The Queensland Government plans to take sexist, misogynistic and other inappropriate messages off the road following talks between Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath, the Department of Transport and Advertising Standards Bureau.
The outcome of the talks is to get Wicked campervans, and other vehicles displaying offensive messages, off the road until the crass slogans are removed.
“Under the new arrangements, commercial vehicle registration holders who fail to comply with determinations by the Advertising Standards Bureau will face the prospect of having the registration of offending vehicles cancelled,” Mrs D’Ath said.
Wicked has caused quite a stir on Australian roads, its campervans displaying slogans such as:
- ‘Men have two emotions, hungry and horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich’,
- ‘The best thing about oral sex, 5 minutes of silence’
- ‘Fat girls are easier to kidnap’,
- ‘To all virgins, thanks for nothing’,
- ‘Ya mums on top of my things to do list’,
- ‘Save a whale… harpoon a Jap’, and
- ‘A wife: an attachment you screw on the bed to get the housework done’.
The company, local councils and the Advertising Standards Board have received hundreds of complaints about the slogans from people who find them offensive.
Campaigns against Wicked
A few months ago, motoring organisation RACQ – Queensland’s equivalent of the NRMA – began a campaign to force Wicked to remove offensive slogans.
The RACQ welcomed the move to “clean up bad rubbish” on Thursday, saying the company has treated complaints with contempt by reacting with more offensive signs.
“It’s been a long time to get here but we’re very glad,” said RACQ executive general manager advocacy Paul Turner.
“Wicked Campers are a stain on the tourism industry and or our state.”
Mr Turner also pushed for national legislation to prevent the company from moving across the Queensland-NSW border.
A few New South Wales councils – including popular tourism hot spot Byron Bay are already taking steps to introduce bans in their local jurisdictions. Ballina Shire and the Blue Mountains are also against the vans, which are popular with overseas tourists, mostly because they are cheap.
Offensive language vs Free speech
Wicked Campers has long been at the centre of a debate about offensive language versus free speech.
Frequent complaints to the Advertising Standards Board have not been effective in curbing the company’s messaging, nor has growing public outrage.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged people to hit the company where it will hurts – the bottom line – encouraging a boycott of Wicked until the derogatory slogans are taken off the fleet.
But so far her New South Wales counterpart, Premier Mike Baird has refrained from getting involved.
Senator David Leyonhjelm, who publicly endorsed Wicked’s right to ‘freedom of speech’, was pranked by ABC’s The Chaser in the lead up to the Federal Election for calling critics of the vehicles ‘particularly wowserish’.
Bans starting to work
In New Zealand earlier this year, the national Classification Office ruled against three slogans on the controversial vehicles, finding that the vans depicted “objectionable publications”. The ruling banned the vans from public places in New Zealand with immediate effect, and Wicked could face a fine of up to $200,000 per offence if it continued to use them.
This put the vans firmly in the spotlight and forced the company to remove the offending slogans.
Some privately owned caravan parks and camping grounds have already taken matters into their own hands, refusing entry to vans with offensive ‘non-family friendly’ slogans.
One Sydney woman, so outraged by a slogan that her daughter was exposed to started a petition on change.org, receiving more than 110,000 signatures calling for a ban of the vehicles.
Contrary to its previous position, Wicked recently issued an apology for some of the slogans and committed to reviewing and removing offensive marketing from all of its campervans in the next six months.
With the Queensland Government following the lead of New Zealand and other New South Wales local Councils, Wicked Campers may finally be forced to remove offending slogans.