Rules, policies, laws? Bah Phooey! All of these silly rules we come up with are consistent with phrases such as ‘Nanny-state’ and ‘Overly restrictive’ and ‘Use some common-sense’. People generally want flexibility with the enforcement of rules and laws when they see them from a single personal perspective. “My son has only just gone a little over the limit, your Honour, and it is out of character for him. It was the first time he has ever had a drink and he needs to drive for his job. Surely you could ignore those silly inflexible PCA laws just this once?” I am sure this type of leniency plea is voiced every day from people who are impacted by our laws. On the flip side, people often want rules enforced with all of their power – and then some. The same courtroom as above may have another parent pleading the exact opposite. “My daughter was simply standing on the side of the road when this crazy drunk driver weaved over to her side and knocked her down with his side mirror. A few more centimetres and we wouldn’t have been visiting her in the hospital – we would have been had to go to the morgue. Hit him with the maximum jail time – and then some!”

Unfortunately with the rules in place across our nation, it is very rare for there to be a situation where there is a single perspective. With Councils in particular, I see the very raw face of differing points of view being mutually exclusive where a decision needs to be made based on policies already in place. The best time to make a decision on any policy, of course, is when there is no pending decision. The points of view of people intimately involved in any decision – and their emotions – can cloud good policy-making. If a decision is to be made by referring to a previous existing policy, it tends to take the raw emotion out of the decision and allows a decision to be made on more rational and logical grounds. This isn’t to say that Councillors are robots and make decisions in a perfect clinical fashion. There are doctorates and books written on how people make decisions and I still don’t think there is a simple answer.

We have seen some interesting discussions in our community lately involving signage. Signage falls under several policies at both a State and Local level. There is the State Environmental Planning Policy No. 64; the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979; the Dubbo Development Control Plan 2013 and the Dubbo Local Environmental Plan 2011. In over-simplified terms, a Business Identification Sign must relate to the business carried on at the premise; it requires Development Consent and there are limits to the size of the signage. The intent of these policies is to prevent a proliferation of signs throughout an area. There are many locals who simply cannot understand the enforcement of these rules and would like to erect larger signs at different locations to advertise their business. I can fully understand this concept – signs are a cost-effective way to promote a business. It often amazes me that the same people who argue to be able to erect signs outside these policies are the first to lodge a formal complaint about other signs they see that they believe are outside this policy. Again viewing items from a single perspective. Of course we have seen the other situation just over the last week where an itinerant trader (keep in mind that itinerant is not an insult – it is a statement of fact where the word is used to mean “travelling from place to place”) wanted to erect signage throughout our City to advertise an upcoming event. I would always prefer to ensure our local businesses were given advantages over itinerant traders so Council showed no flexibility to this travelling show – and neither should they have. Why would Council enforce their signage rules with our local businesses who pay rates and employ locals and contribute to our economy every day of the year – and then allow a travelling show to erect illegal signage? The rules and policies are in place for a reason and were enforced correctly. It was then interesting to note that public sentiment was firmly on the side of the travelling show and Council were accused of being a ‘bunch of clowns’ for not allowing the illegal signage. If this trader was allowed to erect signage outside our policy, how do we possibly argue against our good local businesses when they want to erect illegal signage?

I am sure it won’t be the last time I say it – government authorities only have two choices. Either enforce the laws and policies that are in place or change them to suit what is required. I don’t believe a cohesive and consistent society should allow the enforcement of policy to be at the whim of the enforcer.

Tell me if you think I am out of touch with the human side of government at


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