For something as simple as stubbing your toe and saying “Oh, fuck” in public, the Victorian police will now be able to fine you $238.90 for swearing or using offensive language.
Does this mean that an entertainer or musician can also be fined for swearing or using offensive behaviour in their act or song?
The anti-swearing legislation doesn’t define what a “swear word” actually is. This gives the police extraordinary power to use these laws in discriminatory ways.
The police are unlikely to use this fine against everyone. They are more likely to use it against people they deem social undesirables. These could be homeless people, teenagers hanging out in a public space or even a group of activists.
With racism rife among the police, Indigenous people and migrant groups are likely to be targeted by the police with this new law.
The Victorian government is expected to make at least $50 million a year from this new law.
The anti-swearing law is part of Premier Ted Baillieu government’s law and order agenda.
Since the Baillieu government was elected it has focused almost exclusively on law and order. It has done nothing to address issues that are really affecting people like overcrowding on public transport, underfunded health services and schools, and the shortage of public housing.
It is important that people stand up against the Baillieu government’s whole law and order agenda because it is moving Victoria towards becoming a police state.
The fact that crime is dropping across the board in Victoria shows these new repressive laws and increased police powers are not needed. The billions of dollars the government is wasting on its law and order drive could be used to solve real issues like the funding crisis in our services.
As well as the anti-swearing law the Baillieu government is:
• setting up a new riot squad armed with guns, riot shields, helmets, batons and capsicum spray to break up “troublesome crowds and diffuse chaos”,
• putting armed guards on train stations in the name of making stations safer. What is likely to happen is these armed guards will be more likely to shoot people because they will not be trained in how to de-escalate situations without resorting to using weapons,
• introducing mandatory, minimum two-year sentences for 16 to 17 year old offenders who commit “gross acts of violence” instead of putting them into rehabilitation programs,
• planning to introduce laws that will criminalise motorcycle groups in Victoria and,
• continuing the previous Labor government’s plan to spend more than $3.5 billion on building new “super” jails.
The reason why prisons are overcrowded is because governments have been increasing sentences and legislating for mandatory jail sentences.
The media should be condemned for giving the public the impression that crime is increasing because that has sown unwarranted fear among people, allowing the Victorian government to get away with this law and order agenda.
Socialist Alliance and Resistance call for: the repeal of the anti-swearing law; better staffing of stations instead of introducing armed guards; no mandatory sentences; the de-criminalisation of drugs; the building of new, free detoxification centers; increasing the number of diversion programs to divert first-time offenders away from a prison sentence; no building of new prisons; and no riot squads.
Instead of spending billions on more police and new prisons, the government should invest in public transport, public housing, expand health and childcare services and upgrade schools. It should also force electricity, gas and water companies to lower prices or take them back into public hands.
[This statement was released on June 24 by Socialist Alliance and Resistance members in Melbourne.]