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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 4

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (9:14 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2004 will make minor technical amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.

The amendments are designed to remove any doubt as to the validity of classification decisions made by the Classification Board or the Classification Review Board in response to deficient or defective applications for classification by law enforcement agencies, or (in the case of applications for review) applications by persons entitled to make such applications under section 42 of the classification act.

The bill is designed to ensure that prosecutions for child pornography and related offences do not fail for technical reasons related to applications for classification.

While the government is of the view that decisions made by the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board are valid even where there has been a fault in the application process, the bill addresses a potential legal argument that a decision made in response to a defective application is invalid.

The bill is designed to ensure that applications for classification from law enforcement agencies that have not met all the technical requirements of the act will not result in a subsequent classification decision being invalid.

The amendments contained in the bill will apply to classification decisions made before the commencement of these amendments, and are in that sense retrospective in their operation.

However, it is clear that this retrospectivity is appropriate and justified and will not lead to any substantive injustice.

Any errors that may have been made in the application process were purely technical and cast no doubt whatsoever on the correctness of the classification decision, which rested on the examination of the relevant product, not the formalities of the application.

There is no legitimate reason why a person should be able to escape prosecution, conviction and punishment for serious child pornography offences in those circumstances.

The bill also removes any doubt as to the validity of decisions made or any later action taken by the board, the review board or the director in respect of the decisions validated by the bill.

The full rigour of the classification decision making process will remain unchanged.

The government is committed to the elimination of child pornography and this bill will ensure that a person cannot avoid prosecution or conviction based on a technicality.

I present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Ms Roxon) adjourned.