Setting: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. Date: October 8 2011. Occasion: Melbourne Victory’s opening game of the 2011/12 A-League season.
“Yes, Constable White?”
“There are 250 Sydney supporters chanting ‘F*** off Melbourne.’ What do I do?”
“Issue them fines, Constable White.”
“What? All of them?’”
“Yes. All of them!”
“What about the 1000 Victory supporters who have just started chanting “F*** off Sydney?”
“Fine them as well, Constable White. Well? What are you waiting for!”
Let me explain.
Yesterday, the conservative Victorian State government announced the imminent introduction through State Parliament of on the spot fines for swearing.
If you are deemed by an officer of the Victorian Police to have sworn in an indecent, offensive or threatening manner, you will be made to contribute $240 to the state’s coffers.
No. This is not a late April Fools Joke.
Victorian Police have always had the power to charge people with indecent language offences. But they chose to do this judiciously as offenders had to be put through the court system.
Basically, you needed to behave like a complete and utter tit to find yourself in court.
Attorney-General Robert Clark explained it this way. “It frees up police time for other law enforcement activities and enables them to more readily issue penalties against those offenders who deserve them.”
Deserves them? Where do you draw the line?
Unsurprisingly, the opposition state Labor Party supported the bill, since they had originally proposed it while still in office. They were not going to be left behind in the law and order crusade to see who could create the most repressive nanny state in Australia.
Thousands of Victorians will be watching the swear-fest that is Angry Boys starring Chris Lilley tonight. But, swear in exasperation at the umpires at an AFL game, or partake in a bit of boisterous football banter for a few minutes at the football, and before you know it Constable White will be asking for your details.
Let’s hope the Victorian Police apply this ass of a law with some common sense.
Art Sapphire is the pseudonym for Athas Zafiris. He is on Twitter @ArtSapphire