Friday, September 03, 2004

Calling the police mean names

At 31, North Queenslander Pat Coleman is a little young to be a fully-fledged Nutter Waving a Placard in a Prominent Public Place. Indeed, looking at his photo, I’d swear that he was in his mid-40s. Nonetheless, I’ll reluctantly give him the benefit of the doubt here, by taking his, and a slim High Court majority’s, side of the argument ove rthe right to call police "slimy lying bastards" (same URL).

I emphasise “reluctantly” because ordinarily, Placard-Waving Nutters are a main bane of my existence – right up there with telemarketers, windscreen washers at intersections, buskers and the Job Network. The common theme here, in case you don’t get it, is abuse of public trust/space/money for private gain. Plus, can’t placard-waving Pat just get a blog to broadcast his conspiracy theories – to anyone who cares, that is? (Hey, if it’s good enough for me . . .)

Legally-speaking, I haven’t bothered to read the 4-3 High Court judgement, so I won’t be writing here a high-minded exegesis on freedom of speech, and of political speech in particular. I don’t think I really need to, anyway – even the name of the legislation at issue – the Vagrants Act* 1931 – and a perusal of its list of sections give away how badly dated the law in this area is (the sections Pat Coleman were charged under have been amended in the mean time, but not (AFAICT) so as to prevent similar cases being newly prosecuted – until the recent High Court judgement, that is). “Protection to wives of habitual drunkards” – pshaw! (There but for a lack of legally-sanctioned gay marriage went I in my last relationship; and no thanks to our legislators for not thinking of me. As it happens though (and who would have thunk?), I managed to extricate myself by my own bootstraps – without needing to have the cops threaten my pisshead boyfriend with the $40 (!) penalty the section imposes on said habitual drunkards).

Alongside the outdated concept of “vagrants” (from my experience and observations, modern destructive alcoholics typically have full-time jobs and secure housing) is the (IMO) equally quaint/tired notion that our police forces deserve respect, above and beyond the respect any normal citizen deserves – otherwise known as the “What about the uniform? Surely it demands respect” argument.

Now, despite being a gay man, I have been totally bypassed by that leather’n’uniform-liking thang that infects a proportion of my brotherhood. Therefore I am left cold, if a little bemused, by Merv Bartlett of Inala, Queensland’s assertion that police uniforms demand respect. Merv, dunno about you, but the only piece of clothing I’d ever consider of as demanding respect is Speedos – and only then on the right body, and only then temporarily (i.e. “If you want my respect for breakfast, it’s time to drop ‘em, Danno”).

Nor is Merv alone on today’s S(&)MH letters page in his strange submissiveness. Other writers take the opportunity to play Good Slave/Bad Slave with our court system, by accusing the High Court judges of double-standards when it comes to being called mean names. Now apart from the fact that not a whiff of corruption, AFAIK, attaches to any of the seven current High Court judges (while my guesstimate of police corruption is that it ebbs, long-term, around a one-third of the force minimum), the simple fact is that judges generally do show considerable forbearance when it comes to such things – because they have to. Exhibit one: Michael Kirby. Exhibit two is the more colourful (albeit not involving a High Court judge) take-it-on-the-chin attitude of Victorian magistrate Lisa Hannon, who was recently called a "fucking dog" by an accused during a video link-up. After which outburst Ms Hannon turned off the video link, but took no other action.

Possibly, the only-mildly flappable Ms Hannon has worked at a call centre, where being called a "fucking dog", or something similar, is all part of the daily routine. The point is that Australia in 2004 is verily brimming with angry, dumb white trash, and if the cops can’t see this – and simply move on – then they’re the ones having a reality disconnect – lay down your guns, officers, and pick up your placards (the guy with the shopping jeep outside the GPO has plenty spare, I’m sure).

* Technically, the Vagrants, Gaming and Other Offences Act 1931

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