The ‘F Word’ Is No Longer Deemed Offensive In Australia

The ‘F Word’ Is No Longer Deemed Offensive In Australia

An Australian judge has dismissed charges of offensive language against three marriage equality protesters who were caught on camera chanting swear words. Apparently, yelling expletives into a loudspeaker on public property no longer constitutes offensive language. Good to know.

In September 2015, three protesters were charged by police for chanting swear words at a Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) protest against conservative Christian Democrat politician Fred Nile. According to the protesters, Nile was out celebrating the defeat of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill with other far-right conservatives. The offensive slogans included “fuck off” and “fuck Fred Nile”.

Originally the trio were issued with $500 penalties for offensive language in public but these fines were later dismissed. (It is against the law to distribute penalty notices at a protest.) Police then elected to bring criminal charges against them instead.

Today, following a year long court battle, all criminal charges and fines against the three have been thrown out of court. Interestingly, the judge ruled that “fuck” is now part of everyday vernacular, as proven by common, inoffensive phrases like “you fucking beauty”.

“This is a big win for free speech and the right to protest,” said Patrick Wright, co-convener of CAAH, “the police have attempted to scare marriage equality activists out of speaking up against bigotry. They have failed.”

One of the original protesters, Cat Rose, added that she will continue to fight for marriage equality and LGBTI rights and opponents could expect “a few f-bombs” along the way. Bless.

We’re curious to hear what you guys think. Has “fuck” lost its ability to offend? Should protesters be free to use any language they like during peaceful demonstrations? Or do you prefer “clean” language and censored headlines like the one above? Share your thoughts in the comments.


  • That’s the best fucking news I’ve heard all fucking day.

    Thank fuck for that. It’s about fucking time.

    Fucking fuckers.

  • I’m not one to excessively use profanity but I don’t believe it should be censored. People should be able to hear and say whatever they want and if a few people are offended by it, they can go fuck themselves. Besides, this is Australia! We greet our friends by calling them “cunts” for fucks sakes!

  • That’s terrible fucking advice as it only applies in the state where it was handled. Laws applying to offensive behaviour are state laws not federal.

  • It certainly hasn’t lost it’s impact to offend but it has been softened somewhat — in my family at least — by the fact that my 65 year old Mother uses on a weekly basis.

  • Are you happy for people to drop the F-bomb around your young children/family members?
    If not then any claims that it is no longer offensive have zero weight in my opinion.

  • It’s funny I use the word when I’m with friends but try to be a little tactful out in public. I do think though that it’s devaluing the protestors message if they’re swearing at the guy (I don’t like or agree with Niles either). If you can’t get your message across without swearing is it really right?

    • It doesn’t really facilitate debate, does it? But, if you’re not trying to have a debate, you’ve realised that you’re never going to stop the CDP from getting one upper house seat in NSW, why not just tell Fred to fuck off? Works well enough as an expression of frustration.

  • Isn’t that interesting?
    ” “This is a big win for free speech and the right to protest,” said Patrick Wright” to be able to say “Fuck Fred Nile”.
    Yes, I suppose it is a win, to able to voice an opinion in opposition to another’s voiced opinion in opposition to a change in a status quo. Wait, what?
    Is the freedom of speech for some more equal than others?

    • Yes, some speech should be more free than other speech. Not many people think all speech should be free, and the term “freedom of speech” often forgets this.
      In this specific case, I am yet to hear a sensible argument against allowing two people of the same sex to marry. In fact, many of the arguments are extremely offensive and continue to do great harm to the LGBTI community. Surely when the speech in question actually has the capacity to do harm (not just to offend), the freedom of the speech should be curtailed (or, at least questioned).

      • While I agree with you. I’m sure Fred’s argument would be that gay marriage does harm so he’d use the same argument back at you. Cuts both ways. 🙁

        I do agree though, I wish the idiot wasn’t involved in politics. And I really wish the politicians would stop listening to his hateful babble.

        On a side note, does this mean we can start wearing T-Shirts that say “Fuck… whatever” now? I remember people getting arrested for this. Oh and those wicked campers, instead of painting “offensive pictures and slogans” on them they can now just paint “fuck mobiles” or something and then claim free speech because of this precedent?

        • I’m sure, as fond of absolute fantasies as he is, that he’d be inclined to response like that. Problem is that the harm caused by discussion of LGBTIQ people’s gender identity and sexuality is demonstrably harmful, whereas petitioning for the right to marry cannot possibly be harmful. The comparison would be fanciful – which is why it would have to go before a judge.
          On your side note, I guess so? It hadn’t occurred to me. There doesn’t seem to be, functionally, any difference does there?

  • I thought this had happened well over a decade over when a judge ruled that police officers couldn’t arrest people for language used in every schoolyard in the country.

  • Was “Fuck” ever seen as being that bad?

    My stepdad taught it to me when I was a little kid, and he taught me to say it freely in male company but not to say it in front of women.

    It’s just a normal word that has time and place it can be used.

    • Yes, it was. Was something not said in polite company up until at least the 80’s. After that, I think it changed on a region by region basis, and started to lose its drama. And lots of words have gone through the same process, swear words of the 1800’s just wouldnt have the same impact today because they have either gone out of favor, or lose their impact.

      This isnt any different. Doesnt phase me. While I dont overuse it, it IS a regular part of my vocabulary.

      These days, C-bombing is considerably more offensive to most people. Still have a mental taboo on using that.

  • As pointed out upthread, I think it is inappropriate to use in front of kids, and in certain other social situations, which means that it still retains a level of offensiveness.

    Whether it should be criminally actionable (as opposed to just socially) is a different question. I think the protestors do their cause no favours in this instance though – “the police have attempted to scare marriage equality activists out of speaking up against bigotry”.

    Why does speaking up against bigotry require (or is even assisted by) verbal abuse? Other than making the protestors feel better about themselves, will it assist in convincing more people to press for marriage equality?

  • It would appear the intention was to be offensive to Fred, as it was directed towards him personally (from what I read above). The chant, as reported, doesn’t really make an argument, although it certainly does make a protest.

    Surely if the chant had been fuck (a group with a defined sexual preference), or fuck (some race) then it would have been deemed offensive. Then again you would probably get a way with fuck the Queen. It is a bit perverse that an individual enjoys less protection than a group. If this was a group picking on a fat or disabled kid it would not be tolerated.

    This is somewhat different to the people you may overhear using it in every sentence out of habit or lack of vocabulary. This is not intended to be offensive and is less so if at all.

    However, when it is directed towards someone or even a group of people then the intention is to be offensive. Somewhat sad if it doesn’t work, and I don’t believe it doesn’t.

    For me the ‘crime’ was they attacked the individual rather than his ideas. I would have thought there was plenty of scope there. It doesn’t really help free speech either if you have a group trying to drown out the opposition. It would be more powerful if they made their case with arguments. Not many people listen to Fred, so it would seem a bit silly to be wasting your time with him.

    • I guess we’ll see what the Fred Nike supporters start saying next time there is a protest and people start F-Bombing Fred.

  • So addressing the magistrate as ‘Your Fucking Honour’ won’t have me slapped with contempt…or is that a separate issue?

    • Completely separate issues. There would be plenty of legal behaviours and phrases that you could receive a contempt charge for. I’m pretty sure that you can get charged with contempt for not doing anything in fact, if you’re flagrantly disobeying a court order (through your inaction).

  • So, the “Fuck” word is no longer offensive in Australia yay!! Providing freedom of speech should be the first most duty of the government. I agree that these type of words should be avoided in front of kids and during formal environments. However, if you are with your friends, it should absolutely not be an offensive saying ‘fuck off’ and etc. type of words lol.

  • How ironic, Fred Nile always proclaims how he is for free speech. But when people exercise their right to free speech that he harps on about, He chucks a sooky la la. What a mongoloid.

  • @djbear. You seem to know something that’s not in the article. The article says that “Police then elected to bring criminal charges…”, not Nile.
    I’d say that calling someone ‘mongoloid’ is offensive, particularly to sufferers of Down’s syndrome and their carers.

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