By Anthony Barich
A 19-year-old Catholic theology student has taken on advertising giants over overtly sexual advertisements – and won.
Matthew Restall, a first-year Bachelor of Theology student at Australian Catholic University, created a local storm when he started petitions in Victoria and NSW to put a stop to “offensive” billboards and vehicle advertisements.
Matthew, from Werribee in Victoria, said NSW and Victoria are littered with big yellow billboards saying, in huge lettering, “Want longer lasting sex?”
On August 25, the ASB announced it would remove all 120 ‘want longer lasting sex’ signs Australia-wide, despite originally declaring it would not review its decision until 2012.
ASB chief executive Alison Abernethy said the organisation has received continued complaints about the ‘want longer lasting sex’ Advanced Medical Institute billboard for 18 months.
She conceded that when the ASB previously considered the advertisement, it was identified as being at “the upper limit” of what the community considered acceptable and, “with the shift in community standards, the content of the billboard was no longer acceptable”.
“The increased placements since February 2007, its size, bold colours and blatant message were considered by the Board as making the billboard confronting to a large section of the community,” Ms Abernethy said.
Mr Restall told The Wyndham Leader that it’s an issue not just for parents or religious people.
“They don’t want to know about people’s struggles in the bedroom,” he said.
When told by his local council to contact his local member of parliament, Mr Restall and his twin brother Christopher started a website, notosexualadvertisements.info, on which people can download a petition to the Speaker and members of the Legislative Assemblies of NSW and Victoria.
As The Record went to press they had gathered 1500 signatures, and had inspired contacts in Brisbane to start a similar petition campaign to the Queensland parliament.
Among signatories are some of the biggest names in the Church in Australia: Cardinal George Pell of Sydney and Archbishops Denis Hart of Melbourne and Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn.
The interfaith campaign has also attracted the signatures of Dr Mohammad Anas, Imam of Auburn’s Omar Mosque in western Sydney, Baptist Pastor Paul Mosiejczuk, Australian Family Association national president David Perin and National Civic Council national president Peter Westmore.
Mr Restall, president of the Victorian Catholic Students and Young Adults Association, said the ABS’s original moral standard did not reflect the general Australian community’s.
“We’ve got strip club advertisements and big yellow advertisements for nasal delivery technology for sexual dysfunction in residential areas and on freeways. They’re everywhere,” he told The Record.
There are several of the yellow and red “want longer lasting sex” advertisements on the major street Parramatta Road alone, he says.
His next target is cars driven around Victoria advertising Kittens car washes with explicit images of “virtually naked” women on them.
He has at least two Liberal members willing to put a Bill forward to place tougher restrictions on what advertisers can say in their signs, though he says that politicians in Victoria currently have their hands full with euthanasia and abortion bills passing through their State parliament.
“I’d be disappointed if legislation doesn’t get passed to stop this kind of advertising, because it seems like there are lots of people in NSW and Victoria who want to change it,” Matthew said.
“I’m fairly confident, though, as I believe they will do the right thing; though we haven’t seen anything happen like this in a while.”