Say no to Victoria’s anti-swearing law

June 24, 2011
Victorian premier Ted Baillieu.
Victorian premier Ted Baillieu.

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.]

Video: Swear-in against anti-swearing laws - Melbourne, 3 June 2011 - Peter Cahill.


If the Greens aren't joking here and just bad at writing satire over a minor issue, they have confirmed my view of how out of touch they are with life in the real world.They really have smoked, or more likely eaten in cookies to be safe, a green illegal herbal remedy in excess over their life as well as being on the ASD spectrum. No offence is meant to those with ASD. It is just a key symptom of ASD spectrum is the limited capacity to understand the social world and relationship dynamics as most others can. There are many Greens indicating this often. The no swearing applies to those who use swear words when excessively hostile , often while intoxicated, using vocal tones that are exceedingly loud of a distinctive pitch and pacing that is meant to be threatening and aggressive and dominating of the immediate vicinity up to 6 square meters, sometimes more. Often persons doing that, work themselves up so much, additionaly experiencing the negative reactions of others that they become prone to follow this with aggressive acts to others nearby. Some of these swearerers are adept at this form of intimidation by not actually including outright threats of what they intend to do to anyone knowing that can be charged. Yet the vocalisations, types of words used combined with their physical actions through postures,gesticulating and ways of moving about are those of a pre strike manner. Those subjected to it find the fear instilled similar to being faced with an imminent serious assult, which it can turn into at times. A proportion of people under this duress respond by defending by physical attacks. Some swearers looking for a fight are aiming to provoke. Where a swearer has not actually stated verbally an attack intent of a physical nature to person or property, they are not yet clearly chargable. Rather than allow such people to bully or wait untill real physical harm ensues, it is wise to use a swearing law then. It is parallel to when a cat decides it wants to intimidate another cat it has seen, has a long lengthy awful noise making process to the other cat it's forced to freeze. Sometimes the other cat noises back, sometimes it can persuade the initial noise maker he can have what he wants if it doesn't mind much. Sometimes the initiator gets so worked up he eventually attacks, regardless of the other cat's signals. Early in the piece humans can break this up. Even if it takes a few times after each cat swearing session start. If cat swearing is left too long and cat's too worked up, nothing will break up the ensuing fight. Same principal with the swearer bullies. The fact is, the one area police are exceptionally tolerant on, is colourful language that is full of expletives. That is as long as it's not used to intimidate or be highly disprespectful, aiming to belittle another or show extreme contempt. If any Green needs to find out the veracity of this view supporting that prposed law, ask the police where and the best places and the times to encounter these swearers. The Green needs to do this going alone, without their car, using public transport including a taxi that includes a long wait. They could also ask to go to call outs with the police where such persons would be doing this behaviour. Ought to add going to a busy hospital emergency department which is known for getting such persons late at night. Protestors who are not using swear words to be contemptuous towards other persons or overly offensive ought not have an issue if they have a meaningful message to convey. If they are serious about their message to be heard expletives ought not be in their campaign so parents can share with their children that there are different points of view in their community.
The new anti-swearing law gives the police a lot of power. The legislation doesn't define what is or isn't considered a swear word of offensive language. The police get to decide that on the spot. In the past, you got to defend yourself in court if you were charged with using offensive language. That gave you an oppoortunity to defend yourself. That right has gone. Given the racism in the Victorian police force, it is highly likely that the police will use this law in a highly discriminatory way. I for one don't want to live in a police state.

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