15 Feb 2017

Offensive Wicked campervans banned in Queensland

2:18 pm on 15 February 2017

Sexist, obscene and other offensive slogans on vans and vehicles are being made illegal in Queensland.

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Wicked Campers in New Zealand. Photo: NZ Classification Office

State Parliament has passed a bill to rid Queensland roads of the offensive vehicles.

Advertising on vehicles is currently self-regulated by the industry, and action cannot be taken on complaints made to the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB).

The Queensland laws would allow the Department of Transport and Main Roads to cancel a vehicle's registration if the owners did not remove the offending slogans within 14 days of being advised to do so by the ASB's Standards Board.

The government introduced the laws in response to complaints about slogans displayed on holiday hire vehicles such as Wicked Camper Vans, which is based in Brisbane but operates around Australia.

Their campervans are characterised by vibrant imagery or slogans on the vehicles but have drawn criticism in Australia and New Zealand for some of the messages.

Since 2015, 20 complaints have been made to the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority about the campers, 16 of which have been upheld.

Earlier this month the Authority upheld yet another complaint, regarding a slogan on the back of a vehicle which stated: "Ninety % of preists [sic] who try camels prefer boys."

The complainant said they found the statement "offensive and extremely poor in taste" and that it trivialised the rape of young boys.

Last year police, several councils and Associate Tourism Minister Paula Bennett raised concerns over the markings on many of the Wicked Camper's vehicles.

New Zealand's Classification Office has since classified five Wicked campervans as objectionable, meaning they have been banned.

Claims Queensland law may not work

Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey told Parliament the changes would take effect from next month.

"Offensive advertising includes advertising that uses obscene language, that is degrading, that deals inappropriately with sex or violence or very importantly that discriminates against or vilifies any section of the community," he said.

Opposition Spokesman Andrew Powell did not oppose the changes but raised concerns that they would not work.

"Rookie minister Bailey has just ensured that the Wicked Campers fleet will potentially relocate to NSW. Once they're registered in another state these laws won't apply," Mr Powell said.

Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Ros Bates, said she was shocked and appalled by what continued to be displayed on the vans.

"[The slogans] include 'it's easier to apologise than ask for permission', and 'I can already imagine the gaffer tape on your mouth'... and for any member of our society these slogans are sickening and perverse," Ms Bates said.

"These vans promote rape, encourage sexism and incite violence and control, but this do nothing government has given us weak ineffective legislation that will do nothing to take these offensive vans off our streets."

Attorney General Yvette D'Ath said other states were looking at potentially developing their own legislation.

"I do believe it's an initiative that we do need to see rolled out in other jurisdictions, because we know this is only part of the solution, " she said.

Wicked Campers' critics welcome change in law

Anna McCormack from the Australian group Wicked Pickets, which has protested against the van slogans, said the government's decision was a step in the right direction.

"At the moment in Queensland, it's unlawful to vilify on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality or gender identity ... but it's not unlawful to vilify on the grounds of sex, which means women and girls are still fair game," she said.

"We're happy that they've seen the Wicked campervan slogans as inappropriate and the dangers of those slogans in promoting rape culture.

"A lot of misogynist advertising is much more subtle, but these ones are so very obvious that people from a whole range of groups were outraged by them.

- ABC / RNZ

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