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Thursday, 9 August 2007
Page: 132

Mr SLIPPER (11:20 AM) —I am pleased to be able to join this debate on the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Advertising and Other Matters) Bill 2007. I suppose it is an aspect of human nature, given the fact that film piracy seems to be quite rampant, that people who commit this film piracy always seem to find new and innovative ways to carry out what they want to achieve. Consequently, movie producers must constantly come up with new and innovative ways to reduce that piracy.

Technological advances, which have wide-ranging benefits, have also opened up new opportunities for those who wish to exploit another to make a quick, easy buck. We all know that, unfortunately, video piracy and computer game counterfeiting is very much the norm these days, and indeed it appears to be a growing problem. It comes down to legislators playing a role in introducing laws that will help control what many people see as a major difficulty. This bill introduces some measures that will support the producers of these products in further addressing what they see as a costly and unwelcome situation. Producers have been forced to severely restrict any prerelease circulation of their productions to reduce the opportunities for pirates to get their hands on a copy—a scenario which, unfortunately, can set in motion a process of unauthorised copying and distribution.

An interesting statistic is that illegal copying is estimated to cost the international movie industry more than $US3.5 billion each year. The estimated cost of video piracy to the Australian film and video industry in 2003 was estimated at $100 million. It must be quite challenging—and I suppose you could say character building, maybe heartbreaking—for those in the film industry who invest an incredible amount of time and energy into creating such a work only to see pirates ripping it off to produce poor-quality copies—and, in some cases, high-quality copies—to make money.

This difficulty is not restricted to film; it affects DVDs and indeed computer games. A study into the cost of counterfeiting computer games in Australia found some $100 million in lost sales for the industry in 2003 due to video game piracy. Further breakdowns suggest $21.8 million in lost profit for suppliers and $4.3 million in lost profit for retailers. It is understandable that copyright owners are not happy with those sorts of losses. Copyright is a system of law designed to protect the property which individuals might have in the matter the subject of the copyright.

Understandably, copyright owners really want to see something done and the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Advertising and Other Matters) Bill 2007 is an attempt to achieve a legislative solution to what many people believe is an endemic problem. The bill introduces measures that will add clout to the ongoing offensive against the theft and piracy of such works. It will support those who have invested the time, effort and money to deliver these new entertainment products. In attempts to defeat the pirates, producers of films and computer games are often forced to release these productions quickly, thereby giving limited time for the usual classification procedures. As a result, the producers have little time to generate prerelease interest in their products through advertising. This bill introduces measures giving the producers of those films and computer games the ability to proceed with advance marketing and advertising within strict guidelines before the product has received an official rating from the Classification Board. This would enable the producers to build up consumer demand and get the best possible return for their product.

I understand that my colleague the member for Makin expressed some concerns in relation to aspects of this legislation. I can understand that many in the community would be genuinely concerned at the measure in this bill which allows producers to proceed with advance marketing and advertising before the product has received an official rating from the Classification Board. Many people in the community would believe that there ought not to be any advance marketing and advertising until such time as there has been a classification given by the Classification Board. I see that the honourable member for Makin is nodding. That was the point that she was interested in when she made her contribution to the chamber. The government has come to a balanced decision with respect to this and there will be some people who undoubtedly will be happy with it and others, including many parents in the community, who will undoubtedly be outraged by this provision.

Maybe this is a matter that the government can look at again because it is important to get the legislation right. It is easy to work out the reason that this provision has been included in the legislation given the challenges that piracy cause. But, having said that, you really do not want to bring about a situation where inappropriate material could well be publicly advertised before the Classification Board has had the opportunity of determining whether indeed it is fit and suitable for release at all. One can only hope that the producers of films will be somewhat circumspect in what they do. The member for Makin says that they will not be. Hopefully, the only productions that will take advantage of this measure will be those which would not be subject to objections from the general community. The problem is, once you have a provision on the statute books it can be accessed by those who have good intent and equally it can be accessed by those who have ill intent. Overwhelmingly the producers of films and computer games are upright citizens who would want to do the right thing. But unfortunately in a democracy we often have to have laws to protect the community at large from those who might want to do the wrong thing as opposed to the right thing.

The people who are pushing this provision in the bill believe that the changes in the legislation will enable producers to build up consumer demand to get the best possible return for their product. The bill enables the establishment of a set of guidelines for the advertising of as yet unclassified videos, computer games and DVD TV compilations. It also provides for the creation of a scheme by which a product is assessed for its likely classification for the purpose of pre-classification advertising and promotions. This scheme will be self-assessable in the industry. I suspect this is another matter which would cause grief to the honourable member for Makin and indeed many in the community. With respect to DVD compilations of TV shows, the bill enables the Classification Board to be supported in its deliberations by an authorised assessor who can access any additional content on a DVD that accompanies a film production that has already been classified.

I suppose one thing that I have always been concerned about is that sometimes these computer games have elements hidden within them which are not immediately apparent, particularly to those who might be less computer savvy than some young children in our community obviously are. I was talking to a person recently who spends 60 hours a week playing computer games and I just thought that that was absolutely appalling. But people who do use those computer games to that level obviously attain a degree of expertise. I can recall that about 12 or 18 months ago there was a computer game that appeared to be relatively innocent to start with, but lurking within the dim dark recesses of that computer game was material that was actually very dangerous. I suppose that is one of the reasons why many people in the community will have some misgivings about the extra opportunities given to producers of material to advertise that material prior to it actually receiving a classification.

The member for Makin no doubt will continue to vigorously espouse the concerns of many people in the community in relation to that matter. I have to say I think it is a tremendous tragedy that the honourable member for Makin is retiring at the next election. She has been an outstanding campaigner for causes not always popular, but she has always been prepared to stand up and be counted. It has not mattered whether there was political angst to be borne as a result of the very strong stand that the member for Makin has taken, but she has been prepared to do it and I think that the parliament will be the poorer for her—I will not say ‘passing’ because she will obviously be a vigorous, active member of the community—political retirement. I want to commend the member for Makin. She has my unabashed admiration—

Dr Southcott —Mine too.

Mr SLIPPER —I am pleased that the member for Boothby agrees and I suspect you, Mr Deputy Speaker Somlyay, would also have admiration for the member for Makin, as indeed do others right around the parliament. The member for Mitchell is being quite silent, but I am sure he also has tremendous admiration for the member for Makin. What we as a parliament need are more people who are prepared to stand up and be counted regardless of the political costs. I am sorry that the member for Makin has decided not to contest the next election. The government—and I am hopeful that the government will be returned—will certainly miss her constant contributions.

Having said that, these amendments before the chamber will apply to the Classification (Publications Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, and I commend the bill to the House on that basis, subject to the reservations that I understand many people in the community would have in relation to aspects of the bill.