JUST when I thought nothing could alarm me more than Donald Trump being elected President, I’ve discovered I actually agree with the Australian Christian Lobby on something.

Yes, the same Australian Christian Lobby that thinks gay people shouldn’t be afforded the same rights as straight people and believes in criminalising abortion, and last week celebrated the fact that terminally ill South Australians still can’t voluntarily end their own lives with dignity.

In planetary terms: if the ACL’s policy ledger were the sun, I would be Pluto.

But it seems there is one thing on which we agree: those Wicked Campers have got to go.

For the blissfully unaware: Wicked Campers is a budget van rental company favoured by backpackers that is famous for its “colourfully” decorated vehicles featuring “humorous” slogans.

Well, some might say “humorous”. Others would say “sexist”, “misogynist”, “homophobic” and “racist”.

Some examples of Wicked Campers van slogans are: “In every princess there is a little slut who wants to try it just once”, “Women are like banks; once you withdraw, you lose interest”, and “A wife: an attachment you screw on the bed to get the housework done”.

Charming. Not to mention the one I found myself driving behind through the CBD earlier this year that annoyed me so much I had to pull over and tweet about it: “Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere”. (To be honest, I’m not certain I even understand that one, although I’m pretty sure it’s poor advice.)

Basically, Wicked Campers are the van rental company for people who want their transport to say “I value discounts above dignity”.

And now three states have moved to ban them, by cracking down on offensive advertising.

This month Queensland introduced legislation that will force Wicked Campers to remove obscene slogans or graphics on their vans or face having the vehicles deregistered.

Last week Victoria and Tasmania followed suit, announcing new laws targeting all outdoor advertising and signage.

ACL spokesperson Wendy Francis welcomed the move in Tasmania, saying the slogans were “offensive” and contributed to “domestic violence, the objectification of women and ... entrenched gender inequality”.

Of course, this is the same group that has compared same sex marriage to the Holocaust, claimed homosexual parents will lead to “a new stolen generation”, and said being gay is more hazardous than smoking, so their definition of “offensive” is somewhat elastic.

But on their call to “ban the vans”, I agree.

Frankly it’s been a long time coming for Wicked Campers. The vans have caused so much angst that last year people protested in the Brisbane CBD, and a Change.org petition to ban them attracted more than 100,000 signatures. The company was even condemned in the Senate for “promoting violence against women”.

The biggest frustration was that up until now, seemingly, no one could do anything about them.

Wicked Campers vans have been the subject of 94 complaints to the Advertising Standards Board since 2008, 66 of which were upheld. Of those, only 14 vans were ever modified or discontinued by the company.

Basically, Wicked Campers could send a giant moving billboard spruiking sexist or misogynist rubbish across the country, and all the ASB could do is politely ask them to stop. Most times a complaint was upheld about the company, they typically ignored it. And that was that.

Hopefully this new legislation will give the ASB more regulatory teeth to get advertisers to comply with their rulings. However we need to be careful not to use the law to enforce moralistic principles.

The Wicked Camper painted up like a Jim’s Mowing van with “Jim’s Brazilians muff management and waxing” isn’t the sharpest satire I’ve ever seen, but it’s not exactly obscene.

Neither is the van someone complained to the ASB about last year that read: “It makes my heart race when you sit on my face”. Tasteless, yes, but not really offensive.

And if Wicked Campers wants to paint Scooby Doo and Shaggy smoking a bong on the side of a Kombi (and they have done), it would be utterly ridiculous to charge them, when actually smoking a bong yourself would only land you a fine in most states.

But alongside the company’s blokey, jokey van slogans are the ones that make light of domestic violence, such as “I’ve often wanted to drown my troubles but I can’t get my wife to go swimming”.

And those that joke about child abuse, like “70% of preists (sic) who’ve tried Camels prefer young boys”.

And those that are just plain racist, like “Save a whale, harpoon a Jap”.

They’re wholly indefensible.

Here’s hoping South Australia is the next to jump on the ban-the-van bandwagon.


First published in The Advertiser on November 20, 2016. CLICK HERE to read the original article.