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Friday, 1 June 1984
Page: 2373

Senator ARCHER —I direct a question to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and refer her to her answer to Senator Durack on 10 May when she said she shared the concern of a wide range of women's organisations about the increasing accessibility of Australians to hard core pornography in the form of videos. Did she hear the Attorney-General say on Wednesday that he had received specific endorsement for the Government's new regulations, which considerably relaxed controls on pornographic videos, from the women's advisers to every government in Australia? Is the Minister satisfied that these advisers fairly reflect overall women's views on this issue? Does she believe Senator Evans should have consulted women's groups outside what he described as the mainstream of feminist thought before deciding on the new video regulations?

Senator RYAN —It is certainly true that in reply to a question from Senator Durack I said that I shared the general concern being voiced by women and women' s organisations throughout Australia about the increased availability of hard core pornography, particularly through videos that can be played in the home. It is also true that Senator Evans later on informed the Senate that when he made his decisions regarding the recategorisation of some of these videos for import reasons he did so after consultation with women's advisers for every State government. Those two answers of course are not in conflict. Senator Evans also had some consultation with me about this matter-with the Office of the Status of Women. I believe that it is the role of special women's units or advisers, which most governments in Australia now have, to represent the views of a wide variety of women. In my experience-and I have considerable experience in dealing with women's advisers in State governments and with the Office of the Status of Women -they do that very effectively. The decisions which Senator Evans has announced on the part of the Government were the result of these discussions.

It is the case that certain categories of pornographic videos have now been excluded from legal entry into this country and that the Attorney-General, in his decisions, has gone a very considerable way towards meeting the concerns which were widely represented. I think I recall also saying in my answer to Senator Durack that I would be interested in a continued monitoring of how the new category system works. I am sure that is something on which the Attorney- General will agree with me. Obviously now that there is a new system the Attorney and I certainly hope that the most offensive material-the material that was giving most concern to women and women's organisations-will be excluded from Australia. But should it be revealed, after the system has had a fair amount of time to operate, that there are still areas of concern, I am sure the Attorney will address himself to those matters.

I would say finally, in case I did not make it quite clear, that yes, I do accept the views put forward by advisers to State governments when they are consulted as representing a very wide range of views indeed.

Senator ARCHER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister whether she is satisfied that the story that she put up about this material not being allowed in is the story that was put to the Party as a whole, because a reading of the legislation makes it adequately clear that the material can come in.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator is not entitled to argue his question. He is asking a supplementary question.

Senator ARCHER —I ask the Minister whether she is satisfied that the legislation in fact prevents this material coming in, or whether it is the purpose that it should be identified and dealt with once it has come in?

Senator RYAN —I am satisfied that the legislation which has now been enacted will be effective in preventing some kinds of material from coming into Australia. Senator Archer had a lot of difficulty in formulating his question. I think that is the best I can do under the circumstances.

The PRESIDENT —I do not make this statement by way of complaint, I merely mention it for my own protection because people complain to me subsequently that they cannot ask questions. There have been six questions from my left and six supplementary questions as well.