Following my post Operating a private fire brigade in SA (May 18, 2019) the online discussion, both on WordPress and on Facebook, took on a tone that I do not accept.  All those posts have been removed and to the extent that I allowed the ad hominem argument (‘a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person’ asking the question) to continue, I apologise.

I remind people this is my blog and people write to me asking for my opinion.  The answer is public and necessarily incomplete.  I’m not giving legal advice and can’t get back to the correspondent to get a fine understanding of every issue or develop a detailed scenario. Questions and answers are general, so inevitably there will be variations in given facts, or assumptions, that may lead to a different legal outcome.   Further, I may be wrong or have overlooked something.

In any of those cases others are welcome to write and say

  • ‘but what if…?’ or
  • ‘actually we do ‘x’ and we deal with the legal issues this way …’ or
  • ‘we do ‘x’ but not in the circumstances you describe and that makes a difference’ or
  • ‘I think you have missed section 123 of whatever Act…’ or the like.

That is, I invite anyone to contribute to answering the question.

What I don’t invite is an attack on the person asking the question or an attack on their motive for asking.  If you do ‘x’ and someone asks ‘is x legal?’ that does not necessarily mean that they are attacking you or looking for information against you, or that you or everyone should stop doing ‘x’.  They are asking ‘is ‘x’ legal?’.  And if my answer is ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ you are welcome to explain how and why you do ‘x’ and how you deal with the legal issues.  Or you are welcome to say nothing at all.

No-one is welcome:

  • to tell the person who asked the question that he or she is an idiot because they didn’t already know the answer;
  • to ask ‘so what, you want no-one (or everyone) to do ‘x’, well that will be bad …’ or
  • to say ‘the fact that you had to ask shows that you are part of the problem for ‘x’-doers….’

Even if you are the reason they are asking, even if you do actually know something of why they are asking, the appropriate response to is still to respond to the question, or say nothing.

Let us recall two rules that no doubt have been repeated to us all over the years, and use them to guide comments on this blog, on whatever platform:

  1. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask; and
  2. If you can’t say something nice (and that addresses the question) don’t say anything at all.