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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1240

Senator ROBERT RAY(5.02) —It is a pity that today is not a broadcast day because I can just imagine the boys down at the 'Foresters Arms' tuning in all day to this thrilling debate on pornography, to be followed by debate on the flag, followed by de factos. I know just how relevant they think all that debate is. The only thing that is really missing today is a move to put creationism back into schools. I guess that is a treat in store for us next week or the week after.

The reality of this as a matter of public importance really shows the threadbare nature of the Opposition. Senator Durack admitted that we have debated this on many occasions. We could tell that today because he made the same speech, with nothing new introduced; he was just filling in time. Of course , those opposite do not want to discuss the economy or any of the really relevant issues. I will let honourable senators into a secret. The reason for that is that today they have the results of their internal party research. If honourable senators want to know why all the Liberals are walking around with their jaws on the floor, it is that the research has just shown them to be down the tube. We have these sorts of irrelevant debates in the hope not of winning government but maybe, by some sort of moral crusade, pegging back a couple of points in the pecking order. That is all they are after.

We had the suggestion from Senator Reid that if the committee was not set up in time we would have to set up a Senate select committee. We already have six Senate select committees operating and two joint select committees. One of the reasons why a joint committee is being proposed is the enormous interest shown in the issue in the House of Representatives. The Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, is wrong to describe those opposite as neanderthals and troglodytes on this issue. From reading the House of Representatives debate one would think we have enlightened libertines sitting on the other side of the chamber here. We really do need a joint committee to give those specials over the road a chance to enjoy themselves. I have read those debates. Some of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen in print in terms of attitude and intolerance in any Parliament came from the House of Representatives debate.

I did enjoy Senator Walters's tirade today because she really would have us believe that 19 months ago there was no pornography in Australia, no crime in Australia and everything was wonderful. It is only in the last 19 months, with a Labor Government, that suddenly pornography has flooded into Australia. That was the implication in her speech. But we never really get a definition of pornography. I ask Senator Walters what it is. She said she was not talking about blue movies so what was she specifically talking about? If she was talking about violence in films related to sexual activity, no one on this side would disagree with her that that material should be banned. It is in the legislation. It is in the regulations. No one on this side of the House believes that that sort of material should be available, but the difficulty with her argument always is that it is a step by step argument. She tried a salami slice approach. She tried to get one lot banned first of all. Being reasonable people we think there is a case for that. But where does it stop? That is her problem. She will never tell us. That is always the problem of censors in society. They are never satisfied. Once they get one thing removed from films, they want to get other things removed until people are left with absolutely no choice.

The accusation of tardiness in setting up this committee was raised. We have already elected our people to go on the committee and we are ready to serve. Whether we had set it up four or five weeks ago or now, we would not have been able to have got a result before an election. I suggest that we should look towards setting up the committee and getting the processes under way. Those processes take six, eight, 10 or 12 weeks. Senator Walters knows the processes. We have to advertise in the Press for submissions, et cetera.

Senator Walters —Why don't you?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Walters asks: 'Why don't you?' The reason is that we have legislation to get through. On a debate such as this we know that we are in for a six, eight or 10-hour session. If she would guarantee that the Opposition would put the issue of the setting up of the committee through virtually without debate, because we have already debated it, it would go through. We are waiting for the guarantees from the Opposition Whip and from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) to that effect. What we will not do is prevent the supply Bills from going through for another eight or 10 hours. Certain legislation has to have priority and that sort of legislation has priority from our side.

This issue is being exploited. I do not doubt the sincerity of most of those opposite. I would not accuse them of an interest in the subject in order to get a vicarious thrill out of it. I do not make that point. But I have looked at the attitude of some Liberals. I refer particularly to Peter Shack, the Liberal Party candidate for Tangney. He tries to exploit it as an electoral issue. He puts an advertisement in the paper accusing the Australian Labor Party of letting pornography flood into the country. He gives people a hot line to ring and he gives them advice. All he is really trying to do is to whip up minority politics in an effort to get back into this place.

If the Opposition is sincere on this subject and wants something done about this topic, we will go ahead with this inquiry. Most of the States have gone their own way. That is a pity in one way because the one thing we really need is uniformity. It is no use having one or two States standing out against the rest. Queensland has done it for years with printed material by banning the sale of certain editions of Penthouse. Every time the Queensland Government bans Penthouse in Queensland, not only do the Penthouse sales increase in other States but also copies flood across into Queensland via the mail. If we really want to tackle this question I believe this select committee will rationally approach it, I hope on a bipartisan basis, and we can get a solution. We will not get a solution to the problem by going out into the community and trying to rack up Brownie points. That will benefit absolutely no one. If there has to be censorship the one major decision that this committee has to make is where the line is to be drawn. We will not accept a situation in which that line changes day by day and year by year and adults are not allowed to see anything other than the views of a narrow minority.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The discussion is concluded.