SOMEONE needs to turn 2020 off at the power point and turn it back on again. It’s fair to say our planet has faced some challenges of late, with a worldwide pandemic, widespread political and civil unrest, and the impending collapse of the global economy to name but a few headaches.
But here’s a problem Portland, Victoria resident Peter Hansen didn’t see coming: VicRoads has deemed the ‘WEPN’ number plates he has fitted to his LC Torana to be “offensive”, issued a cancelation notice, and demanded he turn them in.
“After careful consideration [we] have determined that as the combination has specific negative references, it may be considered offensive to the broader community and as such, have made the decision that it is inappropriate for public display,” stated the notice.
Pete reckons it’s a case of political correctness gone mad, and it’s hard to disagree. “I’ve had the plates on the car for 10 years,” he says. “My wife recently ordered WEPN2 plates for my tow vehicle as a birthday present. She applied for them online, paid for them, and then the order was suddenly cancelled and the money was refunded. A week or two later I got a letter in the mail telling me that the WEPN plates on the Torana would be cancelled. The car is engineered and I’ve never got into any trouble in it; I’m a drag racer and I take it to events like Summernats.”
Keen to preserve the identity of his pride and joy, Peter followed the appeals process in the hope of having the decision overturned. However, VicRoads quashed the appeal and reinforced its belief that the number plates had the potential to be considered offensive and incite violence, stating: “The review team has agreed that the plate combination is offensive as it is a reference to violence. I am aware that you have [had] the plates on your vehicle for some time but perceptions and meanings change over time and public expectations shift.”
“It took them two or three weeks to get back to me on the appeal, and I’ve made at least four phone calls and only just managed to get hold of my case manager,” says Peter. “I rang them trying to extend the date that I need to return the plates by. They’ve agreed to do that, but it’s only a stay of execution; I’m out of options to appeal the decision.”
VicRoads has offered to pay Peter $495 for the plates or issue him with custom plates of his choice in exchange for the WEPN plates, and while that offer is well shy of the $1500 he paid for them privately, he’s not interested in money. “The car is known everywhere as WEPN. You take the plates off it and it’s nothing; it loses its identity.”
A Facebook post about the matter has gone viral, with well over 1000 shares at last count. And while Peter has been overwhelmed by the support of the car community and had several people with similar experiences reach out to offer advice, most have been from other states with different regulations and processes. The reality is that there’s precious little he can do to pursue it further.
Street Machine contacted VicRoads for comment, and the following statement was issued:
“We review number plate combinations from time to time and we occasionally recall number plates that may be deemed inappropriate or offensive. VicRoads checks tens of thousands of new number plate combinations each year to prevent offensive or inappropriate plates being issued. We also reserve the right to recall number plates that may later be deemed offensive, disrespectful to the law or are inappropriate for display, such as plates that reference violence.”