The statute that originally restricted the transport of more than 50 kilogrammes of potatoes is one of Australia’s most enigmatic traffic restrictions. When the potato business in Western Australia was deregulated in 2016, the obscure potato law was repealed. Until then, a special potato inspector had the authority to search any vehicle on reasonable suspicion of having more than 50 kg of potatoes on board. If the inspector discovers potatoes weighing more than 50 kilogrammes without permission, the driver will be required to bring the potatoes before a judge.
Nevertheless, it isn’t the only law you’d be shocked to hear about – still in play are these obscure ones compiled by Budget Direct:
You can find the complete list of potato laws here.
But let’s get back to the potatoes.
According to Simon Moltoni, chief executive officer of the Potato Growers Association of Western Australia, the potato industry in Australia is around the same size as all other vegetable businesses combined. Such a plentiful produce required its own set of laws and corporation. The Potato Marketing Corporation of Western Australia (PMC) was a statutory marketing body tasked with overseeing the supply of fresh potatoes; processed potatoes were not subject to the same rules. Mr Moltoni explained that the “humorous” statute was enacted as a result of regulation. A permit from the PMC was required to grow and sell fresh potatoes. A person might be penalised if they were detected carrying a large amount of fresh potatoes without permission.
Mr. Moltoni doubts that anyone has ever been penalised for having “a few potatoes here and there,” but he is aware of drivers who have been charged with driving truckloads of potatoes. After then-premier Colin Bartlett stated it was time for laws limiting the kinds, amounts, and price of potatoes cultivated in WA to disappear, the industry was deregulated. Thereafter, running afoul of the PMC, high-profile potato grower Tony Galati launched a public campaign to get it repealed.
Since then, though, it hasn’t been all sunshine and potatoes. According to Mr. Moltoni, the business is currently grappling with rising consumer expenditures and declining producer income. “When we had regulation, growers did have some consideration. As it is now, the supermarkets hold all the cards in the negotiation,” he said.