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Working Hardly: Drafting Legislation for Everyday Life

Cartoon characters hugging

As law students, we’re constantly wading through piles of legislation. Many times I have complained about poorly drafted legislation that leaves things like ‘reasonableness’ or ‘timely manner’ hanging in mid air with no precise definition.

But I’ve decided to stop complaining because drafting legislation is a lot harder than it looks! This, I know from experience, when I decided to set some legislative boundaries.

It all started with my aversion to hugs. Now let me clarify this; if you have been overseas for 6 months, kidnapped, held hostage or flown to the moon and back, and you turn up at my front door, of course I’ll gladly give you a hug. But, if I haven’t seen you in *GASP* 24 hours or a week, then no, I’m not going to hug you to show my appreciation for your presence. I’ll get coffee with you, I’ll have a chat with you, but I will not hug you and my reasoning is this: the more freely you give away hugs, the less value a hug has.

So, in order to make clear to my friends that unless they had some near death experience, I would not hug them, I decided to pass the Stacey (Hugs Amendment) Act 2013.

I thought this would be a rather simple exercise of “There shall be no hugging whatsoever, etc”, perhaps with a few specific exceptions. But the more I wrote, the more I saw loophole after loophole after loophole appearing. The first draft looked something like this:

The Stacey (Hugs Amendment) Act 2013


The purpose of this act is to prevent unnecessary and superfluous hugging of Stacey which decreases the inherent value of a hug.

This act comes into effect immediately.

Section 1: Outline

Stacey shall not participate in hugs with any person in any circumstances whatsoever unless outlined in the 'exceptional circumstances' section (s2) of this Act.

Section 1A: Definitions

For the purposes of this act a hug is defined as front facing contact for a minimum of 10 seconds between Stacey and one other person only, where Stacey and that other person are connected to each other by at least one arm from each party AND the action is voluntary and freely willed on the part of Stacey and the other person. The hug begins at the moment when bodily contact is first made between Stacey and the hugging party and ends when the contact between Stacey and the hugging party ceases.

For the purposes of this act, intoxication, sleep or the use of excessive force by either party will automatically negate the voluntariness of a hug.

Section 2: Exceptional circumstances

Exceptional circumstances include but are not limited to death, near death or life threatening experiences, as well as extreme emotion experienced by Stacey or the other party.

This act is subject to change as Stacey sees fit.

And I didn’t even get to cover hugs with more than one person, short hugs, etc.

As you can see, even outlawing hugs can take quite a bit of effort. So next time you see some unclear, imprecise or just nasty looking definitions or sections of an Act, be a little sympathetic: drafting legislation is not as easy as it looks.

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