TONGS will be quivering across the territory this weekend with news that the ACT government is involving itself in the barbecue business.
More specifically, the government has introduced regulations requiring those making money from regular barbecues to engage food safety officers and pay up to hundreds of dollars to train them before they are allowed to oversee the darkening of the first snag.
While the justification seems to be food safety, the government is yet to provide any clear evidence of a problem in need of a solution, with no obvious epidemic of barbecue-related food poisoning cases reported. It has cast a dark shadow over hundreds of sporting and community groups for which regular weekend grills are a key part of fund-raising.
They now face difficult choices - quietly ignore the regulations and face possible fines, fork out hundreds to qualify club members to sell food or reduce their barbecues to fewer than five a year.
Groups that decide to toe the bureaucratic line may need to train several volunteers, thereby multiplying the cost.
The true silliness of the regulations is highlighted by a clause that allows the barbecue to proceed even if the qualified inspector is not present, as long as they are contactable - should the appointed grill master have an urgent question about when to turn the steaks.
Of course there are food safety risks to feeding large groups, but some basic education and commonsense would seem sufficient in most cases.
It is also hard to imagine a small army of clipboard-wielding inspectors patrolling the ACT's sports grounds every weekend policing those behind the grills. If that is the plan, one needs to ask how much these inspectors will cost the taxpayer and what exactly they will achieve.
If, as would seem more likely, there will be no such fleet of barbecue-stoppers, then the obvious question is, why have the rule in the first place? Regulation that the government has little intention of enforcing is counterproductive, because it harms the effectiveness of other regulations by sending a signal that they will not be acted on.
While the intentions of these regulations may be sound, the obvious solution here would have been more carrot and less stick. A thorough education campaign, pamphlets on healthy grilling and food storage provided to clubs and voluntary workshops or casual visits would have achieved the same result without creating uncertainty and putting offside potentially hundreds of hard-working volunteers.