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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1222


Senator REID(3.43) —That is exactly what I was going to say. The contribution of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) has had little relationship to the actual topic before the Senate this afternoon , which states:

The failure of the Government to respond to the widespread public concern about its legislation on the censorship of video material.

The Attorney-General has gone into a lengthy justification of the legislation, but he did not really deal with the fact that there is widespread public concern about it. He may say that that is misguided. Of course, the best way to clear up that point would be to have a committee where the legislation and the public concern could be discussed. It looks as though this joint committee, if it does eventuate, will be the shortest lived in the history of this Parliament. It will probably be dissolved either the same day or the day after it is set up, if it ever gets set up at all. As a joint committee, of course, it would not survive the Parliament being dissolved for an election. That is why I suggested yesterday that we set up a Senate select committee, which could continue its work after Parliament is dissolved, until the next Parliament is formed, and get on with some of the issues that need to be discussed and allow the public to express its concern in a meaningful way. When the Attorney had the opportunity to proceed along that path he called the motion not formal and put it to the bottom of the list. We are entitled to believe that he has little regard whatever for the idea of setting up a committee or giving the public a forum in which to express its concern.

What has happened is that there has been a technological explosion in recent times that has caused a revolution, I guess, in many aspects of our lives. Perhaps one of the significant events is the advent of the video cassette recorder. It certainly is a technological change that is very relevant to this discussion. The Attorney's contribution indicates that he has little comprehension of the role of the video cassette recorder in this topic. He says that previously there was little enforcement of the legislation, and that may well be true, but then again at that time the means of disseminating this material were not available to this extent. There is no doubt that the video cassette recorder has many benefits for many people, and that cannot be and is not denied. However, it does enable the wide dissemination of, in particular, the X-rated violent videos, and it is the violent videos we are talking about. Pornographic movies have been around for a very long time but now are freely available for sale and hire and can flow throughout the community with great ease.

The debate today focuses on our criticism of the Government for failing to recognise the community reaction to this and for not giving an opportunity for discussion. There can be no doubt that it is known that there is widespread concern. The shadow Attorney, Senator Durack, has already referred to the Attorney-General's Press statement of 28 September, where the Attorney said that the Ministers and Government representatives 'noted the widespread concern that has been expressed about the existing 'X' category'. That is what we are talking about. Of course, he resorts to name calling. Yesterday, in answer to a question of mine, he referred to those in opposition to himself as being pig-headed and narrow-minded. I am not sure whether the standard has gone up or down, but today it is Neanderthals and troglodytes. I do not mind in the slightest. If it turns him on to call me those sorts of names, he is very welcome to do so. I take some exception, on behalf of the electorate I represent, to those names being used to refer to so many of the people who have expressed their concern about his legislation. Senator Ryan has expressed concern. She asked the police to be careful to see that the material did not become available to those who are under age and that the restriction was enforced. As is reported in the Canberra Times of 9 August this year, Senator Ryan said in a statement:

this was crucial to protect young people from unsuitable or damaging material.

The article went on to say that she had received complaints that had indicated that minors were not being physically restricted from access to X-rated tapes. She also said she had received many complaints from the public about the changed law. I personally think that in the Australian Capital Territory the law is being enforced and I do not accuse video retailers here of allowing this material to become available to minors through them; but I think it becomes available to minors very readily once it is away from their shops.

Dr Jocelyn Scutt spoke at a meeting I attended in Canberra and referred to pornography as 'central in creating and maintaining women's inferior social status'. The meeting that Dr Jocelyn Scutt and others addressed was held in Canberra on 13 August and was attended by no fewer than 2,000 people, which I would have thought indicated widespread public concern. Many petitions have been presented in this place. Many letters have been written to newspapers and have been received by myself and clearly by Senator Ryan and, I think, widely amongst members of parliament in other parts of Australia. An editorial in the Age on 31 August also referred to this issue, but it was wrong in one respect. It referred to the legislation and then went on to state:

Since then the Government has been inundated with complaints that, far from closing the doors, the legislation has opened the floodgates to all kinds of undesirable video material. Concern was also expressed that this kind of material was being sold or hired out to minors by unscruplulous retailers. The Government, to its credit, acknowledged that there may be a problem and that, in the words of the Attorney-General, Sentor Evans, 'there could be a need for fine tuning'.

It is amazing how he can master the understatement when it suits him.

Accordingly-

and this is where the editorial is wrong-

a parliamentary inquiry has been set up to see whether the new law needs to be changed and import restrictions tightened up.


Senator Harradine —Who said that?


Senator REID —It was an editorial in the Age.


Senator Harradine —But the Attorney-General in Victoria said that in his Press statement as well. I have got it here.


Senator REID —It was quite reasonable for them to think that a committee had been set up, but in fact that has not yet been done. I seek leave to incorporate a letter in Hansard. It is an open letter to the Attorney-General written by Brother Alex, a Jesuit who works among children in Melbourne.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

Come on a journey with me-it will be one you will never forget.

I want to show you some broken children-hundreds of them.

I want you to meet children curled up into themselves through abject fear . . .

Children consumed with rage . . .

Children so battered by exposure to depravity they will never recover any semblance of normality.

I have just returned to Australia from Times Square-the putrid core of the Big Apple of New York.

I was there for a month. But it needs only minutes to see the human sewer it is .

Every second shop-literally-is a blatant sex and violence trap for kids.

Spruikers stand outside luring children in.

They offer them free gifts-with slogans to match . . .

Have a watch and get a watch free.

The movie titles are interesting-remember this is a young audience . . .

Life summed up in a day . . . Journey into the unknown . . . Back from the grave . . . Life after death . . .

The movies behind the titles are the utmost in depravity.

Times Square is a sewer-and Soho in London is a cesspool.

I was there, too. Kids of any age have absolute access to videos and movies beyond depravity in Soho.

The market is saturated. And a very lucrative market it is.

You don't have time for a flying trip to Times Square . . . to Soho?

You don't need it, Senator. Look in your own backyard.

Look around Canberra streets, come to Melbourne, Sydney any of our capital cities will do.

Because Australia is now in the big time in porn.

Our country, our kids, are the major target of porn purveyors the world over. Other markets are saturated.

Governments in the United States and Britain are trying desperately now to stem the flood.

All too late, because their kids have drowned in filth.

Oh! There's still a flourishing market overseas but the big producers, the multinationals, Senator, the respected businessmen behind the high-tech porno trade, have competitors now.

The very kids who were their main customers have gone into competition.

You see, watching videos is an educative process.

And kids learn fast.

Now the kids are making their own porno movies and entering the market place with their wares.

Canberra is the worst place in Australia for the easy availability of pornographic videos.

Did you know that?

Do you know the people who are behind the trade?

They aren't your average criminal, Senator.

They are 'responsible' businessmen. They have money, they have influence and they have found a very lucrative market for filth.

Do you know just how bad it is?

Come to Melbourne. I'll show you.

Let's go for a walk on a fine evening through the streets.

Bring your money-the going price is anything from $50 to $500.

Of course, there's some status attached to getting the latest, paying the most.

But any one of the offerings will do and we won't have any trouble finding them -they are sold openly in the streets.

You can choose your subject-any kind of filth, any depths of depravity-it's all there.

Or you can sample the latest wares of the trade-try a 'snuff' movie.

Let me tell you what that is.

It's a video murder movie. The genre is a shade different to your average run of murder moves.

In the interests of realism-or profits-the victim actually is murdered. Right there on film.

Sounds unbelievable?

A lot of what is happening out there sounds unbelievable. That's why I'd like to show you in person.

These particular movies are made like this . . . the cast is chosen and one or more of them, without their knowledge is marked for murder.

And they die . . . violently.

All filmed in focus . . . in close-up . . . in detail and in full colour.

What more could anyone ask for?

That's one question I can't answer . . . each time you think the trade has plumbed the depths of depravity you find they've managed to sink a little further.

There seems no end to it.

But then, Senator, if your advisers have been doing their jobs you should know all this.

If that is so I can only think that you do not understand either the way the trade works or the devastation it causes.

I do know the way it works.

I see it, and its effects, first hand, every night out in the streets.

And through my own knowledge I tell you categorically there is no way your new legislation will stop it . . .

You won't even slow it down. You just might succeed in pushing up the prices, but that will benefit only the traders.

Is that really what you want-to help pornographers reap more profits? I don't think so, but I know that's what could well happen.

Let's talk about the results . . . let me introduce you to some of our kids.

Right now, tonight, around St Kilda, we have 141 kids hurt by this evil.

It takes time-and absolute honesty-to get their confidence.

Those confidences when they do share them are horrifying.

I have 18 helpers on the Open Family team-we work with these kids for as long as it takes, talking it through with them, giving them back some measure of health.

But I don't fool myself, Senator-at best its a band-aid job.

If as many as two of these 141 young lives can be straightened out into some semblance of normality I will give all credit to God-the job's getting beyond man.

Society-and governments-have made kids a punching bag-and this pornographic exploitation of them is the most vicious blow of all.

You want more proof from someone else?

Talk to the Victorian police.

Talk to the members of Delta Task Force-police officers who work with these kids and do their damnedest to help them.

Ask to see their collection of photographs . . . not imported from overseas, Senator Evans, but taken right here.

They have 40 photographs of children forced to pose in the most sickening, sub- human, degrading way . . .

No-one-in Delta or the Open Family-has the words to adequately describe those photos.

And the kids are lured into this mire through deliberate exposure to pornographic and violent videos.

Some of the kids I'd like you to meet are just crushed.

They have no spirit, no life, they're curled up like dry leaves.

This is the result of sheer terror-it's just one way the pornography trade hurts kids.

You can't reach them, Senator-they cringe in abject fear of humanity.

Or there's another reaction. Rage. Rage that consumes them. They rage at everyone and everything.

The terrified kids just go on being preyed upon-they are completely helpless.

The raging kids are dangerous-to themselves maybe most of all.

Some of them are twisted-brutalised by over-exposure to depravity that has become their norm.

And yet they are still our children.

Sure, these are street kids-but once they were children with parents . . . Families. Homes of their own.

What has happened to them through sexual exploitation is going to happen to the ''good'' kids now, from ''good'' families.

Because these same videos already are finding their way into homes.

I can give you names and addresses of parents who have telephoned me appalled, angry-make that blazing mad-because their kids have been exposed in homes to this filth.

Maybe, Senator Evans, if you take this trip with me, you too, will become street-wise.

Maybe, then you will see why your legislation cannot work.

Maybe you will even see the horrendous dangers to society-all society-from legislators who distance themselves from reality.

Maybe you will understand that you are dealing with people in your legislation. Not products.

Maybe you will understand there is only one way to treat a cancer-as a whole.

You have to kill every single cell. Or it spreads faster and more virulently than ever.

If your legislation succeeds in driving the worst pornographic videos underground again-and I doubt that it will even do that much-you will simply have a cancer spreading in darkness.

At best, your new legislation is naive and stupid.

It is too late for New York, too late for London. And it is almost too late in Australia.

This country is now the main target on the multinational pornography market.

You have made it the responsibility of parents to keep the vile products of this market away from their children.

But you don't tell them how.

How, Senator Evans?

How does Mum shield her child from the high-tech, high power marketing wiles of the multinationals after the porno dollar?

While pornography is allowed into the country, while it is sold and shown legitimately in homes or anywhere else, while the black market and the underground trade flourish she simply can't.

There is no protection. You could provide it.

You could ban the imports totally.

You could help police enforce laws to curb it.

You could give kids a chance.

Sadly, I must admit that it has been my experience that very few people take a determined stand against this worst of all trades.

Not, that is, until it has touched them personally.

Not until it has happened in their own family.

How will you protect your own children, Senator?

Please accept my invitation-it is made in absolute sincerity.

Wade through the mire with me-they could be the first steps to social sanity.


Senator REID —The writer of the letter invites the Attorney-General to go with him and see some of the children and some of the effects of pornography. I would like to read out the whole of the letter. It is very worthwhile. I hope the Attorney-General will respond to it. I would like to see his response to that letter as it is very important indeed. I wonder whether the Attorney-General is waiting for the same sort of increase in crime figures in this country as has occurred in the United Kingdom before he responds. There is evidence of a great increase in crime in the United Kingdom over a four-year period. That corresponds with the period in which the video cas- sette recorder has become freely available. Whether that is the only reason for the increase remains to be seen. But I suggest that the Attorney-General does not wait until a similar increase occurs here. There is plenty of evidence of widespread public concern, including statements from Mrs Darling and Mrs Kelly. Mrs Kelly is reported in the Canberra Times as saying that she would ask Senator Evans to change the law relating to X-rated video tapes.


Senator Martin —She took her time.


Senator REID —Yes, the honourable senator is right. This was not reported until 16 August 1984. That article refers to remarks by Mrs Kelly and states:

It was clear that there was widespread community feeling against X rated video tapes. The X rating was 'light years' ahead of community opinion and she wanted to see the law changed.

The article goes on to express other concerns.


Senator Martin —What did Mrs Kelly do when it was voted on in the House of Representatives?


Senator REID —Perhaps she, like the Attorney-General, did not realise what she was doing at the time. Then on 21 August in the Canberra Times we saw the headline 'Evans announces 'porn' inquiry'. Honourable senators will recall that we had suggested that in June the inquiry could have been set up but none the less the Attorney-General is at last on to it. Of course he had the chance that very day, on 21 August-the day that Parliament resumed-to do something. But the inquiry still does not exist. The Attorney-General admitted then that there was to be an inquiry and that it was needed but the committee still does not exist.

Late in the day on 24 August the matter was listed for an hour and then it was adjourned. Since then it has been listed once, right at the end of a program when there was no chance of its being reached. Yesterday the Attorney-General had the gall to suggest that it was our fault that the matter was not being debated. In response to my question he said:

If the honourable senator can give us some guarantee that her parliamentary colleagues will not use the occasion of setting up the committee for another four, five or eight hour debate . . .

All of us here know perfectly well that in the House of Representatives members push legislation through just as fast as they can when it suits them. If the Government had wanted this committee brought forward, set up and dealt with it would have been done weeks ago. It is not right to give some feeble lame duck excuse that we might talk on the matter. We might like to talk on it but we want the committee set up, and now that the Attorney-General has allowed the matter to go on so long there is no chance of a joint committee actually being set up and being able to achieve anything. Some time ago I suggested that there should be a moratorium on the sale of X-rated videos in the Australian Capital Territory until the inquiry had been held. I wrote to the Attorney-General and I put out Press releases. I got a reply dated 27 September and I seek leave to incorporate that reply in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

Dear Senator Reid,

I refer to your letter of 29 August 1984, concerning the sale and hire of 'X' rated videotapes in the Australian Capital Territory.

With regard to your request for a moratorium on the sale and hire of such material I wish to inform you that I still hold to the view that I expressed in the Senate on 21 August 1984 which was that I do not believe there is any case at all to be made for any radical revision of the existing law.

In the Australian Capital Territory there is in existence a rational system for the regulation of videotapes offered for sale or hire. This system which entails the compulsory classification of videotapes by the Film Censorship Board, places effective point of sale controls on 'X' and 'R' rated materials. I am advised by officers of my Department that these point of sale controls seem to be working effectively in the A.C.T., there being a high level of co-operation between the video traders, the Australian Federal Police and my Department.

Finally, I wish to advise you that I will be meeting this month with other State and Territory Ministers with responsibility for censorship to further discuss aspects of the uniform classification scheme and the treatment of 'X' classified videotapes will be an agenda item.

Yours sincerely,

GARETH EVANS


Senator REID —That letter from the Attorney-General really indicates his lack of comprehension of the matter we are discussing and the need. It totally disregards the fact that it appears that the Australian Capital Territory is a cute little island unto itself as far as video material is concerned. Very clearly Mr Wran does not like X-rated material and he vows to ban hard core pornography or 'video porn', as was headlined in the Australian on 27 August. Legislation is to be introduced in New South Wales. Whether or not the Attorney- General feels that it is right for it to be available in the Australian Capital Territory to flow to the rest of Australia, I do not know, but it seems inappropriate. I am not suggesting that he should ban it for all time but surely it cannot hurt for there to be a moratorium while a committee looks into it. I would also seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an article from the Newcastle Herald on 30 August entitled 'The link between sex and violence', by Daniel Goleman in New York.

Leave granted.

The article read as follows-

Films that portray extreme violence against women sexually stimulate nearly one -third of all men-even though the films may contain relatively little that is explicitly sexual-according to newly reported findings.

Several researchers have found, moreover, that repeated viewings of violent films such as Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre instill attitudes in the minds of the viewers that are similar to those found in rapists.

For instance, viewers including women, become more callous in the face of violence towards women and male viewers are more likely to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it.

Other data shows that such scenes have proliferated in commercial films in the past two years. A survey found that one in eight movies commercially released in 1983 depicted violent acts against women, a sharp increase from 1982 when the rate was one movie in 20.

These results were announced recently at a symposium on the effects of violent pornography, at the meeting of the American Psychological Association. The new findings are prompting psychologists to broaden their definition of pornography to include depictions of violence against women that have little or no overt sexual content.

In a series of tests of the effects of graphic non-sexual violence against women, Dr Neil Malamuth, a psychologist at the Los Angeles University of California, told the symposium that he found that 30% of the men studied were aroused by non-sexual violence. Psychologists had previously thought that this pattern was unique to men who actually raped women. To be certain that the men in the study were being aroused by the violence rather than by the image of an attractive woman on the screen, the research was conducted using audio tapes only to describe the violence.

Some of the research describing the specific effects of repeated viewings of such films was done by Edward Donnerstein, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin. The study assessed the psychological effects on men of watching over a period of several days five 'slasher' movies, which feature graphic scenes of bloody violence, mainly to young women. The men were given psychological tests before and after seeing the series of films.

After seeing the films, according to data described at the symposium, the men expressed more willingness to rape a woman if they would not get caught, and found the movies to be progressively less upsetting, more enjoyable and less debasing to women.

When asked to sit in as a mock jury of a rape case the men more often judged the rape victim to be at fault for what had happened, according to Mr Donnerstein.

Women who viewed the same movies had a somewhat parallel reaction. They became emotionally desensitised, finding the movies progressively less upsetting. They were also more likely to judge a rape victim to be at fault, according to Mr Donnerstein's results.

John Briere, a psychologist at the University of Manitoba, has found that attitudes among men that were once thought to signify the thinking of rapists were held in some degree by most men.

Speaking at the symposium on 'Sexual Violence in the Media', Mr Briere reported that his survey found rape itself to be far more common than had been thought: 10% of college men admitted to having physically forced a woman to have sex against her will.

Those who admitted to rape shared the attitudes held by convicted rapists, Mr Briere said. These included subscribing to such myths about rape as that women want to be forced to have sex, that rapes do not occur but are instead women's lies and that women enjoy sexual violence.

These men reported also being sexually excited by one or more non-sexual aspects of rape, including the subjugation, degradation or domination of women. According to Mr Briere, these men were not particularly heavy users of pornographic films or magazines, although they reported reading more pornographic books than other men in the study.

Other research has found myths about rape, which violent pornography seems to promulgate, to be more widespread than experts had thought. According to Dr Malmuth, a survey of high school students in Los Angeles found that half the males interviewed thought it was 'acceptable for a guy to hold a girl down and force her to have intercourse' when, for example, 'she gets him sexually excited '.

Close to 50% of college men hold the same sort of attitude according to data reported by Dr Malamuth. And in another survey of more than 2000 men, 35% said they might rape a woman if they could get away without being caught.

Other studies presented at the symposium reported that men who had watched films that combined sex and violence-even the critically acclaimed Swept Away, which was directed by a woman, Lina Wertmuller-became more callous towards women . Moreover, the association between violent, sexually explicit movies and violent attitudes is increasingly evident.

The link between pornography and violence diverges from the findings of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, published in the United States in 1970. That report found no connection between sex films and violence. But Dr Malamuth observed that in 1970 pornography with a component of violence was relatively rare.

A study published recently in The Journal of Psychiatry reported a large increase in portrayals of violence towards women on the covers of such commonly available sexually explicit magazines as Hussler.

In 1970 such images were infrequent, according to the study. By 1981 they were second in frequency only to couples engaged in sexual activity.

Some of the new findings have already been used in several cities, including Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, in arguments favouring anti- pornography ordinances.

Writing in Pornography and Sexual Aggression (Academic Press), an anthology to be published next month, Dr Malamuth notes that there is 'ample reason for concern about the effects of aggressively toned pornography'. For one, 'the coupling of sex and aggression in these portrayals' might lead some people to similarily combine sex and aggression in their lives.

That effect seems most likely to occur among children and adolescents who have not yet established strong sexual preferences, Dr Malamuth said.

He has found, however, that men who are shown films such as Swept Away, which depict women resisting and then enjoying violent sex, become more accepting of the idea that women want to be forced to have sex.

This change in the attitudes men hold toward women, the researchers at the symposium pointed out, may be socially significant. While individual pathology may be one factor that leads a man to rape, experts agree that the overall climate of attitudes toward women is also a factor.

Even though rapists are aroused by the fantasy of violence to women, they do not seem to be among the most frequent users of such pornography, according to Ronald Johnson, social worker at a Minnesota treatment centre for adolescent sex offenders. He said that most young rapists have rigid and moralistic attitudes about sex, and have had little or no exposure to pornography.

More than 90%, however, were victims of sexual abuse as children. 'I don't think pornography has that much influence on those who rape,' Mr Johnson said in an interview. 'More important is what's happening to them in their past.'

A similar view on the use of pornography by rapists is held by Dr Abel, a leading authority on rapists. 'Men who rape don't need pornography to stimulate their violent fantasies about women; they're obsessed by these fantasies,' he said.

'Many rapists have been masturbating to the fantasy of violence against women since they were teenagers. The rapist's obsession with rape fantasies is so great that it warps his sense of reality about women. They tell themselves things like, ''Women really want to be raped''.

Watching violent pornography, in Dr Abel's view, is 'only' of consequence if a man then begins to have that fantasy in masturbation or intercourse, and only then if it becomes an obsessive fantasy for him. 'That ups the ante considerably ,' he said. 'Even so, there are probably many men with that fantasy who will never be rapists.'

'The most telling effect of scenes of violence toward women may be on our children, who are still forming their sexual outlooks,' Mr Briere said, 'The ready availability of violent pornography increases their chances of seeing graphic scenes of women being maimed and multilated, scenes where what starts as a rape ends as pleasure sex. We won't know for years exactly what the effects of that exposure will be. But it is unlikely to be very healthy.'


Senator REID —There is a lot that I would like to read to the Senate from that article but I cannot do so in the time available. I refer particularly to the reference to the film Texas Chain Saw Massacre which has come up before. The Attorney-General himself dealt with the film on 4 April when he said that he could find 'no redeeming social virtue' in that piece of nastiness. There are all sorts of reasons for supposing that no community could tolerate circulation of that material in any form. I make it clear that I am with those who acknowledge the existence of a category of material which is brutalising without having any redeeming social features. Only a couple of weeks ago I asked a question relating to the advertising of that film, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, in the children's holiday video program.

Let us review some of the matters we are discussing today. Last Friday's meeting of concerned Labor Government Ministers, belatedly reacting to the public outcry against this material and its free availability, looks like some sort of last ditch stand to justify what has occurred. The Attorney-General had misread public opinion when he stated earlier this year that community attitudes had changed to the point where people wanted that kind of X-rated material available for home use. I do not know where he got that from but it is quite clear that it is not the case at present. He seems to ignore the crime figures which exist in the United Kingdom and which, I think, serve as a warning to us, at least until we know of any other reason for them. He continues to ignore calls from women who see violent pornography as central in the creating and maintaining societal attitudes of women as being of inferior social status. He continues to ignore research which shows that repeated exposure to violence and pornography reinforces tendencies in some people towards violence and sexual exploitation. He appears to ignore the sorts of pleas that Brother Alex made, in the letter to which I referred, to have a look at some of the places in his own community, and he seems to ignore the fact that films like Texas Chain Saw Massacre can be advertised in children's video programs. There is ample evidence of public concern about the availability of this material and ample evidence of lack of government response to that public concern. That is what we are talking about.