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Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2138


Senator ARCHER —The Attorney-General would be aware of widespread community concern, evidenced by the thousands of people who have signed petitions presented to the Senate and by other direct representations to honourable senators, about relaxation of the entry and distribution standards for pornographic video material and other material which the Government has accepted and which the Senate last night agreed to, thanks to the votes of the Australian Democrats. What expressions of community support has the Government received for this approach which the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee unanimously agreed had made control of this material more difficult? Will the Attorney- General name the organisations concerned so that we can more properly judge the strength of the alleged push to which the Government has responded with its new regulations?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The support which has been received for the Government's position on this matter has been essentially, as one would expect, from civil liberty organisations. More particularly, it has been from the women's advisers to every government in Australia with whom these policy issues were specifically canvassed by me, as I described to the Senate last night, a few weeks ago.


Senator Walters —That is not so.


Senator GARETH EVANS —As much as it might hurt Senator Walters to appreciate that the voices that she represents or speaks for in this country are those of a vociferous minority out of touch with the mainstream of thinking and civilised values in this country, I am afraid I have to advise her that that is so. In this instance, the silent majority, the less vociferous majority in this country , are the ones who are in touch, I believe, with the kinds of values that are reflected in this package of legislation.

I repeat, as I did at nauseous length during the debate which has gone on for many weeks in this place and which was brought to a conclusion last night, that what the Government has done in this respect has been to introduce controls which are in very many significant practical ways tighter and more effective and likely to be tighter and more effective so far as extreme categories of nasty, unconscionable, unacceptable video material in particular are concerned. I refer in particular to child pornography, bestiality, terrorist material and, most specifically of all, that material which involves extreme gratuitous depictions of violence and, in particular, gratuitous depictions of violence of a sexual kind involving non-consenting parties. Those situations, which have been a quite legitimate and understandable cause of community concern, are now directly and explicitly addressed by our import control legislation in a way which was not the case before, resulting in a situation in which the law was both unenforceable and unenforced. Moreover, this situation is addressed in a systematic and thorough-going way at point of sale and point of hire so far as videos are concerned by the new domestic legislation we have now introduced into the Australian Capital Territory and are in the process of introducing in all the participating and supporting jurisdictions around Australia. There is no foundation for the campaign of scuttlebutt, innuendo, scandal mongering and general idiocy that has been maintained and supported by the troglodytes and neanderthals in this particular Parliament who are so vociferous on occasions such as this.


Senator ARCHER —I ask a supplementary question. I did not hear part of what the Attorney said because there was a certain amount of noise at the time. Will the Attorney advise me which groups of women he said had supported this Government's position?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I referred specifically to the women's advisers to the various State governments and the Commonwealth Government who meet regularly for the purpose of advising their respective governments on these matters and who had been expressing concern at the possible implications from a feminist perspective of the increasing, as it was understood to be, spread of pornographic material, in particular violent pornographic material. This has been the subject of very extensive debate within the women's movements, within groups of all shades of ideological opinion, and it was important to explore the issues fully and thoroughly and to ensure that we were not acting in some way that was going to be offensive to mainstream feminist thought and women's group thought in this country. I believed the best way of tapping that opinion and debating and fully discussing these issues was in the particular environment that I mentioned. Again, I am not going to cop criticism from someone who has never heard of Leda and the swan, Europa and the bull or perhaps Eve and the snake when it comes to having sensible discussions about the extent to which one can control bestiality or anything else. These things have to be discussed at a level of seriousness and a level of intelligence which it is beyond the capacity of the honourable senator to produce.