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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2003

Senator ELSTOB —My question is directed to the Attorney-General and refers to the current video censorship and classification system. Is the Attorney aware that many parents simply do not understand classification codes of films and are thereby not in a position to give necessary and desirable viewing guidance to their children? As it is now known that many children do watch restricted films, is the Attorney concerned that in terms of censorship the present legislation is quite irrelevant when matched with actual community practice in this area? Is the Attorney therefore satisfied to leave the current system operating in this way, or will he reconsider the benefits of a community education program in an effort to inform parents of the undesirable effects on children of restricted films and to clarify the meaning of classification codes?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The whole purpose of the national uniform classification system we are endeavouring to introduce for videos to accompany the present classifications for cinema, which are by and large quite familiar to people, is to provide a code which will be universally understood and which will effectively guide parents as well as other consumers. A keynote of the Australian Capital Territory ordinance, which we hope will be model legislation for adoption in other States, is consumer guidance. It is designed to ensure that there are markings, or stickers, on video covers to guide people in selecting what they will be viewing in their homes. It is designed also to ensure that those stickers and the codes that are used in relation to them follow, so far as is possible and appropriate, the kinds of familiar classifications that people are used to for cinema. Those are G for general exhibition, that is, for films not justifying any restriction at all; PG or PGR for parental guidance; M for mature; R for restricted; and of course the additional category that has attracted a degree of controversy, X, which applies to material that is subject to very stringent point of sale controls and would not be available for public screening in a cinema.

It may be that the community needs a greater degree of education as to the meaning of those code symbols and classifications, although I notice that it has been the practice in relation to films in public cinemas for most newspapers to include a table alongside cinema advertisements to explain the classifications. It may be that there is some case to be made for advertising or for some further material to be inserted in newspapers at Government expense to ensure that those classifications are familiar. Beyond that, it is difficult to see what can further be done. It is not the Government's view that we need or should have some kind of benevolent dictatorship intruding into people's homes and into the relationship between parents and their children. The Government believes-I certainly believe-that the Government has no right to take the place of parents in guiding their children and that the only role for the Government is to provide guidance in turn for parents in order to enable them, should they so choose, to fulfil that role. I will certainly give further consideration, as will the Government, to the kind of education campaign that could further be mounted in this respect, but at this stage I think it is premature for me to give any further details as to what that campaign might involve.