States’ obscure laws are no laughing matter

July 21, 2017

In Victoria it is an offence to fly a kite ‘‘to the annoyance of any person’’ or sing an ‘‘obscene song or ballad’’ in a public place.

Leading criminal lawyers at Slater and Gordon have compiled a list of some of the most obscure laws Australians might not know about, after a man was fined $252 for trying to move a fridge on a Brisbane train.

The man was given a ticket for taking an oversized item on to the train, but it is not the only peculiar law in force in Australian states and territories.

●In Victoria it is an offence to fly a kite ‘‘to the annoyance of any person’’ or sing an ‘‘obscene song or ballad’’ in a public place.

●In South Australia it is an offence to sell a refrigerator with a capacity of 42.5 litres or more, unless all of the doors can be easily opened from the inside or it was brought into the state before 1962. There is also a $250 maximum fine for unlawfully ringing doorbells and a $10000 maximum fine for obstructing or disturbing a wedding or funeral.

●In Western Australia you can be jailed for up to a year for cleaning up seabird or bat poo without a licence. You can also be fined thousands of dollars for possessing more than 50kg of potatoes in certain circumstances.

●In Queensland it is illegal to post a fake job advertisement, while NSW drivers who do not take enough care to avoid splashing mud on public bus passengers can be fined up to $2200.

Slater and Gordon criminal lawyer Veronika Drago said these laws may seem comical, but they would have been enacted for a reason.

‘‘To understand why we have these laws, you really have to think back to the time when they were first introduced,’’ Ms Drago said.

“For example, the potatoes law in Western Australia was introduced in 1946, when post-war food security and the Great Depression were pressing political issues.

‘‘And there must have been enough people, or even children, being trapped in fridges when the South Australian laws were enacted in 1953 (before modern fridge seals were common) for the state government to regulate these offences.

‘‘As to why they’re still on the books, you can easily imagine how reviewing offences about flying kites and selling fridges is not really a priority for incoming governments.’’

Ms Drago said it would be a mistake for people to assume these laws had no force.

‘‘It is likely that some of these offences have not been used for many years, however, others are much more recent and prosecution is definitely a possibility,’’ she said.

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