The police are in charge of a million-dollar swear jar. In 2011, the states collected a staggering amount in fines for offensive or indecent language.
So, who decides what is offensive? In many states, it's up to police discretion.In New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, police can issue on-the-spot fines for offensive language. And as far as many civil rights groups are concerned, that is part of the problem — the police, who are often the victims of the offence, and also use such language are also the arbiters of it.
A 2010 court case, in which a university student was arrested after calling a police officer a "prick", is a good example.
The police officer clearly deemed that this was offensive. Local Court magistrate Robbie Williams later ruled that "the word prick is of a less derogatory nature than other words and it is in common usage in this country".
In June last year, when the Victorian government announced it would be introducing fines for the use of offensive language in public, hundreds of people took to the street in an official 'FuckWalk'.
From Flinders Street Station to Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne's CBD, the group carried signs that read "Free speech is a fucking lie" and "Free speech, not fine$".
You could say they responded as if this were a new law, brought in by some sort of Big Brother government. In Victoria it has been an offence to swear in public since 1966, the offence just hadn't yet carried a fine.
You only have to put these numbers together to see that NSW police are in charge of a million-dollar swear jar. In 2011, the state revenue collected a staggering $1.23 million in fines for offensive or indecent language.