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A Letter to the Editor

This posting was emailed to forum@barkingdogs.net:

The FCC 31/3/10 page 6 states Chris Foley asked Queensland Parliament what would be done to help “well behaved” neighbours who suffered abuse from less well-behaved neighbours.  
 
I twice approached Mr. Foley several years ago about this problem, but he refused to raise it in Parliament.

The proposed Bill emanates from a survey (Sunday Mail 18/6/06) which revealed that one in five Queenslanders is forced to move house to escape rotten neighbours.
 
The  then Attorney General decided to look at Livability Courts such as operate in the U.S.A., (Charleston, South Carolina) which deal with neighbourhood disputes (Sunday Mail 25/6/06).
 
To date all that has been done is to ask the public for submissions re dividing fences.  The next subject will be trees.
 
The majority of neighbourhood “disputes” are about noise.  Over 50% of noise complaints are about barking dogs.
 
The administering authority for animal noise is Council; the Police deal with most other noise.   Councils blatantly refuse to do anything about barking dogs.  The Police don’t have to, so don’t.
 
The result is that sociopathic types knowingly and deliberately leave their dogs unattended in tiny back yards all day, every day, barking their heads off.  If you speak to the owners, they will run screaming to the Police who will be on your doorstep in a flash directing you not to ”harass” your poor neighbour.  
 
Such neighbours laugh behind their hands at the incredible power they have to torment you non-stop forever, without penalty, aided and abetted by the authorities.  They are treated like Royalty while their hapless victims are treated like dirt.+++

I spoke to Premier Anna Bligh and the Attorney General at the Community Cabinet Meeting at Hervey Bay in 2008, and was told barking dogs would not be addressed in this so-called Neighbourly Relations Bill.
 
This means that neighbourhood “disputes” will continue unabated.
 
Please note that being noise-abused is neither a “nuisance” nor a “dispute”; it is a major health hazard.  It is high time the Government addressed it promptly without further ado.

P.A. Robb, Naryborough

 
*********

+++ See Australian Press Council Adjudication #1230 in early 2004, which ruled against the Chronicle.  The reporter, Ernie Paussa, retired soon afterwards.
 
 
Read Terry Sweetman’s take on this matter hereunder:

 
EXTRACT FROM SUNDAY MAIL, BRISBANE, DATED JULY 7,  2006

 
SULNDAY EXTRA
 
By  Terry Sweetman           sweetwords@ozemail.com.au
 
 
Bullies who are beyond reason
 
I have never been forced to draw stumps and move house because of problems with neighbours.
 
However, some have made the decision to move a damned sight easier.
 
One poor soul was clearly nuts, the result of a tough time behind barbed wire during World War 11.
 
Another had a team of dogs that were pooches of perfection until she went to work.
 
Another just had more kids than were comfortable at our time of life.
 
Apart from the crazy lady, who was given to throwing rocks, hurling abuse and making insane accusations, most were reasonable people in other regards.
 
Some were marvels, people whose friendship we still treasure.  I’ve been lucky but I’ve had enough bad experiences to know there is no more helpless feeling than to be confronted on a daily basis by people who are immune to common sense and reasonable behaviour.
 
And, it is obvious from feedback from readers and from a recent Sunday Mail survey that neighbourliness is not a happy state of affairs for many people.
 
One in five said he or she had been run out of house and home by neighbours whose behaviour has ranged from the truly bizarre to the criminal.  Clearly, some of those who claim such martyrdom are as loopy as they come, unduly touchy, obsessive or even paranoid.
 
But, as they say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean somebody’s not out to get you.
 
So, what is it with some people that they just can’t live within the reasonable confines of a civilized community?  Why do some people just have to make life miserable for their neighbours?  Is it some kind of downward envy thing, or is it territorial roaring and fencepost piddling?
 
Apart from some poor, isolated, alienated stay-at-home nutters, drunks and crazies, I don’t think it has much to do with neighbours or neighbourhoods.
 
I think it is just a symptom of the same sort of social inadequacy that afflicts some people wherever they are.
 
The people who throw rocks on neighbouring roofs, heave dog turds into swimming pools, vandalise property and possessions, scream out insults and obscenities and terrorise women and children are the very same people who go ape in traffic, run amok in car parks, pick fights in hotels, belt their kids around and ears in supermarkets and have stand-up brawls with their spouses in public places.
 
They were standing behind the door when the reasonable genes were being handed out and they go through life in a mist of barely concealed envy, anger and grief.  If they’re not tormenting the people over the fence, they’ve out picking fights and belting people in parks.
 
At school, they were probably the kids who were banished to weed the garden during lessons, ruined other students’ efforts and were first out the school gate the day the day they turned 15.
 
In their youth, they were probably the ones who couldn’t go to the cricket without jumping the fence, couldn’t watch the State of Origin without ending up in the police cells and couldn’t even catch a train without subjecting everyone to obscenities and boorish behaviour.
 
Usually their oafishness ends in fears and tears.  Sometimes it ends in death or injury when an idiocy-fuelled punch goes wrong.
 
And these are the sort of people we expect to respond to mediation in neighbourhood disputes!  
 
Come off the grass.
 
Mediation presumes some kind of reasonableness and an ability to compromise, qualities sadly one-sided in most over-the-fence rows.
 
So no we might turn to neighbourhood courts.
 
Good luck, but for them to succeed we would have to get a lot more serious with neighbourhood bullying.
 
And that’s what it is.
 
Disputation suggests two sides to a problem, bullying is one-sided thuggery.
 
It is the standing over of someone smaller and weaker or (in a neighbourhood context) someone who is handicapped by good manners and regard for the law and the rules of civilized behaviour.
 
Neighbourhood bullies care nothing for the trappings of a civil society and are undaunted by authority, the law, good manners or public embarrassment.
 
They steal neighbours’ privacy, their contentment, their security, their happiness and futures as surely as muggers snatch wallets and mobile phones.
 
Their activities are not curbed by legal letters, stern lectures from cops, or mealy-mouthed cautions from councils.  They won’t be reined in by feel-good tribunals and bonding sessions.
 
The only things that will stop them are police surveillance, serious charges, and hefty penalties.
 
That sort of police work doesn’t come cheap and is about the last thing a duty sergeant needs on his roster, but it is that serious.
 
To my mind, a person who makes another’s home untenable, uninhabitable and possibly, unsellable, is no better than a bank robber with a mask and a gun.   
 
Let’s have neighbourhood courts, but give them real power to stand up for those who are helpless in the face of arrogant bullies who ruin their lives and steal their happiness.
 
*******

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