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Thursday, 9 August 2007
Page: 130


Mrs DRAPER (11:09 AM) —The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Advertising and Other Matters) Bill 2007 has involved working with the states and territories to implement a new scheme which will supposedly mean greater levels of advertising for the film and computer game industries. This bill has been developed in response to industry concern, and concern for their profits, in relation to the current arrangements. The government, I am informed, has worked with film producers and advertisers, who have strongly voiced their concerns with the current legislation and the impact that its restrictions have on their ability to combat piracy. This bill is set to combat the risk of piracy as it permits companies to advertise their product further in advance of the release date. It is also supposed to eliminate red tape and clarify legal requirements to improve compliance, which of course remains to be seen.

As the chairman of the Classification Issues Group, I have long held concerns about this bill. This legislation, if passed, would replace the current prohibition on advertising unclassified films and computer games with a new scheme which permits the industry to self-assess and self-regulate their advertising regime. We all know about self-assessment and self-regulation. As the Australian community experienced in the latter half of 2006 with Channel 10’s Big Brother series, self-assessment and self-regulation overwhelmingly fail. As a result, the government and the office of the Hon. Senator Helen Coonan, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, have been working to secure stronger powers for the Australian Communications and Media Authority, ACMA, in introducing tougher regulations, not abolishing them, to strengthen the regime.

The Australian community continued to express their concern that, when advertising and industry profits are the paramount consideration, consumers and especially minors may be exposed to inappropriate advertising and graphically adult material, particularly in relation to violence. This bill was set to introduce a scheme whereby unclassified films and computer games could be advertised together with classified material. Yes, there have been statements by the Attorney-General’s office that there are adequate safeguards by ensuring that the Classification Board or an authorised assessor will deal with the likely classification. This authorised assessor is explained as one with industry experience who has satisfied mandatory training requirements. The Classification Board and industry have made, in my view, dubious and wrong decisions in the past with regard to the classification and appropriateness of viewing material.

In the past I have had to voice my grave concern and ask the Attorney-General to intervene, in the public interest, and have the Classification Board’s decision on these films reviewed by the Classification Review Board. I have done this with, for example, the films Lolita, Anatomy of Hell, Baise-Moi and Irreversible, just to name a few. This bill was supposed to include several safeguards. The government has secured an assurance from the CEOs of major industry groups that, if this scheme is introduced, their organisations will act responsibly and in compliance with the scheme. This is all well and good, but are we willing to risk community classifications standards on these assurances? What happens if these companies move on or do not live up to their side of the bargain? The scheme is only able to be reviewed in three years time. This is a risk I am not willing to take. Another supposed safeguard mentioned is the training of the authorised assessors, who will undertake training provided by the director of the Classification Board.

I cannot support this bill in its current form. I have no confidence in the safeguards that have been provided. When the opportunity arises, I look forward to amendments being introduced, either in this place or in the other place, which will strike out this bill to ensure the protection of community standards relating to the classification of film and computer games. I am extremely disappointed that this bill is going ahead regardless of the objections of many of my colleagues.