Bunnings sausage sizzles have come under ridiculous scrutiny. Picture: Alison Wynd
Bunnings sausage sizzles have come under ridiculous scrutiny. Picture: Alison Wynd

The real culprit in the sausage sanga debacle

THE announcement by hardware giant Bunnings that it has finally decided to act on the until-now untackled but deadly scourge of people slipping over on barbecued onions might be a new high watermark in the stupidity of our times.

Much has been written and said about the so-called cotton wool generation and how this current crop of kids is being shielded from risk-taking.

The truth is that we are all, child and adult alike, being swaddled against the most fanciful and imaginary threats, despite zero evidence being presented that any of them have ever come to pass.

Readers will recall a couple of years ago when the Norwood, Payneham and St Peters Council resolved to move against what could rightly be described as the "diving board of death" at the local community swimming pool.

It could only of course be rightly described as the "diving board of death'' if someone had actually died jumping off it.

But the diving board, which had been there since 1957, had not only seen no deaths in its 60-year history, but no one had even been injured using it.

Anyhow, some narc turned up with a measuring stick and discovered to their horror that the water under the board was 2.75m-deep when it should really have been 3.4m-deep under the new mandated standards.

The “diving board of death” that caused precisely zero fatalities before it was closed. Picture: supplied
The “diving board of death” that caused precisely zero fatalities before it was closed. Picture: supplied

The council voted 9-1 to shut it down, with the area chained off and a cheery "board closed" sign erected, thus ensuring there would never be a repeat of something that had never happened there.

In a similarly paranoid vein, Bunnings chief operating officer Debbie Poole this week explained why they were taking such dramatic measures on the onion question.

"Safety is always our number one priority and we recently introduced a suggestion that onion be placed underneath sausages to help prevent the onion from falling out and creating a slipping hazard," she said.

As a result of this perceived risk, Bunnings has now decreed that in future, all sausage sangas sold at its charity tents must have the onion placed directly on to the bread, rather than the oily surface of the snag, whereupon the onion could of course slide off on to the road, with all hell breaking loose as the bodies start piling up.

How did we get here?

In my view, this arrant stupidity is not really the fault of Bunnings at all.

It's the fault of lawyers, and those rank opportunists who don't see stars when they slip on a banana skin, but dollar signs.

Our journey down the path towards American-style litigation means that councils, businesses, pretty much everyone who engages with the public is now so paranoid about the impact of public liability claims that could end up costing them a motza, that they are jumping at shadows when it comes to banning things that pose no threat at all.

This sort of onion placement has now been banned, but who is really to blame? Picture: Matt Thompson
This sort of onion placement has now been banned, but who is really to blame? Picture: Matt Thompson

In the early 2000s, Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper ran an excellent campaign entitled "The Death of Fun", where it chronicled the staggering number of council events and pieces of council infrastructure that had been cancelled or closed on the most spurious safety grounds.

It also examined the rise of personal injury claims, which were often so audacious and ludicrous that you wonder how they weren't simply thrown out of court.

One of these involved a bloke who was off his face at his local pub and won the meat tray.

He had lost his thongs and one of the bar staff told him he needed footwear to remain on the premises. Being an ideas man, this fellow decided to remove two pork chops from the meat tray, which he affixed to his feet.

He then slipped over as the fat from the chops skidded on the pub's floor, the bones cutting his feet and the fall injuring his back.

He struggled to return to work and experienced anxiety attacks, which were presumably at their worst whenever he saw chops, ham, or any other pork products.

He took the pub to court, saying it had failed in its duty of care by providing him with the pork chops which he subsequently decided to use as shoes.

And he won.

In scenes that would never be allowed today, these Birdman Rally competitors in 1980 hurtle downwards in homemade contraptions. Picture: News Corp
In scenes that would never be allowed today, these Birdman Rally competitors in 1980 hurtle downwards in homemade contraptions. Picture: News Corp

And not because of responsible service of alcohol rules, but because the pub was found guilty of contributory negligence in equipping him with the chops.

It will probably get to the stage where we will ban the provision of meat trays by any unauthorised person or persons without the requisite meat-handling certificate, a sound grasp of the breeding habits of the E. coli bacteria, and a fridge that's been checked every week by the council health inspectors to ensure it's sufficiently cold.

And we already know, courtesy of Coopers, that it's no longer possible in Australia to organise a piss-up in a brewery, after the company was ordered to obtain a liquor licence in order to lay on a few cold ones in a tent for the excellent staff at its Regency Park factory.

It seems bizarre that just a generation ago one of the most beloved fixtures on the Adelaide summer calendar was the Birdman Rally, where those magnificent men in their flying machines would plunge off the Glenelg Jetty in flimsy homemade contraptions, few of which were even remotely aerodynamic.

It is hard to imagine anything more illegal and improbable in 2018. I mean, just think about it.

Jumping off a jetty in a balsa wood spitfire?

It's a slippery slope.

Next thing you know people will be putting grilled onions on top of sausages, for crying out loud.



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