TRANSPORT OPERATIONS (ROAD USE MANAGEMENT) (OFFENSIVE ADVERTISING) AMENDMENT BILL SPEECH

Posted On: 17 Feb 2017

I rise to contribute to the debate on the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) (Offensive Advertising) Amendment Bill 2016. On 8 November last year the Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports introduced this bill and it was referred to the Transportation and Utilities Committee, which was required to report on it by 2 February 2017. Committee report No. 33 tells us that the bill’s objective is to minimise the amount of offensive advertising on Queensland registered vehicles by allowing the chief executive of the Department of Transport and Main Roads to cancel a vehicle’s registration to enforce the Advertising Standards Board’s determinations.

The explanatory notes state—

Currently, advertising, including advertising on vehicles, is self-regulated by the industry.

A code of ethics has been developed by the Australian Association of National Advertisers—the AANA—in an attempt to ensure that advertisements are truthful, legal, decent and honest. Section 2.1 of the AANA code of ethics states—

Advertising or Marketing Communications shall not portray people or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.

The Advertising Standards Bureau is an independent board of 20 people purportedly representing the diversity of our Australian society who receive complaints about offensive advertisements from the AANA. The latest figures reveal that the ASB received 861 complaints about 79 ads in January 2017. That is a heck of a lot of complaints for this committee to consider.

However, neither the standards board nor the AANA have any powers to enforce any decision or determinations by the board. If an advertiser decides not to comply, the offending advertisement continues. It must be noted that the majority of advertisers either modify the content or stop the advert altogether, but there are a few offenders who ignore the decision made by the standards board.

Many complaints about vehicles bearing offensive slogans, cartoons and messages have been reported. My electorate office has received a number of complaints, particularly in recent years, about billboards and also the disgraceful vilification of women exhibited by Wicked Campers, a vehicle rental company based in Brisbane. The slogans and artwork on these vans is often degrading and insulting to women so much so that, in 2015, Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel publisher, apparently announced that it would remove Wicked Campers from its New Zealand and Australian guidebooks.

The media has reported that Wicked Campers is widely known for having inappropriate and crude slogans on their vehicles and has been the subject of several complaints to the ASB and the focus of community-led campaigns to remove such slogans on their vehicles. The Australian Standards Bureau CEO Fiona Jolly said that Wicked was ‘The one and only non-compliant advertiser in Australia’. In the past four years, there have been 74 complaints about Wicked vans, of which 49 have been upheld, meaning that they were found to breach community standards.

A 2014 campaign against Wicked Campers was launched when a Sydney mother noticed a slogan on a van that started with ‘In every little princess there is a little’—and I have too much respect for this House to finish that sentence or any of the other filthy, derogatory messages. That resulted in a protest petition with 127,193 signatures being presented to Wicked Campers, prompting an apology, the removal of the slogan in question and a commitment over the coming six months to changing slogans of an insensitive nature.

This did not go unnoticed by the LNP. In fact, in 2014 the LNP government instigated a parliamentary inquiry into sexually explicit outdoor advertising. The recommendations from that inquiry included the AANA being given the statutory authority to force compliance where companies were found to have breached codes or acceptable standards. The LNP was in the process of drafting legislation when the 2015 election was called. I listened to the minister mocking this and think that he doth protest too much. On 19 May 2016, journalist Amy Remeikis wrote—

The review into the state’s anti-discrimination act, which was meant to also encompass how the Palaszczuk Government could potentially tackle Wicked Campers’ offensive slogans, was never started.

She continued—

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath told Fairfax Media in July last year—

that was 2015—

the Queensland Law Reform Commission, ‘as part of its ongoing jurisdiction’, ‘will start a review of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, this year’, when asked whether the state could add vilification against gender to the act, to give legislative teeth to the fight against derogative slogans used by the campervan hire company. Nearly a year later, no review of the act has been listed on the department’s website under either current or completed reviews.

A glimpse of that website today reveals that it is still not there. Although it is positive to see some movement at the station, as the saying goes, there is no doubt that, despite two years wasted by a dithering Labor government with reviews when the LNP had already done its homework, this lazy government has now brought forward a bill that is poorly thought through and drafted. Instead of tightening loopholes that allow offensive advertising to continue, the Palaszczuk government has shifted the problem. Businesses such as Wicked Campers can simply move interstate. Some already have. The Department of Transport and Main Roads confirmed that it would be difficult to track how long vehicles stayed in Queensland.

Representing a border electorate presents many challenges on a daily basis, with services and regulations varying between states. The recently announced cross-border agreement recognises these difficulties and time will tell if the actions listed within it prove helpful. I call on the Premier to include this issue in the work list of items to be reported upon annually.

The electorate of Currumbin benefits enormously from tourism events. In a few weeks time my electorate will be hosting major events such as the Quicksilver Pro as well as surf-lifesaving and Ironman and Ironwomen contests. I would like to take a moment to congratulate our very own Mick Fanning as a receipt of a 2017 Australia Day honour. Visitors flock to the Currumbin electorate’s world-class beaches and there are plenty of bold billboards and branding adorning its foreshores. There are caravans and campervans—and Wicked ones at that. The Currumbin electorate is a family-friendly destination and does not wish to have young visitors exposed to some of the crude banter that is plastered on these vans.

The committee received 11 submissions from a range of individuals and organisations and made two recommendations. The first recommendation was that this bill be passed. The second recommendation was that the minister consider introducing a requirement that all Queensland hire vehicles that are more than five years old have a current roadworthy safety certificate. I note that the minister has knocked this recommendation on the head with a very poor excuse.

Only last week my office received the following email from a constituent concerned about the message a provocative sign on a billboard was doing for the reputation of the Gold Coast in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It said—

Whatever the merits of such advertising as the SIN CITY BILLBOARD at this prominent intersection leading from the Airport and at a gateway to the Gold Coast, I think it is possibly not the message we want to convey on the world stage generally, and certainly not what we want to convey leading up to and during the Commonwealth Games. You know I’m not a prude but it promotes an adult image of our city that is inconsistent with the family theme inherent in the Games.

Mind you, it is not the first time that this particular billboard has come under criticism for its explicit advertising. An earlier complaint to the Department of Transport and Main Roads received the following reply—

• It should also be noted that the ... sign in question, is located within private property and not within the boundary of a state-controlled road.

• The advertising industry adopts The Australian Association of National Advertisers... Advertiser Code of Ethics as a means of self-regulation for advertising on roadside signage. TMR does not have the statutory power to approve, or otherwise, the content of Advertising Devices outside the boundaries of a state-controlled road.

The subject of this legislation brought back memories of holidaying in Byron Bay with my two children a dozen or so years ago. Back then, I found the messages on Wicked Campers insulting to women. Some say that we should just laugh it off, but the subliminal message is stored in the mind and reinforces the notion of women as subservient and sex objects. At that time, my kids were old enough to have already formed their values and beliefs, but I have to say that, if they had been younger, I would not have liked one of these boldly painted kombivans pulling up next to me at traffic lights, the beach or anywhere else close for that matter. They have no place in a modern and caring society.

All of us in this House are in agreement that we must do what we can to protect our children from visually disturbing images and protect women from demeaning publicly displayed messages. With child abuse rampant and the incidence of domestic violence escalating, offensive advertising of this nature should not be tolerated. Although the LNP will not be opposing this legislation, it is concerned that there is an opportunity lost here and that means that this unacceptable activity may still be able to flourish elsewhere.

 

Welcome from Jann

As the State Member for Currumbin since 2004 we have achieved much together to make the place we call home an even better and safer community.

It truly is an honour to serve the caring and connected residents of Currumbin.

Your thoughts and concerns matter to me and I look forward to continuing to be a strong voice on your behalf.

My electorate office staff and I are here to help you with state government issues.

Kind regards

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