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Australia is a funny place.
On the one hand they call Kiwis "cobbers" and "mates from across the ditch" -- but on the other, they treat NZers who are resident in their country like lepers, denying them many of the rights and entitlements that "real Aussies" get.
If you're an Aussie living in NZ, you get full access to healthcare, ACC, free education, student loans, etc., and you're even allowed to vote in the elections.
Flip the coin however, and things aren't nearly so fair.
Kiwis who are simply living in Australia without becoming Aussie citizens are now now hardly getting a fair suck of the sav.
Perhaps it's because I remember jumping back and forth over the Tassie as a young man in my late teens and early 20s -- as if it was just a trip to the next town.
Back in the 1970s, we didn't need a passport to cross the ditch, hell, we didn't even need any form of ID.
I remember on at least a couple of occasions, a group of mates and myself just deciding, for no real reason, to jump the ditch and try to pull a few birds on a Saturday night. We'd roll up to the airport and buy a ticket, amble onto the plane at one end, amble off at the other and just get a taxi to a suitable nightclub.
Come the wee small hours of the morning, when we'd had enough partying, we'd get a cab back to the airport and sleep until our return flight was ready.
We were all just "mates" back then and it didn't matter whether you were an Aussie in NZ or a Kiwi in Oz.
Now, of course, Australia is a foreign country and if you're a Kiwi jumping the ditch, you'll be treated as a foreigner -- although the converse isn't really true.
Anyway, back to the theme of today's column (now that I've lured you in and you've dropped your guard).
To date, the Aussie's regulatory framework for drones has been pretty good. In fact, I often use it as an example of how to do things properly when discussing the issue of drone regulation on the global stage.
Unfortunately, there are always a few dullards in the halls of power and a few people that are so thick they can't see a hidden agenda when it slaps them in the face.
That is undoubtedly why an inquiry into drone safety across the ditch has called on the Australian Senate to tighten their perfectly adequate (and in some ways truly excellent) drone laws.
Firstly, let's look at the premise they're using to demand a tightening of the rules:
They're claiming that drones pose too much of a risk to people and property.
Okay, if that's the case, where are all the injuries? Where is all the property damage? where are all the deaths?
Answer: Um, well, there haven't been any injuries deaths or property damage to date but it *could* happen.
Seriously -- we're not talking *actual* risk here, we're talking hysteria.
Secondly, who's behind this initiative?
Well The Australian quotes Anthony Shorten, the managing director and chief pilot of photographic firm Aerial Advantage as saying that he'd seen a rise in unqualified operators "taking larger and larger risks" and saying "we do a lot of helicopter work and are probably at the highest risk".
Excuse me? So this is a guy whose businesses (manned aerial photography) is under threat from drones so he's expected to be an objective judge of the true risks these craft pose? Of course he's at the highest risk -- the highest risk of losing business to cheaper, safer drone-based aerial photography companies! Only a complete idiot would not see the agenda behind this man's comments.
Greg Tyrrell, executive director of the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems attributes the bottom line to a lack of education -- and he's dead right. As we all know, most people who cause a problem do so out of ignorance of the rules or good practice. No amount of tightening those rules will have any effect on people who don't know what the rules are.
An ounce of education is worth a pound of regulation.
Sadly, politicians and lobby groups are not interested in education -- their business is *regulation* -- hence we end up with dick-head moves such as the one currently being presented to the Australian Transport Minister.
Hopefully, the Senate will see this move for what it is and kick it into touch. Sadly, I fear that there will be a great deal of funny-handshaking and exchanging of notes (the negotiable variety) behind the scenes and the poor old Aussies might find that their very sensible drone laws are nixed -- in favour of regulation by hysteria (as we have, to quite a degree, here in New Zealand).
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