Australian Lawmakers Propose Outlawing Parody, Having A Sense Of Humor

from the no-lol dept

There is nothing more dangerous than a government without a sense of humor. This is true for a myriad of reasons, but chief among them must be that a government unable to incorporate humor into its ethos is all the more likely to attempt to outlaw forms of humor held dear by the general public. To see an example of this in action, we can look to Australia and its strange battle against Juice Media, makers of the series Honest Government Adverts, such as the one they did on Australia.

Those of you who haven’t been hit in the head with a hammer recently likely noticed that the Australian shield on display on that clearly satirical video is slightly off in that it doesn’t spell “Australian” correctly. Hammer attacks or not, if that was the only clue you had that this video is pure and brilliant satire, you need immediate help from healthcare professionals. And, yet, despite all of that, the National Symbols Officer of Australia, which is apparently a real thing, has begun banging its drums over the various laws it claims using that satirical symbol violates. Via the EFF post:

It is unfortunate that the Australian government cannot distinguish between impersonation and satire. But it is especially worrying because the government has proposed legislation that would impose jail terms for impersonation of a government agency. Some laws against impersonating government officials can be appropriate (Australia, like the U.S., is seeing telephone scams from fraudsters claiming to be tax officials). But the proposed legislation in Australia lacks sufficient safeguards. Moreover, the recent letter to Juice Media shows that the government may lack the judgment needed to apply the law fairly.

The legislation in question takes bad legislation to horrific levels. For example, while a 2 year jail sentence is the proposed punishment for anyone impersonating a government agency, there are no provisions within the law involving the violation to be one that is intentionally deceiving. And, while the proposed law does make room for uses that are “solely for genuine satire”, that word “genuine” is doing a lot of heavy-lifting to allow the Australian government to be the arbiters of what is truly satire and what isn’t. That’s territory ripe for misuse and is the reason why our own First Amendment doesn’t include such qualifiers. Also, given that the Australian government is already issuing threats to Juice Media, it seems clear that government isn’t well-suited to the work this legislation would make for it.

And, in case you were wondering, yes, Juice Media has already responded with another “honest advert”:

Slow clap.

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Comments on “Australian Lawmakers Propose Outlawing Parody, Having A Sense Of Humor”

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David says:

The problem with satire...

is that it doesn’t age well. If you take a satire about government overreach made in the 80s, it’s indistinguishable from a current-day government broadcast.

So it is important to make satirical features endowed with almost-governmental insignia illegal and thus struck off the record. Otherwise 20 years from now nobody will be able to tell the difference and history will be a mess.

Actually, history might be more consistent if you only keep the satirical broadcasts and prohibit the rest.

But at any rate, keeping both is confusing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The problem with satire...

Especially these ads given that the referendum to change the spelling of ‘Australian’ to ‘Australien’ is just around the corner.

And to add to your point, we might as well ban all forms of fiction. In a couple of hundred years after the robot apocalypse finally dies down, our predecessors will have a hell of a time distinguishing actual events like World War II and The Hunger Games.

I think the government spends too much time making ‘for the children’. We need to invigorate efforts ‘for the posterity!’

Anonymous Coward says:

The sun shining very intensily down there, it must have cooked their brains over the decades. Another example of cooked brains are their concentration camps for immigrants. Set one foot on the country? There you go in the camp.

The only not cooked brains are the Aborigines. Of course, they are also hunted by the cooked brains.

GristleMissile (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I fully agree with El Trumpo’s restrictions on so-called “refugees”, and still want those ads here. Satire is an essential component of free speech, and a powerful tool of political speech.

Attempting to ban, regulate, or in any way restrict satire is antithetical to a free society, and should be grounds for being given a cigarette and a sunny wall to stand next to.

Strayan Crawl says:

Dropbears and drongos

Judging by the latest constitutional fiasco, which basically states that if your great-great-great-great-grand father/mother/uncle/aunt once lived near someone who ended up on a convict ship, then Section 44 states that you have dual citizenship and are ineligible to be in the parliament in some way.

Honestly, with these galahs in charge, who NEEDS parody? If John Clarke was still with us, he’d make absolute mincemeat of these stupid proposals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Dropbears and drongos

the latest constitutional fiasco, which basically states that if your great-great-great-great-grand father/mother/uncle/aunt once lived near someone who ended up on a convict ship, then Section 44 states that you have dual citizenship and are ineligible to be in the parliament in some way.

This smells like the work of racists (and badly). Case in point: nazi stooge Hans Globke co-authored the Nuremberg laws. In post-war Germany, he was responsible for the law which is still in use today and which defines who may call themselves German… according to that law it is restricted to those with German inheritance.

We need to steer away from these deep and troubled waters and therefore reject the sentiment that inheritance alone makes citizenship. IMO citizenship should just be card that you can draw from a vending machine after a year or so staying in the country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dropbears and drongos

Simple solution, renounce all your other country’s citizenships and then you can become Prime Minister. Even them dumb union hacks can get that right over in the communist party. Eg,ex-PM Julia Gillard, formally from Wales,UK.

The Governor-General and the Queen/King can be from another country and not an Australian citizen at all because us colonial convicts just can’t do those jobs properly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Dropbears and drongos

Federal politicians are sworn in with one hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, so bloody well abide by it by reading it first and when you sign the paperwork as a candidate make sure you have made an effort to check if you are eligible to the benefits of another country’s citizenship and then renounce that citizenship. If you can’t do a simple task such as that then find a job sweeping a street somewhere & let the running of the country be done by those that can at least make simple enquiries to Consulates to find out if those matters apply to themselves.

Ben (profile) says:


I found it odd that throughout the video they are beeping out various “bad” words (e.g. *beep* used to describe the oil companies arranging to pillage the bight)

… but the video ends with “Great Australian Bight, Home to our next great fuck-up” without any *beep*.

Is that intentional? Or just their own fuck-up? I suspect intentional.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Australia has no specific right to Freedom of Speech, in fact the Constitution only (under High Court rulings) allows an ‘implied’ freedom of political communication.

Multiple cases have stated that speech is not protected and others have stated the exact opposite. eg: No right to protest unless ‘authorised’ by local govt agency; distinguished byu “calling Tony Abbot.. our ex Prime Minister..’a cunt’ is quite ok” (Though that wasnt a federal ruling and state based.

Hugo says:

While there is lots of hoo-haa’ing about free speech, stupid laws, and the Streisand Effect, there are a couple of other points.

Firstly, they changed the logo in the follow up video to replace the heads of the kangaroo and emu with surveillance cameras (which is a nice touch). So, their parady of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms (which is what the Australian Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet[1] calls the original) has changed.

Many people note the “mispelling” of Australian as Australien, but I have yet to see anyone note that Juice have also replaced the seven pointed star[2] which sits atop the origin with the styled head of an extra-terrestrial.

Hence, Austr-Alien.

I assume that the National Symbols Officer of Australia missed that little hint too. Perhaps the Officer is an extraterrestrial dual-national and is offended?

[2]: Seven points because, originally, New Zealand was to be the seventh state. So, thats worth replacing because it is inaccurate 🙂

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