Citizens Opposed to Bureaucratic Bullying and Excessive Regulation

COBBERs in the Media

Media Details

Since Newsletter #1, COBBERs has been on TV (Channel 9 with Kerri-Anne Kennelly), has had a full page write-up in the Herald Sun (the country’s biggest paper), has been on some radio talkbacks, and has been written up in several smaller newspapers.

Letter to Sunday Age

(6 December 1998)


Australians fought and died to defend a quality of life called freedom. Their memory is being dishonoured today by a bullying bureaucracy which is undermining the Australian lifestyle, not by swaggering acts of overt dictatorship, but by thousands of petty, mean-spirited regulations, accumulating year by year. Little acts of oppression are happening every day, in government offices all over the country, most of them not big enough to make the papers.

Almost everything in this country is now tangled in red tape.  The attitude of local government in many places has reached virtually overt contempt of its citizens. Many of our petty officials revel in mindless enforcement, making people waste money and time, interfering in lives, sometimes smashing dreams, often knowing full well in specific cases that their controls are serving no genuine community purpose.

I am very unhappy about the latest two tugs by the red tape stranglers in Victoria   –   proposals to impose licensing on individual humans fishing with a single rod in the ocean, and to impose licensing on sausage sizzles. Every department has its own narrow reasons for inflicting its new regulations, but there is no department for protecting us from the cumulative effect. And it seems no politician either. There is no party for the Protection of Humans from Bureaucratic Suffocation.

The benefit of our high standard of living is increasingly undermined by man-made controls. It takes a long time to learn the bureaucratic ropes.  No wonder life is so depressing for many young people, especially teenagers - to whom it seems nothing is permitted.

From now on, human room to move should be recognised as a serious argument for repealing controls that aren’t grievously necessary. It should be seen as a valid argument against new controls. Regulations are always clumsy. Officials should be required to back off in cases where they are doing more harm than good.


Philip O'Carroll's Home Page

A Current Affair

COBBERS founder Philip O’Carroll appeared on Channel 9 television’s A CURRENT AFFAIR on the 5th of April 2000 to discuss a host of new regulations that a Melbourne suburban council (Whitehorse) had heaped upon its citizens.

This council has created regulations forbidding: weeds over 20cm, a car being done up at home, golf practice or horse-riding even in empty parks, indoor furniture in home gardens, unit dwellers having more than one pet, and 92 other changes.


Mike Munro:
Most Australians want to be law-abiding citizens and mostly we are, but … it’s getting harder to avoid breaking the law … . As councils intervene more and more in our lives, one critic says it’s time we started to fight back against bureaucratic red tape and revenue-raising. More from Martin King:

Martin King: According to these by-laws, this is against the law, this sofa on your front lawn.

Citizen 1: Is it?

MK: Yes. Because, you can’t allow land to become unsightly or detrimental to the general amenity of the area.

C1: Yeah , but it’s not going to be permanent.

PO’C: Australia is fast becoming the most regulated country on this planet.

MK: Are you aware you have left your bin out, and your recycling bin?

C2: No, no , no, no, I’ll bring it in though.

MK: Yeah, any good reason for that?

C2: Ah…..No

PO’C: What we’re actually looking at is a [gradual] coup; a takeover, by the bureaucrats, taking over control of Australian life.

Voice Over: When it comes to invoking new laws our bureaucrats are a law unto themselves. …

MK: Philip O’Carroll …says our nation is … over regulated, over governed and over-the-top with petty rules and regulations. …Philip is fighting back …he started a movement called COBBERS.

MK: Philip says 98 changes to local laws have [stifled] fun and just about everything else.

More than one dog or cat in a small Premises?

C3: The people who live in small properties like that are often single people, lonely people, and their dogs are their only friends.

PO’C: Some [bureaucrat] has legislated only one cat per household. Who the hell does he think he is? What arrogance!

Voice Over: Walk your dog without a plastic bag; fail to pick up your dog’s poo; let your grass or weeds grow more than twenty centimetres high; store a vehicle that’s unregistered; fail to return a shopping trolley; swim, paddle or jump in the fountain; smoke tobacco unless in the open air; live in a caravan for more than two weeks; and practice your golf swing in a park…

MK: Excuse me, I noticed you were having a hit of golf.

C4: Yes.

MK: Are you aware that there is a new council law that you can’t practice golf or any other sport that could be dangerous to others?

C4: It shouldn’t be … because it’s not dangerous to anybody.

PO’C: Their takeover of our lives, our finances, our freedoms is increasing month by month.

MK: They’re public servants but do they serve the public?

PO’C: The public servants are now the public masters.

VOICE OVER: In the past financial year Australians have paid more that $120m into local councils. Victorians are the biggest losers, fined $75m which includes parking fines. NSW councils collected almost $15m. That figure is low because most of the parking fines are enforced by the police. In QLD, the civil servants collected almost $20m in fines. In SA they raked in more than $7m. In WA, more than $9m went west. And down in Tassie, $3.3m.

PO’C: This is revenue raising. Aussies are being screwed.

Steven Wright (acting CEO at the city of Whitehorse): If everyone behaved in a way that didn’t interfere with their neighbours, then we wouldn’t need local laws at all. However, unfortunately that’s not the case.

VOICE OVER: Steven Wright … says the raft [list] of new laws is simply a response to public demand and not revenue raising.

SW: We have something like 7300 complaints last calendar year and that’s up almost double from three years ago, so…

[FOC comment: And they can double this again if they invent more regulations: the more rules you make, the more you empower the dobbers!]

PO’C: It’s become impossible to simply act freely and spontaneously. Wherever you turn there’s a regulation, there’s a charge, there’s a fine, there’s a permit.

MK: Now you can’t keep more than six chooks, fifty caged birds, five rabbits, six guinea pigs, six mice, five reptiles or forty pigeons. Is that fair?

SW: Yes. You can have a partridge in a pear tree. [joke]

VOICE OVER: Over Booroondara way, carrying out maintenance on a car by the roadside is a no-no. Two suburbs away, sell your car on the side of the road and you’ll be sorry. And across the other side of town, spit on a flower or shrub and you’ll pay.

PO’C: It makes me feel that Australia is turning into one of those miserable East European countries that was … under the boot of a totalitarian government.

MK: Have you taken over our lives …?

SW: I don’t believe so, no.

C5: Absolute rubbish…
I mean stupid fines.
C6: And every day they’re making more and more rules just to make more and more money off us Australians who are earning an honest living.

C7: I mean we’re supposed to be a democracy and that’s all about freedom. And with too many rules and regulations you’re just not going to get that.

MK: Now the weeds can’t be more than 2Ocm …[Then checking the Council’s own weeds] … these look like they’re more than 20cm to me. [measuring] That’s ah, a hundred…oh, a hundred and twenty three … centimetres, what do you think of that?

[returning to the general point]
PO’C: It is sinister, because these fining and charging and regulating empires have to support themselves, so they have to keep fining us, just to remain in business.

  • It’s a travesty of democracy.
  • It’s the wrong way around.
  • It’s the tail wagging the dog.

Mike Munro: It sure is. Aren’t they absolutely outrageous. Martin King reporting there in Melbourne. And Whitehorse Council say they will review any of their local laws if residents have a problem with them. I think they’re going to be very busy.

(from Newsletter #3)

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