Things they don’t want to hear or see

I wasn’t going to comment on Robert Clark’s silly (and fucking outrageous) plan to get police to issue on the spot fines for swearing in public, until I read Dee Madigan’s remarks on The Drum and realised just how this is going to affect vulnerable people:

In fact, what is considered to be ‘normal community standards’ is highly subjective at the best of times. It should not be a decision made in the heat of the moment by a policemen who, let’s face it, would be unlikely to be objective about someone they are right in the middle of having a problem with.

And it means that any person in any sort of dispute with police has a way to be charged immediately. And this is where the new laws are most insidious.

Empirical evidence in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory shows that laws which focus on offending behaviors have a disproportionate impact on juveniles and minority groups. For example, in Western Australia, Aboriginals are 15 times more likely to be charged for swearing. And in New South Wales, offensive conduct crimes also have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities, and more often than not are used to deal with young people who are deemed to be showing disrespect to authority.

So, while swearing doesn’t actually hurt someone (and no, being offended isn’t the same as actually being hurt), laws that punish people for swearing can become a form of social exclusion which can be incredibly damaging to the most vulnerable groups in our society.

That’s very true. I’ve written before about how laws targeting things like begging result in homeless people being locked up because they have neither money nor identification; this is just one more quiver in the bow of the nastiest members of the police force. The vulnerable who use coarse language because it’s all they’ve ever known, will find themselves lumped with fines they can’t possibly pay. The mentally-ill, the drug-affected, those focused on bare survival – in practice, this will be a tool to make life even more difficult for those only just hanging on.

And for what? To protect our precious, dainty ears from hearing centuries-old English words? For fuck sake.

ELSEWHERE: On the subject of morons imposing their ‘being offended” on the rest of us:

A billboard company has defended its decision to bow to pressure to remove advertisements promoting safe sex among gay couples.

HIV campaigners are outraged the safe sex promotion featuring a fully clothed, hugging gay couple has been pulled from Queensland bus shelters by Adshel.

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities launched its “Rip and Roll” advertisements a week ago and yesterday learned they were being scrapped after about 30 complaints.

You can guess by whom:

Australian Christian Lobby: People power wins in removing offending ads

If you’ve got the stomach, you can read the actual complaints here.

Got that, people we have an irrational prejudice against?

UPDATE (4.45pm): After protests, Adshel has now reversed its decision, with one of the silliest excuses ever:

Adshel CEO Steve McCarthy said the company had been the “target” of a an organised campaign by the ACL. He said in a statement: “It has now become clear that Adshel has been the target of a coordinated ACL campaign. This has led us to review our decision to remove the campaign and we will therefore reinstate the campaign with immediate effect.”

Wait, so if the ACL hadn’t admitted its link that would’ve been okay? It’s not that the objections were fatuous and discriminatory – it’s that they were organised?

About these ads

32 responses to “Things they don’t want to hear or see

  1. Adshel claimed that they“[do] not take a position regarding the views or position of various community groups.”

    Sorry to tell them, but the ACL wants us erased from society. By doing what they wanted, Adshel did in fact take sides. Now they have an opportunity to do the right thing. Lets see if their board can suck up their pride and admit they made a mistake.

    For anybody who cares to, send a message to Adshel to tell them what you think.

    Time to out-lobby the ACL.

  2. I got about a third of the way through the complaints before I gave up… They all seem suspiciously similar in wording and content…

    My favorite though was this gem… “Please, for the sake of all Christians and children, could something be done about this advertising campaign.”

    Won’t somebody think of the Christians!

  3. The swearing law seems to be taking us backward . What would happen if you refused to pay the fine.

  4. Can any say “sus laws”?

    What I’ve always loved is that a copper can be so thin skinned as to find language offensive. And you got into that line of work thinking everyone would be nice to you?

  5. I was up in the NT recently, and wow. The NT police love their offensive language laws. They form part of the trifecta of charges that a good proportion of the (exclusively indigenous) clients I saw had been slapped with: offensive language -> resist arrest -> assault police. So you end up with people getting serious criminal records purely because they got frustrated with a cop. These usually happened when the cops were harassing large groups of indigenous people minding their own business in a public place.

    Though it did lead to the darkly hilarious sight of a huge, experienced cop sitting in court and testifying that he was so deeply offended at being called a ‘pigdog cunt’ that he just had to arrest the guy.

    I’m so pleased we can have the same entertainment in Victoria as well.

  6. Aren’t these laws already in place, but require an arrest and court hearing rather than an on the spot fine Jeremy ?

    Just asking because I was listening to talkback radio the other day and someone rang in suggesting this was the case.

    As an aside — can I issue a citizen’s fine against any police officer I hear swear in public ?

  7. “Aren’t these laws already in place, but require an arrest and court hearing rather than an on the spot fine Jeremy ?”

    Don’t know but I remember a few years ago a person was fronting the magistrate because he swore at a cop, the magistrate threw the case out, told the cop to harden up (good!) I think it was Sydney though.

    “As an aside — can I issue a citizen’s fine against any police officer I hear swear in public ?”

    Heh, I fear that the law will be used so cops can hassle people they don’t like when they have nothing of substance on them but you all know my attitude towards the police.

  8. narcoticmusing

    Gavinm – You are correct. These laws have existed in Victoria since the 1960s but you had to go to court. The previous ALP govt started a pilot to enable police to offer on the spot fines in order to reduce the burden on the courts for such a trivial offence. The pilot ended, apparently successfully, and thus the new Lib-Co govt decided to allow it to be formally instated. This is not a case of this Government criminalising swearing, it is a case of procedural efficiency. It is cheaper for everyone for a fine.

    However, I completely disagree with the entire idea of it in the first place (ie the 1966 law). I think it is best summarised thusly:
    … whether a particular act is injurious to the public… is a mixed question of law and fact, so that what may be injurious at one time or under one set of circumstances may not be so at another time and under different circumstances. For instance, a discussion which would, no so very long ago, have been held to be rank blasphemy might not now be considered to even be irreverent.’
    That was said over a century ago in the Australian High Court (Griffith CJ in Doodeward v Spence 1908 if anyone is curious).

    As for the posters, both the over-sexualisation of women being ignored as a real issue (and thus not pulled down) and the idea of two men in love being offensive (and thus being pulled down) is, in my humble opinion, injurious to the public in a anti-vilification, anti-discrimination environment we are meant to live in.

  9. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/06/01/3232450.htm

    ‘”I’ve been labelled homophobic. This has absolutely nothing to do with gay couples,” spokeswoman Wendy Francis said.’

    Really Wendy… then why does nearly every complaint mention the fact that the people depicted on the ad are gay?

  10. narcoticmusing

    I found it hilarious that the CEO said AdShell didn’t realise it was a coordinated campaign. Really? Did you read the complaints or just count how many there were? Because they were pretty much the same letter over and over…

  11. can i hear a ‘fuck robert clark’?

  12. Man walks casually up to a cop.

    Man: Sir, is it ok to call a police officer an asshole?
    Cop: What? Are you mad? I’d arrest you immediately.
    Man: Hmm, can I call an asshole officer?
    Cop: I guess.
    Man: Well than, have a good day officer.

  13. returnedman

    What century are ACL living in?

    What group in their right mind would try to out-campaign the gay community? Those guys have been organising for DECADES (“We’re here … we’re queer …!”)!! No matter what you try, you will NOT SUCCEED against them. And they have a massive war chest of all sorts of techniques to make you look absolutely ridiculous if you do.

    After all, they’ve been on the receiving end for far too long – they’re damn well practised at facing up to the bullies.

  14. Thanks for your reply narcotic — I reckon its a ridiculous law too, Webber was right when he called us a nanny state.

  15. If the Atheist movement organised a similar campaign against religious advertising, citing deception and unsubstantiated assertions. How would that go?
    Given that Atheists represent around 25% of the population and gay people around 5-10%, it’s entirely possible to reverse the persecution and bigotry. A co-ordinated campaign of demonising religion and all the sanctimonious piousness that it stands for.
    Of course this won’t happen as, ironically, gay people and Atheists have a more holistic live and let live mentality.

    Gaytheists of the world unite…..

  16. jordanrastrick

    This is not a case of this Government criminalising swearing, it is a case of procedural efficiency. It is cheaper for everyone for a fine.

    The problem is that police probably won’t book as many people for swearing when they have to go to the effort of taking them to court, where there is also the possibility of having the charge quashed.

    On the spot fines put the burden of seeking a legal ruling on the accused, rather than law enforcement. There is merit to them where the facts of a charge are more or less objectively clear – possession of a prohibited weapon, speeding, refusing to vacate a licensed premise when instructed, etc. But when there is a more subjective element such as determining if language is offensive or not in a given context, they are open to abuse of police power.

  17. narcoticmusing

    I completely agree with you jordanrastrick – indeed I am opposed to the law in its current form at all. If someone was being truly offensive, surely the element of creating fear would be what would made it injurious to the public and thus simple common law assualt would cover it. There are also far too many words and uses of language that are not cusses but are deeply offensive – for example the recent ‘meow’ by a shadow minister. That is far more offensive than someone cussing as part of normal speech, for emphasis (which to me is a legitimate use of a cuss) or for humour.

  18. Aren’t these laws already in place, but require an arrest and court hearing rather than an on the spot fine Jeremy ?

    If you were a cop, would YOU confess – in front of a magistrate, lawyers from OPP and/or Legal Aid, and/or assorted other court staff that you may have to see a lot of, in what is perhaps an open court – that hearing (or using) fruity language is hurtful to you?

    I would pay the $400 fine plus costs (in fighting the fine) just to see that.

    If the Atheist movement organised a similar campaign against religious advertising, citing deception and unsubstantiated assertions. How would that go?

    It wouldn’t – organising us Atheists has been compared (truthfully, I might add) to herding cats.
    But when critical mass is acheived, why organise?

  19. http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lcjudgments/nswlc.nsf/5727e65c31f4925c4a256cf50003b369/b10f03fb16745a2a4a256d97002e05f6?OpenDocument

    Thats the case where David Heilpern threw out a case of offensive language finding the use of the word “Fuck” wasn’t offensive.

    Have a read, its pretty interesting.

  20. Is there any way the use of the term “youse” can be made a criminal act?

  21. Splatterbottom

    Agree ph. “Y’all” and “All Y’all” are much more proper words.

  22. jordanrastrick

    “Youse”, apparently, derives from Irish immigration. Gaelic, like most sensible languages, retains distinct singluar/plural forms for the second person pronoun, and this was a strong enough influence on Haberno-English to lead to “you”/”yous” being coined. From there it made its way into the Australian vernacular.

    Whereas “Y’All” is a distinctly American neologism, and lacks the Australian English heritage of youse.

    So youse should all keep using youse.

  23. “If you were a cop, would YOU confess – in front of a magistrate, lawyers from OPP and/or Legal Aid, and/or assorted other court staff that you may have to see a lot of, in what is perhaps an open court – that hearing (or using) fruity language is hurtful to you?”

    I’m not sure this law is aimed solely at language directed towards cops.

  24. What a joke this is — apart from the actual offence being silly as narcoticmusing pointed out, on-the-spot fines are inappropriate for offences with an element of subjectivity to them, such as what behaviour/language consitutes “offensive” or “rude”.

    When you add this to the other measures for mandatory sentencing, crowdsourced sentencing principles and jailing 16 and 17 year olds, I’m starting to prefer do-nothing Ted. As Jeremy said, Labor may suck but these Libs suck way harder.

    Oh, and the silence from those who usually like to spout on about freedom of speech and other civil liberties is deafening.

  25. Err, just realised joradrastrick said what I said, but earlier and in more detail — good on you jordanrastrick !

  26. narcoticmusing

    Ph – if that was the case I’d add the use of ‘mate’ by politicians to sound more Aussie as utterly offensive.

    Someone give gavinm a cigar. :)

    [parady warning] It is obviously so that someone will please think of the children [end parody warning]

  27. “if that was the case I’d add the use of ‘mate’ by politicians to sound more Aussie as utterly offensive”

    Agreed, however I did find Penny Wong’s use of “mate” when she was berating whats his name for meowing at her quite effective.

  28. returnedman

    “mate”

    Isn’t that why cats are meowing in the first place?

  29. returnedman

    Youse c’nall garn git fucked.

    Ahhh … nothin’ like a good “youse”.

  30. narcoticmusing

    Use youse again, aww carn returnedman, carn [apologies that there isn't a whiney font]

    ph – yes I quite liked the bite in PW’s ‘mate’

  31. Pingback: “I’ll get an order out on you!1!” | An Onymous Lefty

  32. Pingback: Herald Sun: you know how we’ve been scaring you? All you have to do is trust in Big Tough Minister Ryan and he’ll keep you safe. Hush. | Pure Poison

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