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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2081

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(11.10) —The Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) introduced a series of new regulations governing procedures for publications to apply as from 1 February this year. Those regulations were considered in this place and moves were made at two levels, by the Australian Democrats and Senator Harradine, for this disallowance. Debate took place upon the motion for their disallowance. There have been three stages by the Attorney- General on this matter, which is not unusual. At the first stage the Attorney- General asserted that what he had put forward was absolutely right. At the second stage he said the same thing. At the third stage he said the same thing. There have been three main changes. In the course of this the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances was asked to look at these regulations and to compare them with the pre-existing regulations; that is, the old Act, if I can use that term. The Committee was asked to make the comparison. It was asked to decide whether the new regulations restricted or limited the powers of the Commonwealth with regard to the control of censorship or the distribution and sale of publications.

The interesting thing to remember is that this reference to the Committee was made by the Opposition and the Democrats. A fascinating situation is that the Democrats have reached their decision tonight without having addressed themselves at all to the Committee that they saw fit to have inquire into the matter and which they regarded at the time as being of some considerable significance in making a judgment. At the time the Democrats and the Opposition regarded the referral of the matter to the Committee as a test. They wanted to know whether the new regulations as put in place by the Attorney-General and subject to disallowance had less power to deal with the problem of censorship and distribution than the old law. That, of course, ought to have been the subject of discussion tonight.

The fact of the matter is that the Committee unanimously reported, page by page , that there were fewer powers under the new regulations. Honourable senators will see that pages 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the report which is before them stated that the Committee unanimously agreed that in very significant matters there had been a restriction of powers, or fewer powers, given to the Commonwealth to deal with this matter. This was the fundamental of the situation. I pick it up. The classic is stage 2 of this little saga and the Democrats did not refer to it tonight. The holy words which were mentioned tonight were 'the price of a lousy vote'. One will remember that the Democrats changed their minds regarding the disallowance of the regulations when it was agreed by the Government-they did not tell the Opposition and the Senate at the time-that it would delete the word 'extreme' from the phrase 'extreme violence'. This was done behind doors and late at night and the Senate was not told. The price was that the disallowance would be set aside by the Democrats if the word 'extreme' went out. Senator Mason has failed to understand that the very price that he paid has now been reversed. This is not important any more. There must have been another bargain. In the draft amendments which are put before the Senate in the future it will be no longer a question of violence; the term will be 'detailed and considerable violence'. That is very interesting. If this was the linchpin on which the Democrats rested before, why have they not reversed that and said--

Senator Archer —He is busy with his papers.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Of course, and why not? I am not surprised at this at all because their logic fails. In tonight's disgraceful Press statement by Senator Mason he set out to do the reverse of the truth. He knew quite well that the unanimous report of the Senate Committee said that a new Act of the Hawke Government would take away the powers in many ways to restrict pornography; that is, they were wider and more libertine than was the old Act. That is the fact. Let me say again that contrary to the Press statement of Senator Mason, the very reverse was true. The Senate Committee said unanimously that Senator Gareth Evans's new regulations provided more libertine situations. Four pages of the report indicate, step by step, that that is so. Whatever the reason why the Democrats changed their minds, they cannot rest upon any suggestion that a return to the old law would be more libertine. This Senate has said, by way of its very prestigious Committee, that the reverse is true. The Senate has said that those who vote for these new regulations to stay in place will be limiting the power of the Commonwealth to control pornography. That is an important situation.

What the Democrats are doing tonight is supporting a government in reducing the power of the Commonwealth to control pornography, violence and blasphemy. I repeat that because that is what the Senate Committee has said. The Senate Committee has said that there is far less power in the new regulations to control these things than in the old. Let us demolish what is one of the most outrageous pieces of cheapskate activity that we have seen, the attempt by the Democrats to explain themselves away. I repeat that the Senate Committee has said unanimously, and has said it to the Democrats, that the new regulations are less powerful, are more powerless, than the old ones to handle the question of pornography, violence and sexual extremes. When Senator Mason gets up in this place and says that if the Liberals and the National Party of Australia were to support the disallowance they would be widening violence he is, in fact, saying the very reverse of what the unamious report said. Let everybody in the community understand that. Let all people understand it.

The fact of the matter is that the very thing on which the Democrats pinned themselves was that they wanted any kind of qualification on the word 'violence' to be removed. Honourable senators should not forget that. That was the behind- the-door situation. They wanted the removal of the word 'extreme' and the plain use of the word 'violence'. Now that there is to be substituted in its place the words 'detailed and considerable violence' that is all right. Anything will do as an excuse. This report has shown, step by step, the restriction. A restriction on the use of hard drugs is to be put into the draft amendments, very unwillingly, because the Attorney-General pinned his flag to the original regulations. It is no good the Attorney-General getting up here tonight and claiming virtue. He claimed virtue for the original regulations. He said they were exactly right; they were self-contained and they would do all the things required. Step by step, as with every other thing that he has ever done, he has had to retreat. It is like the referendum retreat that he has made over the years. So it is no good listening to his kinds of entreaties or those of the Democrats. We forced the Attorney-General into putting hard drugs into the foreshadowing regulations. We have forced him into a whole host of situations. The Democrats ignore that. What nonsense is to be found in the draft amendments! The report of the Senate Standing Committee, at paragraph 12 of page 7, states:

The draft amendments propose to vary the description to be ''explicit and gratituous depictions . . . of sexual violence against non-consenting persons'' which is a restriction when compared with the new law.

What kind of perverse mind is it that says that it is all right to show explicit and gratuitous depictions of sexual violence if those who are doing it have consented to do so? It is as though it was some kind of matter relating to the two actors that would decide the virtue or vice involved? Does it mean that if the two actors agree everyone may see it. There can be explicit and gratuitous depictions of sexual violence so long as it is with consenting persons. Let us look at the matter. So long as everybody knows that the two people doing this horribly corrupt and obscene act are consenting to it, it is not obscene. It is as though the actors were the test of virtue and not the viewers. This, of course, shows the corruption of the whole situation.

We have to point out, for example, that in regard to gross obscenities-the Catholic bishops have drawn attention to this-the old barring of blasphemy no longer exists. That was another restriction. That does not worry the Democrats at all. The Deomcrats would say that our returning to the old regulations which stated that obscenity and blasphemy were wrong is a form of libertine behaviour, because that is how warped are their minds. A little matter of no concern to the Democrats is that item 14 of the report states:

The new law restricts the pre-exiting power by amending the Customs ( Cinemotagraph Films) Regulations to delete the previous requirement for Censorship Board registration.

Is it all right to have no registration, compared with the past regulations? It is late at night and this is a profoundly important matter and I have previously spoken on the principles involved. I believe that what is happening is quite profound. The difference between the old law and the new regulations is, on the admission of the Senate Committee and of everyone who has viewed them, profound. If these are not minor changes but major changes to substance, clearly two things should happen. This is not a matter for subordinate legislation and it is not a matter for regulations; it is a matter for substantive law. That is the first point.

Clearly, the situation simply boils down to this: If we have to make a decision on what the community is to see, read and hear-I refer to video as well as films -we have to ask the members of the adult community what they want to be allowed to be seen not only by them but also by the young. The fact of the matter is that whatever comes in will be seen by the young. There is nothing in the structure of what the Attorney-General has proposed which provides any framework to protect the young. A test case yesterday in the Australian Capital Territory proved that that was nonsense. It was a demonstration that the whole pack of cards would crumble because there was no protection. We have a very simple situation. We have to decide what adults would want to draw the line on in regard to the actual limitation of circulation within the community in order that the young will not be subject to these influences.

There is a fundamental fallacy in what the Attorney-General has said. He got up and said with the voice of God: 'Our principle is that adults must be able to see, hear or view in private whatever they like'. Then he said: 'PS, I did not really mean that. There are certain things they will not be allowed to see'. So he, the paternal father, will decide that. When I spoke before I put this query: Why should any one person make this decision? Who is to decide where the bottom line shall be drawn? Is it not an old fashioned practice to go and ask the community what it feels and what it would want either for itself or for its children? But no, the Attorney-General starts on a completely false premise and reaches completely false conclusions. As I said, it is late at night, and it is nonsense to say that the proposed changes are minor. If we look at the Attorney- General's statement on the new Commonwealth censorship procedures for publication, we will see that he very clearly states that barriers to the importation of hard core pornography, other than child pornography publications which incite terrorism and publications containing extreme violence or sexual violence, have been lifted. In other words, hard core pornography now has no barriers, except those qualifications.

Senator Gareth Evans —Except at point of sale.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Yesterday it was proved that at the point of sale there were no barriers.

Senator Gareth Evans —Rubbish.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —How can that be rubbish when a test case proved that this was so. The first set of regulations was wrong-they had to be varied for Peter's pence; they had to be varied for the price of a lousy vote and even though it has now been turned around the lousy vote still sticks-but that was not good enough. The Attorney-General had to start again and came up with a completely new set of regulations. In this new set we have a widening of the libertarian approach. What nonsense! We are now told that it is all right to have explicit and gratuituous depictions of sexual violence provided they involve consenting persons.

Senator Gareth Evans —Providing it is a depiction of consent. You have missed the point.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —The Attorney-General talks like the brain fever bird- yattety, yattety, yat. I say again that all he can do is react and react. He has had three goes at these regulations. He will get them right at some time. He has not got anything else right yet. I repeat:

The draft amendments-

these are not my words; these may be found in the unanimous report of the Senate Standing Committee, and the Attorney-General may go yattety, yattety, yat again- -

propose to vary the description to be ''explicit and gratiutous depictions . . . of sexual violence against non-consenting persons'' which is a restriction when compared with the new law.

Senator Coates —The new law. What about the old law?

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —I have said that. As the honourable senator knows, the only qualification relating to the old law was that it was doubtful as to its meaning in this regard. So there could well have been a restriction on the old law as well. When the Attorney-General reacted just then regarding the subject of the depiction of sexual violence, he was not reacting against me; he was reacting against the unanimous report of the Committee. That is how we stand at the moment. Let me demolish the theories one by one. The Committee was set up in order to look at the regulations and to study whether there was a diminution or an accretion of power between the old and the new. It was set up with the Democrats wanting that information in order to make a judgment on disallowance. That was quite clear. What happened? The Committee reports that in fact there has been a diminution of power to control and the Democrats have sold their souls. But again the Attorney-General, now having had three goes, comes back with a series of draft amendments which go further again away from the old law. Of course, they are so substantial in their nature that they challenge the very substance of the beliefs of the past. If that is so, the dissenting report must have merit in saying that one cannot do by regulation techniques those things which are going to change the law vastly. I therefore commend the report, including its dissenting report. I must say that in my time in the Senate I have never heard such a disgraceful contribution, both verbally and by Press release, as that of Senator Mason.