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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 3046

Senator WALTERS(4.32) —That is an extraordinary speech to come from the Australian Democrats. The Democrats voted for legislation to introduce for the first time hard core pornography. This is a very grave matter for every Australian family. It concerns the basic rights of all parents to bring up their children in this country and protect them from noxious influences. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child states:

The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

I stress that the interests of the child should be the paramount consideration yet we are allowing this sort of regulation. What do we have? We have the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans), that great libertarian, that great reformist, that defender of civil liberties, freedom of information and open government, the first law officer of the Commonwealth, who intends to make his mark in the annals of history, who has again introduced one of his high priorities of reform. Let me quote from a memo sent out by his Department, which states:

Barriers to the importation of hard core pornography . . . has been lifted.

He made three exceptions in what may be depicted-child pornography, acts to incite terrorism and extreme violence. This is his great reform! They are wonderful reforms and wonderful freedoms! But for whom-the families or the parents? Not on your life. The Attorney-General, in his usual style-this is real vintage Evans-said: 'People should be able to read, hear or see anything they want to in the privacy of their own homes'. So his Department sent out that memo . He then introduced a regulation to abolish the barriers at the Customs level. He found that the States had not caught up; they were unaware of the situation. No legislation was in place. This is true vintage Evans; it all seemed a good idea at the time. The Attorney had all the evidence he needed that screamed: ' Caution. For heaven's sake, look at what you are doing'.

The Victorian Psychologists Association, in its interim report to the Attorney- General, said that new evidence was coming before it. That Association pleaded with the Attorney-General not to go ahead with this regulation. The Association said that there was grave concern that adults who looked repeatedly at violent pornography or violent videos would be affected by them; their reactions were no longer sympathetic to the victims. There is a large report from the United Kingdom. Mr Acting Deputy President, you will remember that I mentioned this in the Senate some time ago. It said that over half of 13- and 14-year-old children had seen at least one of what we class as X-rated videos. It was found that they had been viewed in the children's friends' homes, not at their own home where their parents knew about it. The report found that these children preferred videos to television because they could stop and replay the gory and worst scenes in slow motion time and time again. Some 90 per cent of the parents had no idea their children were viewing this stuff and pleaded with the society to help them control their children's viewing.

What was the result of my bringing that report to the Senate? Senator Gareth Evans tried to discredit it. He had not done what I had done, spoken to Lord Swinfen who is Chairman of the working party on the Report of a Parliamentary Group Video Enquiry. He tried to discredit the report from odd little bits of news reports, nothing of substance; only odd bits of gossip.

Senator Durack —That is the way he assesses evidence.

Senator WALTERS —That is the way he assesses all the stuff he brings before us. He relies on grubby little bits of newspaper reports. Another report from the European Parliament verifies everything stated in the United Kingdom report. What did Senator Evans do? He did not like the message that the Victorian psychologists, the United Kingdom report or the European Parliament gave him, so what did he do? He set out to kill the messenger and discredit the reports completely. He then had his own Australian Labor Party senators on the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances bringing down a unanimous report stating: 'The regulations you have introduced do restrict the Government in its responsibilities where children are concerned'. What did the Australian Democrats do? They too ignored the report. I wonder why?

Senator Harradine —They didn't know what it meant.

Senator WALTERS —I had to withdraw when I said that they did not have the brains to understand it. However, the Attorney-General, in his usual fashion, went straight ahead and ignored all the indications that he had been given. He said ' Adults should be able to read, see or hear anything they want to in the privacy of their own homes' and that he would not go into homes and police what children were viewing; he would leave that to the parents. And 90 per cent of parents in the United Kingdom are pleading with the Government to help them control what their children view when they do not have any control over them after school. I asked the Attorney if we could have a free vote on this matter and he said no. I wonder why he said no, Mr Acting Deputy President. I will tell you. I know why he said no. It is because there are decent family men in the Government and a considerable number of feminists, and he was dead scared that they would dump him and vote against him. At the time he claimed that only Senator Harradine, Senator Walters and the Festival of Light objected to his legislation. Let us look at who is objecting to it. The whole of the Opposition is objecting. Certainly Senator Harradine is objecting. Every feminist organisation I know is objecting strongly.

Senator Durack —Has he got the Democrats?

Senator WALTERS —Oh, the Democrats are with him. Every women's group is objecting, every church organisation is objecting and the Queensland Government, the Tasmanian Government and the Labor Government of Western Australia are all objecting. Mr Wran said he believes that the matter ought to be reviewed, an election is coming up. So he says we ought to look at the matter again. Tens of thousands of people have signed petitions which have been sent to this place and the other place. So much for his saying: 'We have only got Senator Harradine, Senator Walters and the Festival of Light objecting to this legislation'.

Some of us would have seen the Four Corners program the other night. Senator Gareth Evans misled the Senate today in saying that he believed the program was made before the new regulations came into force. Indeed it was, but the members of the Film Censorship Board knew that the new regulations were to be in place and made their decisions in accordance with those new regulations. For the Attorney to try to mislead this place is a despicable act and he should be ashamed of himself. Those of us who saw the program would also have seen how these moderating amendments worked. The Democrats also saw the program and the Attorney-General gave in to a few amendments that have not worked, as was seen in the program. To use his words, he bought the lousy vote of the Democrats. Mr Acting Deputy President, you will remember that very clearly because we all remember those words of the Attorney-General: 'If that is what it takes to buy your lousy vote'.

Senator Durack —His third most famous saying.

Senator WALTERS —Yes. Another is: 'I thought it a good idea at the time'. We have several such sayings from the Attorney-General. So he bought the Democrats' lousy vote, and we saw what happened on Four Corners the other night. We heard a video explicitly depicting a violent rape. We saw a bound and gagged woman, and she certainly was not consenting. We then saw the problems that the Film Censorship Board faced because it had to interpret the new regulations that this Attorney-General has brought down. What did it do? The majority of the members of the Board said: 'That video is all right. That is an X-rating. It might be a bit on the border but it is an X-rating'. I thought that was appalling. I am quite sure that every other mother in Australia will be on my side. Every mother in Australia would have said: 'That is not suitable'.

What is the effect on children who have seen that program? Do not forget that we are no different from the United Kingdom. Over half the 13- and 14-year-olds will now see this trash no matter what the mothers do about it. What will be the effect on the 13- and 14-year-olds who view that material, their very first introduction to any sort of sexual activity? We may well ask. The Attorney- General will certainly go down in the history of Australia. But while he is prepared to go down as a great libertarian prepared to do anything to allow adults to be able to see, read or hear anything at the expense of their children , the rest of Australia, the rest of the parents of Australia, will certainly put him in his place as they see his place in the history of this country.