South Australia is considering outlawing dangerous planking attempts as the increasingly-popular social media-fueled craze puts the fragile lives of the state’s vulnerable youth at serious risk.
Crikey understands that a secret cabinet submission, circulated under the auspices of freshly-minted Attorney General John Rau, is doing the rounds in government circles that makes some acts of planking — in which adherents are photographed or videoed lying face down on a random object parallel to the ground — a criminal offence. Unspecified “related behaviour” would also fall under its orbit.
An attachment to the document is said to contain images of what public servants consider to be safe and dangerous or “precipitous” planking — in which the broader public as well as the planker is endangered. The proposal would be enacted via a new amendment to the state’s Criminal Law Consolidation Act.
Nine days ago, a 20-year-old Brisbane man plunged to his death after a planking stunt on a 7th floor Kangaroo Point balcony went horribly wrong. Just hours before, AFL identity Sam Newman carried out his own high rise plank, drawing widespread criticism across the country.
Associate Professor of Law at the University of Adelaide, Ian Leader-Elliott, said he had first heard about the planking ban from sources inside the Attorney General’s department and had a bit of a laugh.
“I’m opposed to nanny state legislation. My first reaction was that it’s such a silly practice so that no harm will be done by a silly law. There’s more harmful things parliament can be legislating against.”
Leader-Elliot added that any proposed “related behaviour” clause could have unintended consequences.
“People who draft this legislation sit there and scratch their heads about the other things that might be dangerous. What else might go with it under the cover of that? The tendency is that once you get a chance to draft legislation there are other things that get caught up in it.”
A spokesperson for John Rau refused to deny the submission was doing the rounds, but said that in line with cabinet confidentiality rules he couldn’t comment on something that “hadn’t been ticked off yet.”
South Australian Liberal shadow attorney general Stephen Wade slammed the proposal.
“John Rau, are you serious? Do you really think this is the number 1 issue facing south Australians?,” he said.
South Australian Greens MLC Mark Parnell, a lawyer of 25 years, said he was surprised if the submission ended up getting approved: “It doesn’t make sense. You cannot legislate to stop all idiot behaviour, some of the more dangerous stunts people have done are already outlawed. If you’re planking on a vehicle you’re already breaking a whole lot of traffic laws.
“But for the government to attempt to legislate for other forms of offensive behaviour, I would seriously question whether it’s the best move,” he said, adding that one SA Greens staffer had allegedly planked for seven hours last night in their bed, while another had recently planked for up to 20 minutes on an inflatable ball at a nearby gym.
“Also it would be difficult to prove. If no one sees you did you plank? Would a YouTube video be conclusive proof? The evidentiary stuff is very difficult to manage. And that’s assuming you want to legislate in the first place.”
Planking has skirted legal controversy in recent weeks, with a Brisbane man charged for planking on a police car and workers at Woolworths and LNG behemoth Santos fired for undertaking the often humorous stunt. McDonald’s has also launched an investigation into planking by employees on its premises.
There is no guarantee the proposal will make into the statute book. Under cabinet submission guidelines, the relevant minister submits a proposal to cabinet, which then decides whether to sign off on it and brief legislative drafters.
Last month, the respected Rau courted controversy after declaring South Australia will move to introduce an R18+ rating on computer games without the agreement of the other states.
This time around, the likelihood of the state becoming an international embarrassment may give his colleagues pause for thought.