PETER Hansen's fight to reclaim the use of his signature WEPN plates has hit another bump in the road. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) rejected Peter's application for a review of thhe VicRoads decision to revoke the use of the plates. The rejection letter states that VCAT "does not appear to have the juristriction or power to make the orders nor grant the relief that you are seeking."
There, however, is provision in the VCAT act for Peter to request a review of the decision. "I'm not sure where to take it from here," says Peter. "I want to keep and use my plates! I've had some legal advice, but I'm not sure whether to keep fighting. Cheers to everyone who has supported me on this, including Roma Britnell, our local state member."
Mrs Britnell written on Peter's behalf to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, the Hon Ben Carroll. She has also questioned the decision on her Facebook page, stating: "You have to question the priorities of VicRoads when it has a huge backlog of license tests but it’s focusing on trivial matters like this. I find it very had to believe anyone would find this number plate offensive."
The Shadow Minister for Metro Roads, Road Safety and the TAC, Brad Battin has also weighed in and is asking members of the public to make their views known via an online survey.
When VicRoads deemed the personalised plates on Peter Hansen's 'WEPN' Torana as offensive, they may have got more of a response than were prepared for.
Peter attended his local VicRoads office in Portland yesterday to collect his generic plates and was joined by a large contingent from the local modified car community, eager to show their support.
"We had between 50 and 75 cars," says Peter. "We met at Portland Mechanical Services, then cruised up the main street to VicRoads. Everyone did laps while we went through the process of getting the new plates and fitting them. More locals joined in once they saw what was happening."
The cruise kicked off at Portland Mechanical Services, where Peter (centre), was joined by fellow LC Torana owners Brad Frost (left) and Ryan Collier (right)
With that job done, the convoy cruised to the local foreshaw for a meet up. "It went off really well, the support from the local car community was amazing" says Peter.
"Everyone was really well-behaved. An older gent even brought his own personalised plates down to the foreshore and offered them to me. The whole thing was very humbling and brought a tear to my eye a couple of times.
After fitting the generic VicRoads plates, Peter gave the 'WEPN' plates symbolic send-off in the back of a hearse!
"We had offers from people in Melbourne to bring their cars down, but we wanted to keep it local with the COVID stuff that is going on at the moment."
The next step for Peter and his wife Jacinta is an appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, or VCAT. You can show your support by signing the change.org petition here.
Portland is a real car town and many top-quality rides turned out in support, including Jeff Fitzgerald's HK Monaro.
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.”
What does WEPN mean?
If you are still confused, WEPN is short for 'weapon'. This doesn't mean that Peter is calling his car a literal weapon. Rather, it is an Aussie slang term that can refer to a car, bike or even a person who is especially fast or good-looking.