Wednesday, 1 June 2011

In the News: Edition One

Of late there has been an issue that has received a considerable amount of press time here in Australia: That being impending legislation in the state of Victoria, which would grant Police Officers the power to issue on the spot fines for offensive language in public.

The media has of course jumped all over this issue, in the main portraying the State Police force as the executors of the "Nanny State", running hither and thither issuing fines to the masses for swearing. A not insignificant number of the articles I have read have used all the standard buzzwords that are dredged up the moment the Police are mentioned: Revenue Raising, Bullies, etc.

This entire story is the single biggest media blow up I can remember in recent years. The reality of the situation is that every state of Australia has laws concerning the use of "Offensive Language" in public. Victoria has had such laws in place since 1966. (Summary Offences Act 1966 s 17) The new laws being posed are also, in point of fact, nothing new: They are in essence merely making permanent existing powers that were granted to the Victorian police during a trial period between 2009 and 2010.

These new laws are not about fining you for an ejaculation of annoyance when you hit your thumb with a hammer, but rather about keeping some semblance of a standard of civil conduct in and around public places, as the above link explains in more detail. I'm sure that each and every one of you reading this has been in a situation like this before: You're out in the City - perhaps a major shopping mall - when someone is rambling by, quite possibly under the influence, howling profanities at all and sundry.

Some of my favourite comments that I've read on this issue are along the lines of "so much for a free country", and other variations on that same theme to do with free speech. It is worth noting at this point that Australia has absolutely no explicit guarantee of free speech - save only for political speech which is protected under common law.

While I personally do not reside in Victoria, I applaud the addition of these powers into proper law. I would also have no objections if Queensland, or indeed any other state of Australia were to table similar powers for adoption.

I think as a society we are far too free with profanity in general - that it is tolerated far too easily. If you are worried that you cannot express yourself in public without running afoul of the Police service, perhaps you should do yourself a favour and attempt to expand your vocabulary.

1 comment:

  1. What they need in Victoria is more violent crimes. That way, the police will have something to do and won't be concerned with petty things.