Have you ever been confronted by graphic or sexualised outdoor advertising? Such advertising is the focus of a Queensland parliamentary inquiry which is underway and today was addressed by Australian Christian Lobby Queensland director Wendy Francis

As a campaigner for G-rated outdoor advertising for more than six years, Ms Francis today stressed the need for all outdoor advertising to be free from sexualised images and messages. Below is an abridged version of her opening statement to the inquiry.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee in regards to the proposed Offensive Advertising Amendment Bill, and congratulations to Mark Bailey, the Queensland Government and this committee for your leadership. It has proven to be a catalyst for other states to follow – in particular, Tasmania and Victoria.

The offensiveness of the advertisements being considered is made obvious by the graphic imagery warning on the inquiry website where the submissions have been uploaded.

I will not speak about the vilest of the slogans, but for context, I will mention three of the least offensive examples that we are currently permitting on our roads. If you are in your car behind such a vehicle you cannot avoid the messaging of -

  • I can already imagine the gaffe tape on your mouth.
  • I’d like to drown my sorrows, but my wife won’t go swimming.
  • If I promise not to kill you, can I have a hug?

Misogynist and violent messages such as these are completely inexcusable. The strong link to domestic violence and violence against women cannot be ignored.

I have campaigned for Outdoor Advertising to be G-rated since 2010 and so I am personally grateful for this first step towards making our outdoor areas safe for children.

As Queensland Director of the Australian Christian Lobby I also thank you. ACL supports any legislative or regulatory moves to increase the effectiveness of upholding community standards in advertising. We oppose the current self-regulatory approach towards advertising which continues to fail to adequately remove advertisements that vilify and demean women.

Wicked Campers has continually ignored the Advertising Standards Board directives with no consequence apart from free publicity. Its brand name is well known throughout Australia. It has taken the Queensland Government to introduce long overdue penalties for flouting the ASB directives. Other advertising remains up across QLD despite been ruled against by the Advertising Standards Board.

Additionally, the time it takes for offensive advertising to be removed is completely unacceptable.

Ms Simone Carton from the Advertising Standards Bureau noted that the overall complaints regarding offensive advertising have declined. One of the reasons for this decline, can I please submit, is the fatigue that exists among people who complain and have their complaints dismissed, or upheld and yet the advertising remains up for weeks following the decision.

All outdoor advertising, no matter the location, should be appropriate for viewing by children and should be free from sexualised images and messages. I urge the government to consider the failure of the advertising industry to adequately self-regulate to a threshold that upholds community standards, and to look at stronger regulatory options.

A NSW parliamentary committee released a report into the Sexualisation of Children and Young People on 16 November 2016. It also noted the limitations of the current advertising regulatory arrangements.

A more child-focused approach in advertising is badly needed. Tasmania and Victoria are looking at going further than the excellent example that Queensland has provided.

In Tasmania, offending vehicles may be stopped from entering national parks until the signs meet advertising standards. Councils running camping grounds will be asked by the government to consider banning the vehicles to protect their customers from what is essentially an assault on families, particularly young people, women and girls.

The crackdown in Victoria will target all advertisements that vilify and demean women, including, but not stopping at, Wicked Campers' slogans. The representation of women in all advertising will be examined, as the public nature of the objectionable pictures and slogans in advertising means it is impossible to avoid exposure to them.

In closing, I want to thank the Government and this committee once again, and ask for your consideration into further strengthening the regulation of outdoor advertising in Queensland.