Mooning laws are, well, un-Australian


“Keep it in your pants” is an expression that will soon take on new relevance when Victoria officially outlaws mooning and streaking in an update to the state’s penal code.

The new amendment to section 17 of the Summary Offences Act 1966, unanimously passed by the Victorian Parliament, states that “behaviour that is indecent, offensive or insulting includes behaviour that involves a person exposing (to any extent) the person’s anal or genital region”. It will also ban the singing of obscene songs or ballads in public.

The new laws would be comical in their absurdity and potential overreach – if they weren’t real. But it seems that in Victoria public nudity or obscenity on the sports field or high street will soon be too much of an affront to public decency to be tolerated.

For many Australians the sight of naked protesters, wayward school kids, loose-panted fashionistas or just drunk party goers flashing their buttocks is almost an expected occasional spectacle. I would even go so far as to say that the sight of the occasional streaker at the cricket is often an unexpected highlight adding colour and humour to an otherwise run-of-the-mill long-winded cricket match.

Sure, it might be disruptive or irritating to some, but thankfully we are a nation that has mostly broken away from the Victorian-era morality to feel the need to police such larrikin behaviour in law. Until now.

Victoria’s Attorney-General Martin Pakula has taken to radio this week to justify the new laws, claiming, “I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun”. Try explaining that to the good folk at Melbourne’s annual gay and lesbian pride “summer mooning” contest, where contestants are judged on the well-rounded appeal of their buttocks. Will this new law apply to them?

In fairness to Mr Pakula he makes the case that we need laws to distinguish between acts of indecency and sex crimes. As he told 3AW, there “are very different types of offences and the legislation for the first time makes that clear… sexual exposure is of course a much more serious offence.”

But who will be the judge of what is indecent and what is just harmless fun? In a snap Facebook protest so far more than 100 people have pledged to bare their naked bums at the Victorian Parliament House next full moon in protest of the new laws.

Police responded quickly on their official Facebook page: “Hi this is Victoria Police. The only moon we want to see on Parliament House is the 8 day old moon in the October lunar cycle. We suggest keeping your pants on and shut this page down or potentially risk criminal charges.”

I have recently returned from Germany where its not uncommon to see entire families picnicking naked in city parks – but here we are drafting new laws to clamp down on such relatively benign activities as mooning and streaking. No wonder the news has been reported around the world in the past 24 hours – including in the UK and US. Victoria may soon become the laughing stock of the world as the state where Victorian morality is in renaissance.

This article first appeared in The Age

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