Other than being known for its unique architectural buildings, exotic plants and animals and its extreme nature effects, Australia is also famous for some of its most peculiar laws in the world. Laws that you may believe to be weird, strange or slightly ridiculous after reading this article.
The chances of you paying a fine or getting into trouble with the authorities over an offence you made may be relatively low. But it is nevertheless good to know some of the most interesting laws in Australia so you know what to do and what not to do when you move over. Even if they are different from the ones you are used to back home, it is important to respect and obey the law of the country at all times.
1. Releasing of balloons into the environment is illegal
Yes, you didn’t read it wrong. While many people see balloon releases as an act of celebration during weddings and birthdays or to honor someone during a funeral, releasing balloons into the environment is actually considered littering – which is an illegal act in many countries, including Australia.
Currently, the Environment Protection Law and the penalty for the release of balloons differ in each Australian state and territory. Since the topic of balloon release and its impact on the environment is becoming a prevalent concern among Australians, it is advisable to check the latest updates on the state legislation and the environmental laws as there may be changes in the near future.
Under Section 115 of the Environment Protection Act 2017 for Litter and Pollution in Victoria, any person caught releasing a helium balloon will be fined up to $991 for a person or $4,956 for a company. Penalties for a series of balloon releases are more severe and will likely result in a payment of a fine for up to $16,522 for a person and $82,610 for a company.
So the next time you want to fly your balloons high up into the sky for whatever reasons, bear in mind that you could be fined for doing that!
2. No vacuuming at night
According to Section 48A of The Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Environment Protection (Residential Noise) Regulation 2018 in Victoria, it is an offence to make unreasonable noise in your residential place at a certain time of the day. This includes the use of a vacuum cleaner anytime after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. on weekdays and after 10 p.m. or before 9 a.m. on weekends. Complaints from neighbors or failure to comply with the law can result in a penalty.
3. Fortune-telling is illegal
Having your palm read, predicting your future or seeing a medium for various reasons may be common in many countries, but not for Australia as payment for such services is still seen as a fraud even until today!
Section 40 of the Summary Offence Act 1953 in Southern Australia states that anyone found guilty with the intention of deceiving their customers by pretending to be a fortune teller, spiritualist, medium or a role that allows them to exercise powers of telepathy, clairvoyance or similar powers will face a maximum fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for 2 years.
There is also a similar clause in the Northern Territory under Section 57 of the Summary Offences Act 1923 where the person guilty of this offence will face a penalty of $1,000 or imprisonment of 6 months or both.
4. Voting is compulsory
In Australia, voting for all State, Federal and council elections is compulsory. You are required to go to the polling station and cast your vote even if you do not have a political candidate in mind that you support and trust. Penalties, which differ from state to state, might be imposed on those who fail to do so without a valid reason.
In Victoria, the current penalty fee is $83 with a subsequent additional fee if payment is not made by the given deadline. In Western Australia, the penalty for first-time offenders is $20 and $50 for repeated offenders. In South Australia, a $70 fee applies if your reason for failing to vote is not accepted.
5. Anti-hoon Laws
Hooning is a common Aussie term used to describe the deliberate act of a person driving a vehicle in a dangerous and reckless manner on the road such as speeding, screeching tyres, street racing or burnouts without taking into account the safety of others.
To make roads safer and help reduce the number of accidents happening, police all across Australia are given the extra power to impound, immobilise or permanently confiscate a vehicle involved in hooning offences. Since paying a fine may not stop drivers from repeating their offences, taking their vehicles away from them may be the best course of action.
6. Bicycle helmets are compulsory
Riding a bicycle is commonly seen as a leisure activity to people from all over the world, and trust me, nobody ever really wears their protective gear half the time when they’re out. But we can’t say the same for Australia. It is compulsory to wear helmets in Australia unless you have any medical, cultural or religious reasons not to. It has to be an approved bicycle helmet that complies with AS 2063 or AS/NZS 2063. It has to also be securely fitted and fastened throughout the whole time when you are riding a bicycle, an electric bike, scooter or any personal mobility devices.
The penalty varies from state to state and it will be good to find out more information about the cycling laws in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and Northern Territory respectively before you go on a bike ride journey in Australia!
7. Possession of 50kg or more potatoes is prohibited
Potatoes are a food staple to millions of people in the world and yes, we get that it tastes amazing when combined with other ingredients, herbs or spices, and even when it is cooked using different methods.
But did you know that having 50kg of potatoes or more could actually land you into trouble? Under Section 22 of the Marketing of Potatoes Act 1946, anyone who is found selling, delivering or purchasing 50kg or more potatoes could face a penalty of up to $2,000 for first-time offenders and $5,000 for subsequent offences in Western Australia.
Strange as it may sound to you, police are also given the right to stop people and search vehicles if they are suspected to be in possession of 50kg of potatoes.
8. Disrupting a wedding or funeral is an offence
Section 7A of the Summary Offences Act 1953 states that any person caught intentionally obstructing or disrupting a wedding, funeral or religious service could face up to a whopping $10,000 fine or 2 years of imprisonment. So you might want to think twice before playing a secret prank on these ceremonies as the consequences could get heavy.
9. Offering a reward with ‘no questions asked’ for the return of stolen property is illegal
According to Section 48A of the Summary Offences Act 1953, it is illegal in the states of South Australia to advertise or offer a reward for the return of a stolen or lost property with a ‘no questions asked’, ‘no prosecution’ or ‘money paid for its purchase or by loan will be repaid’ as a policy stated. This can lead to a maximum fine of $500 as investigation for capturing any criminals in the process of returning the property is not possible.
There is also a similar clause in Tasmania under the Police Offences Act 1935 where a person found guilty of these offences will be fined up to a maximum of 5 penalty units.
10. Getting drunk in public or in a pub is an offence
Getting drunk is a common sight in many countries, especially in pubs, along the streets and even in your friend’s home. Whether it is for a celebratory occasion, a resort to unwinding and relaxing after a stressful day of work or just a simple social gathering, getting drunk won’t often lead you to face heavy penalties such as payment of fines or imprisonment – that’s provided you did not cause any public nuisance, unnecessary trouble or accidents.
In Australia, it is a whole different thing. Getting drunk anywhere, including pubs and public places, is considered illegal. According to the Summary Offences Act 1966 in Victoria, police can arrest and charge you if you are drunk and acting in a disorderly manner in public places. You can also be barred from a licensed place if you are caught getting drunk by the police, license or permit holder or even just an employee in that pub. You may even need to pay a fine if you are found guilty of consuming alcohol in unlicensed premises (which basically refers to almost all public places) or breaching the bar order.
Even in Western Australia, drinking in public is already an offence, much less getting drunk! No matter what age you are, you will face a fine of $200 for breaking the law or a maximum fine of $2,000.
So be wise, and drink at home if you must!
Now that you know some of the most interesting laws in Australia, it is good to be mindful of what to do and what not to do when you move over. Yes, it is understandable that sometimes you may be so caught up in your own routine that you forget this is no longer your previous home. But remember that an ignorant expat is no exception when it comes to the law!