Activity 2: Creating a law
When settlement of a problem does require a new law, a range of different views must be taken into consideration. The ten people below might have an interest in the issue of neighbourhood pets.
Working in pairs, assume the role of one of these people:
- RSPCA official
- old person whose pet is a companion
- joggers who are chased by dogs
- local pet store owner
- local council member who represents the whole community
- ratepayer who has to pay for all government services but who does not own a pet
- bird-watching club member
- animal liberationist who is opposed to keeping any animals in captivity
- member of a family which owns and loves its three pets
- local wildlife protection officer.
2a For your character, work out:
- your attitude to the issue
- your arguments or reasons for supporting this attitude (to be put to a public meeting)
- your solution to the problem of how to make sure people control their pets.
2b Now hold a meeting of all these people, and put your view. Your teacher, who will chair the meeting, will call on individuals to present one suggestion from your character. Either one of your pair can be selected - so be prepared!
2c Make a note of all the proposals put to the meeting, and decide which three your character thinks are best.
2d Vote as a class on all the proposals, eliminating the one with the least votes. Keep voting in this way until there is only one solution left.
2e Discuss whether you think this is a good way of coming to a solution. If a law comes out of this process, is the neighbourhood likely to accept it?
2f Take the result of 2d. Now draft this proposal as a law, trying to make it clear and simple but able to solve the problem of controlling pets from damaging wildlife. Include in your law:
- which animals are to be controlled
- how they are to be controlled
- who is responsible for the pets
- what penalties, if any, are to be included.
Head your law: A law to control domestic pets and protect native wildlife.
2g To test the scope of your law, see if it covers these situations.
- A dog digs up rare plants in a nature reserve. Has your law covered this situation?
- A pet ferret mauls a baby koala. Does your law cover this situation?
- A pet has been locked up, but it escapes and kills some birds. Does your law punish the owner? Should it?
- A ranger is chasing a dangerous pet, which runs into a house. Does the ranger have the power to enter and catch the pet?
- The wrong pet is caught - the one caught did not actually cause any damage. Does your law allow you, the law maker, to be protected from being sued by the owner for such a mistake?
Has your law covered these situations? If so, congratulations! Your law deals with real situations. If not, you need to make changes to your law so that it can do what it is supposed to do.
In this neighbourhood example, you have experienced something of how and why statute laws (Acts of Parliament) come into being. A need is aired, a possible solution is worked out by a law-making body (parliament), and a law is put into effect for the benefit of individuals or communities. So how do parliaments actually make laws in Australia?
Activity 3: Pass the Bill