10 things you won’t believe are illegal
Australians like to see themselves as the laid-back type, unfazed by most and not prone to wowserism. But our laws reflect something entirely different.
There are many strange and eyebrow-raising crimes on the books in Australia.
Some are old laws that are probably due for repeal, others have been recently upheld as valid despite seeming out of place.
Here are just some things you won't believe are illegal Down Under.
Plan on starting a business divining the future or speaking to the dead? Consult your crystal ball (or qualified legal professional) first!
South Australia has the broadest ban prohibiting "a person who, with intent to defraud, purports to act as a spiritualist or medium, or to exercise powers of telepathy or clairvoyance or other similar powers".
The offence comes with a hefty $10,000 fine or the risk of two years' imprisonment.
Didn't see that coming, did you?
Sorry to say, but your favourite pastime might be illegal. Under Australia's national classification laws, films depicting actual sex between consenting adults are subject to an X18+ classification.
However, X18+ films can only be exhibited or sold in the ACT or the Northern Territory. In every other jurisdiction, sellers and exhibitors risk a hefty fine.
The X18+ classification is also only reserved for the most vanilla of sexual acts. Fetishes such as the dripping of candle wax (actual words in the classification guidelines) are too saucy for Australia and are outright banned from smutty films.
Oh yeah, porn is also not allowed on the internet. Don't tell anyone!
3. BAD MUSIC
Are your ears bleeding from some scruffy guy's poor rendition of Wonderwall? The Northern Territory has got you!
A $200 fine applies in the Territory to people who "play musical instruments so as to annoy". Most other jurisdictions have laws allowing buskers to be moved on if not approved by local council.
If only we could get a national ban on Kings of Leon covers.
4. PAID PUNCH-ONS
Fancy yourself as a slightly pudgier Tyler Durden? Well you better stick to the first rule of Fight Club in South Australia.
A $750 fine applies to a person who accepts a challenge to fight for money or engages in a prize fight. Exceptions apply to recognised professional sports and licensed venues.
To some this may seem like a reasonable restriction for public wellbeing, but I'm taking this on as a nanny state issue and developing conspiracy theories about the unethical influence of Big Jujitsu. #PrizeFightersArePatriots.
While some of these laws have been funny, this just seems cruel. Most jurisdictions in Australia (except Western Australia and NSW) have criminal offences attached to begging for money.
Criminalising begging is something that homelessness organisations say punishes people for being poor and can further entrench risk factors for poverty.
Many of these offences ostensibly come with hefty consequences, such as the risk of 12 months' imprisonment in Victoria.
Keep it in your pants! All jurisdictions have laws against public indecency and sexual exposure, which, I'm sorry to say, includes exposing your rump.
Victoria implemented a specific offence for this kind of exposure in 2016, banning "behaviour that is indecent, offensive or insulting includes behaviour that involves a person exposing (to any extent) the person's anal or genital region".
The offence also deals with the issue of public streaking, long a hobby of drunken idiots across the continent.
7. TACKLING PIGEONS
Yes, you read correctly.
Now seen as a pest, the domestic pigeon was once quite useful as a communication device and this is still reflected in some jurisdictions.
8. OBJECTING AT WEDDINGS
Have a good reason as to why the bride and groom shall not be wed? Keep your mouth shut in South Australia or risk two years in prison.
It is an offence to intentionally obstruct or disturb a wedding or funeral in SA and the punishment is a hefty one!
The offence only applies during the actual service, so if you do think the groom is a bit of a knob, I'd raise your objection at the engagement party.
9. LASER POINTERS
While commonly seen as a mildly amusing toy for kids, laser pointers are treated like deadly weapons in most Australian jurisdictions.
In Tasmania and NSW, merely having a laser pointer on you "without a lawful excuse" carries a hefty fine. Other jurisdictions are concerned about dangerous misuse including shining the laser at cars or planes.
The lesson? Keep your lasers at home in a locked safe so they won't get misused by hoodlums.
Despite being a country that has almost colloquialised the c-word, all jurisdictions in Australia have laws against "offensive language" in public. What constitutes offensive language depends on context and culture.
Luckily, offensive language seems to be changing over time. We can thank gay rights activists for reclaiming the word "f**k" into the public parlance with a 2015 judgement indicating that signs during a protest that told right-wing politician Fred Nile to "f**k off" were fair game.
- Jarryd Bartle is a lawyer turned consultant and writer on sex, drugs and crime.