people living in an apartment complex can not reach an agreement, then there is a body corporate to whom they can take their disagreement for judgement. Through this process, people retain the right to decide on what is and is not allowed on their property by virtue of the fact that they have an ownership stake in the management of the complex by the body corporate and can vote against a manager or a decision if necessary. Ultimately living in an apartment complex does provide less freedom than living in a property which does not share walls with neighbours, but that is a choice made by people when they decide to live in an apartment instead of a house. This freedom however, should not be further curbed by governments making blanket decisions about all apartment complexes instead of allowing residents and owners to make decisions which suit their own needs.
As for the other idea which was floated of banning the outdoor drying of underwear. Why? What possible reason could people have to be offended by underwear? And why should somebody be forced to pay more to dry their underwear indoors in a dryer or near a heater (which the Fire Brigade regularly tells us is a bad idea) when they can do it for free in the sunshine on their balcony? If somebody has offensive messages on their underwear, then this is something which can be taken up with them or the body corporate, but is not something which requires legislation. I am of the view that underwear should be worn and not seen (I think that underwear visible above or outside pants while being worn in unsightly, but I don’t want to legislate against it, and oppose such legislation in places where it has been introduced), but even I accept that in order for it to be cleaned, it has to be seen. And what about the underwear which is sold in shops? Are we going to put it in locked cabinets like we have with cigarettes?
And how in the heck are we going to enforce it? Are we going to have government-employed building inspectors checking balconies for underwear? Who’s going to pay for that, and what good will come of it? Taxpayers, and none…only a further diminution of freedom.
If we are going to try and prevent inter-apartment offence, then I don’t think that we will stop at underwear, especially if the underwear and smoking ideas are being touted primarily for the “benefit” of young minds and bodies. I can see this progressing to bans on televisions displaying M rated (and higher) material near windows in case a youngster is prying. Perhaps even curtains could be regulated, as we wouldn’t want curtains bearing the Collingwood Football Club’s logo to offend a West Coast supporter, or vice-versa, would we?
Fair dinkum! For a country which allegedly likes freedom and a fair go, we certainly don’t seem to embrace it when we think it would be easier to just get the government to do the thinking for us.