Friday, April 29, 2016

The Wicked campers decision

For the past two months, the public has been complaining about Wicked camper-vans' offensive slogans. Yesterday, the Office of Film and Literature Classification responded, by classifying three of the vans as "objectionable" - meaning that merely possessing them is punishable by a penalty of ten year's imprisonment. But note what the ban applies to and why: three vehicles depicting drug use involving cartoon characters, deemed likely to encourage drug use among children. Their sexist, offensive slogans aren't affected. So, while Paula Bennet is blustering and threatening Wicked to remove their slogans or "get out the cheque book", its simply hot air. Those vans aren't banned, and on any honest reading of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, aren't likely to be - because sexist dickheadery isn't grounds for censorship in this country.

Meanwhile, there's this:

Wicked could face a fine of up to $200,000 per offence if it continued to use them. Drivers of the vans could also be fined and police would be able to use their discretion in charging. Police were deciding on the level of consequences.
Or, to put it another way, the police are going to make the law up as they go along to avoid damaging New Zealand's tourism industry. But these are strict liability offences here, which Parliament has decided apply regardless of intent or knowledge. If the vans are banned, anyone currently driving them (or whom they are currently rented to) is commiting an offence (likely multiple offences). It's the police's job to enforce the law as written, and they should do so - not subvert the will of Parliament. And if people don't like that (because, let's face it, it's going to look awful when we bang up a couple of German teenagers and subject them to a show-trial because the stupid van they rented was suddenly classified underneath them), then maybe they should have thought about that before clamouring for the law to be twisted in this way.

(Meanwhile, the Department of Conservation is now a week late on my OIA request on their issues about Wicked. Once upon a time, DoC made OIA a priority and dropped everything to process them. Clearly that is no longer the case under a National Minister. Just another sign of how National has eroded open government and transparency...)