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14 of the most obscure Australian laws you’ve never heard of

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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 bringing an oversized item onto the train, but 14 other peculiar laws that are still in force in Australian states and territories include:

  • 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 $10,000 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 and 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 New South Wales drivers who do not take enough care to avoid splashing mud on public bus passengers can be fined up to $2,200.

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 enacted,” 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 SA 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 have 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,” Ms Drago said.

“The NSW Road Rules were introduced in 2014, for instance, which means the offence of splashing mud onto bus passengers could reasonably be used if police consider it necessary.

“It would not be a laughing matter if you were charged with any of these offences and it went to court, because a judge would be bound to apply the law as it is written.”


The List: 14 Australian Criminal Laws You've Never Heard Of

 

  1. NSW: Drivers can be fined up to $2,200 for not taking enough care to avoid splashing mud on public bus passengers (Regulation 291-3, Road Rules 2014 (NSW))
  2. Queensland: It is illegal to post a fake job fake job advertisement, or publish false notices about engagements, births, deaths or funerals. Maximum penalty is a $1,219 fine or six months imprisonment (Section 21, Summary Offences Act 2005 (Qld))
  3. Victoria: It is an offence in Victoria to fly a kite to “the annoyance of any person” in a public place. Maximum penalty is a $777.30 fine (Section 4, Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)).
  4. Victoria: Singing an obscene song or ballad in a public place can attract a maximum fine of $1,554.60 or two months imprisonment; $2,331.90 fine or three months imprisonment for a second offence; $3,886.50 fine or six months imprisonment for a third or subsequent offence (Section 17, Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)).
  5. Victoria: It is illegal to correspond or do business with pirates. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment (Section 70C, Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)).
  6. Victoria: It is an offence in Victoria to make unreasonable noise with a vacuum cleaner after 10pm or before 7am on weekdays and 9am on weekends (Section 48A, Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic); Regulation 6, Environment Protection (Residential Noise) Regulations 2008 (Vic)) The noise will be considered unreasonable if it can be heard in a ‘habitable’ room in any other residential property, whether they have the door or window open or closed. Police or the council can direct you stop making the noise for 72 hours and a breach of their direction can carry a fine of up to $18,655.20, with an extra fine up to $4,663.80 per day for continuing noise violations.
  7. South Australia: Obstructing or disturbing a wedding, funeral or religious service is an offence that carries a maximum fine of $10,000 or two years imprisonment (Section 7A, Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)).
  8. South Australia: It is an offence to sell a fridge 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 1 January 1962. Maximum penalty is a $750 fine (Section 58B, Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)).
  9. South Australia: A $250 maximum penalty applies to a person who, without reasonable excuse, disturbs another by wilfully pulling or ringing the doorbell of a house or by knocking at the door of a house (Section 50, Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)).
  10. Western Australia: Challenging another person to a duel is punishable by a maximum $6,000 fine or two years imprisonment (Section 72, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)).
  11. Western Australia: You can be jailed for up to a year for cleaning up seabird or bat poo (guano) without a licence (Section 387, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)).
  12. Western Australia: It is an offence to make a sign that offers a reward for the return of stolen or lost property if you promise not to ask any questions. Maximum penalty: $2,000 fine (Section 138, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)).
  13. Western Australia: It is illegal to carry a weapon in most circumstances, but a lawful excuse exists in WA for electrified briefcases (Section 68A, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)).
  14. Western Australia: It is an offence to be in possession of more than 50kg of potatoes in WA, unless you have purchased the potatoes from a grower or retailer authorised by the Potato Corporation. Police also have the power to stop and search a vehicle suspected of carrying more than 50kg of potatoes. The maximum penalty is a $2,000 fine for a first offence or a $5,000 fine for subsequent offences, as well as a further penalty up to twice the value of the potatoes (Section 22, Marketing of Potatoes Act 1946 (WA)).