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Thursday, 9 August 2007
Page: 129

Ms ROXON (11:05 AM) —I rise to speak on the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Advertising and Other Matters) Bill 2007. This bill has two purposes: firstly, it seeks to establish a scheme for the self-assessment of films and computer games to enable them to be advertised before they are formally classified by the Office of Film and Literature Classification; and, secondly, it seeks to revise and simplify the process for applying for a classification of compilations of TV series that have already been broadcast in Australia. I note now that the bill will be receiving Labor’s full support both here and in the Senate. The bill does not appear to weaken or strengthen Australia’s classification system in any way—only to streamline processes for advertisements of films and for certain types of applications.

This bill was introduced in March and arose out of discussion papers released by the government in June and August of last year. The bill itself contains two schedules, the purposes of which I have just outlined. The first schedule brings in new sections which enable the advertising of unclassified films and computer games. The scheme as it currently stands places industry at a disadvantage in that, due to the growing trends towards and ease of piracy, producers are not able to put their material forward to be classified until very close to the release date. This places quite restrictive burdens on them in terms of how they are able to advertise their films.

The amendments proposed in schedule 1 would set up a scheme that allows for industry based assessors to conduct preliminary self-assessments, in turn allowing them to conduct more extensive advertising campaigns before the material is formally rated by the OFLC. This does not include material which is likely to be rated X18+ or refused classification. Advertisement of that material will continue to be illegal.

Subdivision A of the bill allows for the particulars of the scheme to be established by legislative instrument. These include elements such as where the material may be advertised, the conditions under which it may be advertised, the requirements to be named as a self-assessor, the basis on which the self-assessor may make assessments and other issues. This legislative instrument will, according to the bill, be decided upon in consultation with other censorship ministers across Australia.

There is also provision in subdivision B of the legislation for applications to be made to the Classification Board, rather than a self-assessor, for assessment of a likely classification of the material. The explanatory memorandum states in this respect:

It is envisaged that applicants would use this provision for an assessment in difficult cases, or where they want the assurance of the Board’s consideration, or where it is not feasible or cost effective to obtain an assessment from an authorised assessor.

The amendments will also alter the definition of ‘advertisement’ to specifically include advertising on the internet and to exclude product merchandising from the definition.

The amendments contained in schedule 2 relate to the classification of compilations of TV series that have already been aired in Australia and, of course, have therefore already been classified. Naturally, this is in response to the increasing number of TV series which are being released on DVD. The rationale is simple—the material has already been aired in Australia and, as such, the process for applying should be streamlined to take this into account. The bill establishes another industry based self-assessment system, which allows an industry based assessor to perform an assessment of the material and then to submit a report to the Classification Board, which the board may then use as the basis of its classification decision. Naturally, the board retains the authority to revoke a classification if the assessment is later found to be misleading, incorrect or grossly inadequate and where a different classification would have been given.

That is just a brief outline of the bill before us, which is a relatively simple one. Labor is in favour of it and commends it to the House.