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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 3047


Senator HARRADINE(4.43) —The Senate is considering a matter of public importance, namely:

Community concern about the widespread availability of x-rated video material and the need for a Joint Committee of the Parliament to be established without delay to report on the problem created by the Federal Government's precipitate action in liberalising the former regulations before introduction of a nationally acceptable system of classification and distribution after proper consultation with the States and interest groups.

We in the Senate have been advised of community concern through the thousands upon thousands of signatures to petitions which have been presented in this Parliament-in this Senate and in the House of Representatives. Those petitions have been rolling in every day. I do not think a day has gone past in the last two months when there has not been a petition which has been expressed in the following terms:

To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:

Then the petitioners talk about the regulations of the Government. These regulations, which are described later, have so much potential for damage. They say that they are now before the Parliament, that they amend legislation and supersede existing legislation in such a manner as to be harmful to society by removing from the existing law-that is what the regulations and the ordinance did-the power to prevent the importation and sale of hard core pornography, including X-rated videos, and publications which consistently incite the use of hard drugs. I pause there to say that the Government had to amend the regulations in order to fix up the hard drugs question, but it has not fixed up the hard core pornography question. The petitioners state that the regulations and the ordinance remove from existing Commonwealth law the power to prevent the importation and sale of grossly obscene publications, including those associated with blasphemy. The regulations again amend the law by removing from the Commonwealth law the power to require videos for non-commercial use to be registered by the Film Censorship Board before release from Customs.

Thousands upon thousands of electors have urged the Parliament to reject the subordinate legislation brought into the Parliament by the Government. The Democrats' spokesman, Senator Mason, said that what we need on this issue is a citizens' initiative. He said we need a referendum. He would not take any notice of a referendum. He did not take notice of the thousands of electors who petitioned the Senate to disallow these regulations and the ordinance. What has his action, together with the action of all Labor Party senators, achieved? It has legalised for the first time in Australia, the importation of all types of hard core pornography, including child pornography, and all publications, which include videos, no matter how violent, cruel, blasphemous, indecent, obscene or likely to encourage depravity or incite a crime, except for terrorism, provided that in the opinion of the Attorney-General they do not depict a child in such a manner as would cause offence to a reasonable adult person or depict considerable violence or cruelty.

That is what the Government senators and the Democrats have done to Australia. Furthermore, they have opened the way for the first time in the Australian Capital Territory for the legal commercial exploitation of hard core pornography . That is what Australian Labor Party senators and the Australian Labor Party members in the House of Representatives and the Democrats have done to this country. I believe that the Democrat senators did not know what they were doing. I think Senator Mason is a nice fellow but from examining his speeches on this matter I do not believe that he has understood what has happened. I believe that Government members have not understood what has happened. Furthermore, they have been told lies by their Minister. That is a very serious charge but let me quote what Mr Duffy said in the House of Representatives in defence of the Government' s action. I do not blame Mr Duffy. He obviously did not know what he was talking about. He had been given this line. I quote from page 2851 of Hansard. He said:

In summing up, the censorship legislative package under debate will have the following results: The Government will have acted on the recommendations of the Mahony report and brought into conformity the law and practice relating to the importation of publications. I refer the Opposition to the Mahony report. Anybody would think that this matter came from nowhere. The fact is that the matter was closely examined and the implementation of that report is a significant factor in this area of law.

That is absolutely false. Let me quote what Mr Mahony said about this matter. Mr Mahony, in his report on the review of customs administration and procedures in New South Wales, made a recommendation at paragraph 5.75. This is the one, presumably, that the Government and Mr Duffy were relying upon. He referred to the conflict between the regulation and the Customs direction. What he said was this:

In my view it is quite improper that the responsibility placed on Customs officers by the direction should continue. He was referring to the ministerial direction which emanated from none other than Senator Lionel Murphy in 1973.


Senator Durack —What about the new one of Senator Evans? That is even worse.


Senator HARRADINE —That is true. We will have to resort to the freedom of information legislation to get that. That statement by Mr Mahony does not say that the law should be brought into conformity with the direction. All it says is that there is a conflict. Mr Mahony recommends that the conflict be resolved without delay. He did not say whether the law should be brought into conformity with the practice or whether the practice should be brought into conformity with the law. What the Government did was to bring the law into conformity with the practice, namely the practice of the Attorney-General in not enforcing the law. Mr Mahony quoted from the report of the Willett Task Force into allegations about the Customs Service in New South Wales. He said at paragraph 5.73:

'The Task Force is of the view that the administrative difficulties caused by the inconsistent policy and treatment of pornography should be remedied by the issue of clear and precise instructions to officers. It is the Task Force's view that the only instruction that could be issued consistently with present legislation is one to the effect that officers should detain any goods coming to their notice which appeared to them to fall within the terms of the regulations, for referral to the Attorney-General's Department.

It can be seen that Labor senators and Labor members of the House of Representatives have been snowed by their Minister in respect of this matter. What the Minister said in the House of Representatives was absolutely false. The charge, and the burden for that, is laid fairly and squarely upon the Minister who gave Mr Duffy that advice. I hope that the Labor members of the House of Representatives and the Senate recognise that they have been snowed by their Ministers. They ought to have a good look at what has occurred and what ought to be done about it, because for the first time people can legally import into this country hard core pornography. As Senator Walters said, according to the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) the barriers to that importation have been lowered. As Mr Barry Taylor said on the Four Corners program:

Private screenings was the first company to actually go out in full colour in the magazines and come out in the open.

The interviewer asked:

But previous to doing that, according to the letter of the law, . . . not what actually happened, but the letter of the law, were you operating illegally?

Taylor said: 'Yes'. The interviewer asked:

Like many other people?

Taylor said:

Now it's legal. In most States.

This is a man who allegedly has a business association with an American with heroin connections. This what he said on Four Corners:

Well I mean this was what we started off as, and as the government-pressure came on the government to turn it into a legal product, we moved in that direction.

How much pressure was put on the government and where did that pressure come from?


Senator Walters —And at what price?


Senator HARRADINE —I will not go into that, but where did that pressure come from? This Government is supposed to be a government of consensus, yet it rammed through the Senate and rammed through the House of Representatives major changes in the law relating to this material which is, according to the thousands of people who signed the petitions, harmful to society. The Government has not given this Parliament adequate opportunity to examine these matters thoroughly. Indeed, unknown to many of the members of the House of Representatives, the Government brought this matter on in the dead of night, at five minutes to midnight, when all members of the Press had gone to bed and when nobody was listening. The House of Representatives argued it out for an hour and then had one hour of divisions. The Government gagged the debate time and time again. Six times the Government gagged the debate and as many times it voted in relation to motions that were before the Chair. I believe this truly is a matter of public importance. I sincerely hope that the Senate adopts this motion.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley) —Order! Senator Harradine, your time has expired.