The dogs are barking.
As December arrives and the festive season kicks into full swing, we find time to reflect, acknowledge and celebrate.
The end of the calendar year and heralding the new year often involves fireworks.
There is still a firecracker night each year in Tasmania. During 2019 it was May 25 with a permit required to host your display.
The Worksafe Tasmanian website informs us that: "to hold a firework display for Cracker Night, you must obtain a permit from WorkSafe Tasmania.
Firework displays held without a permit are illegal and attract severe monetary fines.
Anyone 18 years or older can apply for a Cracker Night fireworks permit. If a permit is issued, it allows type 2 fireworks to be used.
Cracker Night falls on May 24 each year. If this date is not a Saturday, the following Saturday will apply."
As a young lad, it was very different!
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Tom Thumbs, Pohas, Bungers, Throwdowns, Roman Candles, and Parachutes, among others, could be purchased in a variety pack from the local fish and chip store. No need for a permit nor adherence to strict rules, just cash to buy the explosive devices before releasing them at the nearest park, school or backyard during the evening.
It was wild.
Firecrackers were launched from PVC pipes like bazookas or worse, from young people's hands. It was viewed as great fun, perhaps even a rite of passage. Adolescents displaying equal parts bravado and stupidity were lucky not to suffer more injuries. Parents condoned their behaviour. In most cases, they dealt out the cash and made the purchase.
Thankfully, we now have a far more regulated and safer regime in place.
On New Year's Eve across Australia, fireworks will bring in 2020. In Sydney, the cost will be upwards of $5.8 million. The Taste of Tasmania in Hobart will use 1000 kilograms of fireworks costing about $70,000 and lasting 10 minutes. Beerfest at Royal Park in Launceston will have two firework displays; one at twilight and another to acknowledge the New Year.
I found it difficult to accept that firework displays still took place last New Year's Eve when we were experiencing such dry conditions, with a total fire ban declared across much of Tasmania just a few days later.
Facebook provided a platform to voice my opinion, which received a varied response. Some comments were supportive while others saw me as a killjoy, not apparently understanding that the display is launched from a platform on a pontoon in the middle of the Tamar River and is therefore harmless low-risk family entertainment.
I don't want cracker nights banned nor do I want to diminish people's right to have fun and enjoy the company of family and friends in the process. For me, it is about priorities.Brian Wightman
A petition has started in Sydney calling on decision-makers to donate the millions spent on displays to drought-affected farmers or to those who have lost their homes across New South Wales and Queensland due to devastating fires. I find myself sympathetic to their cause.
I don't want cracker nights banned nor do I want to diminish people's right to have fun and enjoy the company of family and friends in the process. For me, it is about priorities. There are plenty of Australians who could benefit from the millions of dollars that firework displays cost across the country.
In suggesting this diversion of funds to those in need I am igniting a fuse. My family has attended cracker nights over the years. From backyard performances to VIP events where we were granted an incredible viewing position and wonderful entertainment. We have also been at home listening to the fireworks while shepherding the dog inside agitated by the noise.
And I understand that governments and councils subsidise different events to generate larger economic impact with families spending money and supporting local businesses.
However, with all the challenging and tragic circumstances across Australia, it would be appropriate to use the money to support those most in need. To lose your home or shoot your prized and valuable livestock because they are starving is a level of heartbreak that I find difficult to comprehend. Most dogs hate fireworks and some of their owners now view the traditional New Year's Eve display as an opportunity to donate a portion of the ticket prices, rates and taxes to a far more worthy cause.
- Brian Wightman is a former state Attorney-General and school principal.
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