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  • Mark Shaw

What in the world has happened?

A colleague shared a recent experience.


They were planning their annual school feast including speeches, fun activities for the students, presentation, free sausage sizzle, etc. All the usual stuff they have done for the last 10 years.


The change was the school has a new WH&S team who advised the school’s principal that there were not enough staff members who have their basic food preparation certification to cook that many sausages in one morning and storing 1,000 raw sausages amongst the other products in the Home Economics kitchen was unsafe.


The result was the sausage sizzle was cancelled.


What in the world has happened when you cannot cook sausages on a BBQ in Australia?


In my view there are two factors that I believe can explain what has happened.


The first relates to the ever-increasing volume of legislation.  I remind everyone of Kerry Packer’s famous response to a Parliamentary inquiry in November 1991.


“Why do you want to change the rules again? I mean, since I grew up as a boy, I would imagine that through the parliaments of Australia, from the time I was 18, 19 years of age to now, there must be 10,000 new laws being passed. And I don't really think it's that much better place.” 


He then went on to say “In my experience, we’ve had a couple of new laws introduced in my lifetime that have really been good. The rest of them have just been a pain in the backside."


Secondly, is the reliance by decision makers on the ever-expanding specialisation that has occurred over time.


While I am the first to argue for specialist knowledge and continuous improvement in standards, I’d argue there comes a time when the benefits of incremental improvement cause more harm than good.  For example, most people I know now seem to accept that most Governments over-reliance on medical advice during COVID 19 caused a loss of balance in their response to the pandemic.


In summary, my view is that the time-honoured sausage sizzle is a victim of such increased legislation and over-reliance on specialist advice.


Yet I’d argue all is not lost.  There is hope and solutions that we can all apply.


Rather than the WH&S team saying what could not be done, they could have presented ideas on what could be done.  Equally, the school leaders could have challenged such specialists to provide solutions, rather than just giving them roadblocks.


For example, to allow the sausage sizzle to happen, perhaps one qualified person could have supervised the others. And perhaps the tuck shop fridge or two large eskies with ice could have safely stored the sausages. 


When we focus on solutions, then the outcome is we can continue to enjoy the simple things in life - such as a sausage sizzle at the annual school feast.

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