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Australia’s Swear-In: Fine is a Four-Letter Word

This post is part of our special coverage SlutWalks 2011.

Warning: If you’re easily shocked or object to so-called indecent or profane language, then please do not open any of the links or watch the video in this post.

Melbourne has just had a swear-in outside Victoria’s State Parliament to protest against new laws for on-the-spot fines for swearing. A YouTube video of the event captured by chllptr at the event was quickly posted on Melbourne Protests Weblog:

According to their report:

Media were present in force, whether hoping for police intervention or simply drawn by the novelty of the occasion, but there was no trouble. Reports can be found on The Age website and ABC online.

This issue has caused a lot of web chatter in places other than the usual suspects: mostly outrage or disbelief, mixed with a lot of humour.

At the Glitch Hop Forum, ‘a bunch of like minded techy geeks’ with an interest in music, kayhat posted the topic ‘You're not allowed to f**cking swear in Melbourne, Australia‘:

This is horrible, our human rights are being taken away from us blatently. Didn't we already have a perfectly functional verbal abuse law? This is ridiculous.

angryranchor responded:

This is possibly the dumbest thing I have heard. Really? Do police officers not have real criminals to find in Australia? Are there not real laws to enforce there against things like rape and murder? Do we really want them to be some sort of morality police?

No swearing sign. Image by Flickr user Alice Chaos (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

No swearing sign. Image by Flickr user Alice Chaos (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).



At The Roar, Art Sapphire, aka Athas Zafiris, tackled the issue with humour in ‘how going to the football could cost an extra $240’. It is ‘an Australian sports opinion website which blends expert analysis with fan written articles’.

“Sergeant Brown?”

“Yes, Constable White?”

“There are 250 Sydney supporters chanting ‘F*** off Melbourne.’ What do I do?”

“Issue them fines, Constable White.”

“What? All of them?’”

“Yes. All of them!”

“What about the 1000 Victory supporters who have just started chanting “F*** off Sydney?”

“Fine them as well, Constable White. Well? What are you waiting for!”

… Let’s hope the Victorian Police apply this ass of a law with some common sense.

At off-roaders website 4WD Action the thread ran: ‘Fines for swearing in public !?

Angry6 who started this discussion lived up to his nickname:

Let me start by saying what the hell is this country coming to? Saw on the news a night or two ago that they will start giving $245 (dont quote me) on the spot fines to bad language in public.

If all the speed camera rage wasnt clear enough, then this will certainly open your eyes that all they are interested in is revenue any which way they can!

In reply Shaker4X4 took the side of the law:

I think cops are fed up with being sworn at in an abusive tone and they need something to book them for. How hard is it to kerb your tongue? Don't you think others are offended? I swear sometimes, but never out loud in public or among strangers. I've some respect.

Michael Vaughan at A single's survival guide likes a pun as well in ‘Obscene … and not heard‘:

Swear v.i. Use profane oaths to express anger or as expletives.

Well bugger me, move over speed-camera revenue, the Spring Street Mafia is introducing a new cash cow on the revenue-raising block – a potentially giant government swear box (oops, can I still say box?) at about 240 bucks a throw. Yeah, I said bucks with a B.

Freelance writer James Schloeffel continued the lighthearted approach with ‘Why Victoria’s swearing ban should be extended to politicians‘. He has a list of distasteful phrases that should cop a fine such as:

“Moving forward”…“Feeling the pinch”…“Un-Australian” …“Not ruling anything in or out”.

At J Man Talkback’s post ‘On The Spot Fines for Swearing‘, he sees some advantages:

…firstly it will help to free up our already overburdened courts so they can spend more time dealing with more serious matters and secondly it will speed the process up immeasurably for those charged with offensive language which is a good thing especially if the offender is a young person.

But he has concerns that:

…with every power comes the potential for the abuse of that power.

@Wil_Anderson is a popular TV and stand-up comedian. He tweeted about future Melbourne International Comedy Festival gigs:

@Wil_Anderson: Victoria announced on-the-spot fines of $240 for indecent language. Suddenly my MICF show is going to cost me a lot more next year…

So is this just a laughing matter? Not according to A f#@%ing stupid law from Aidan Wilson of Crikey's language blog Fully (sic). He checked on the old law that is being given new life by the instant fines:

I personally find it unbelievable that Victoria still has legislation against offensive behaviour and ‘obscene’ language. Being curious, I went to the legislation and found the relevant section (17):

17. Obscene, indecent, threatening language and behaviour etc. in public
Any person who in or near a public place or within the view or hearing of any person being or passing therein or thereon-
1. sings an obscene song or ballad;
2. writes or draws exhibits or displays an indecent or obscene word figure or representation;
3. uses profane indecent or obscene language or threatening abusive or insulting words; or
4. behaves in a riotous indecent offensive or insulting manner-
shall be guilty of an offence.

Image from Crikey's Fully (sic) blog

The highlighting has been added. Many fans of Scotland's famous bard Rabbie Burns will be grateful for this warning and forgive Aidan's lingusitic redundancy, ‘I personally’ (sic).

The swear-in rally drew a smaller crowd than had indicated their intention to attend on Facebook. Perhaps the f**kwalk on 25 June, 2011, based on the recent slutwalk, will have more success.

This post is part of our special coverage SlutWalks 2011.

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