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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1841


Senator HARRADINE(12.15) —I rise to support the motion which was moved by Senator Reid. It is important that an examination of matters relating to video censorship take place, and that examination is long overdue. I do not intend to delay the Parliament for long because I believe the sooner the Senate Select Committee on Video Censorship is established the better. A number of people throughout the community believe that such a committee has already been established, not the least being the Attorney-General of Victoria who, in a Press statement issued a couple of weeks ago, referred to a committee having been established by the Federal Parliament. The problem is that until now such a committee has not been appointed.

As far back as June of this year the Senate adopted a resolution requesting the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to investigate video materials. That resolution was transmitted to the House of Representatives and was not dealt with adequately by that House before it got up for the winter recess. In fact it was dealt with very late one night and into the early hours of the morning. There was a similar occurrence on two subsequent occasions when the matter was brought forward in the House of Representatives. As of last week when the House of Representatives rose for the forthcoming election the matter had not been finally determined. Therefore, because of the problems being experienced within the community with regard to this issue, it is necessary for the Senate to take the action that is being proposed today.

I do not want to delay the Senate so I have risen simply to move the amendments that have been circulated in my name. The first amendment seeks to leave out the word 'Censorship' in the title of the proposed committee and proposes that the committee be called the Select Committee on Video Material. In the second amendment I propose in the general terms of reference to include an examination of the operation of the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations. I believe that this amendment is necessary to ensure that the Committee will be able to pursue all of the legislation which it seeks to consider. My third amendment proposes to insert after paragraph (1) (c) new sub-paragraph (ca) so that the Committee can inquire and report on the following:

Whether 'R' rated videos should be permitted to be displayed for sale or hire in the same area and side by side with 'G', 'PG' and 'M' rated videos and, if not, what restrictions should be imposed on the display of 'R' rated material;

At present there is a good deal of discussion on the question of R-rated and X- rated material. Under the provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Classifications of Publications Ordinance, for a video to be classified as R- rated it must either not pass the reasonable adult person test-that is to say that it depicts sex, violence, crime, et cetera in a manner that would give offence to the reasonable adult person- or be defined as being 'unsuitable for the viewing of a minor'. I can think of R-rated videos which it could be argued do meet the reasonable adult person test but which are not suitable for the viewing of minors. One such example, it could be argued, is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.


Senator Zakharov —It has been prescribed as a school text.


Senator HARRADINE —Before the Film Censorship Board can classify a film as R- rated it must, under the Ordinance, decide that that film either does not meet the reasonable adult person test or is classed as unsuitable for the viewing of minors. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has been classified by the Film Censorship Board as R-rated. Therefore in the view of the Board it either does not meet the reasonable adult person test or is unsuitable for the viewing of minors. Those are the facts. All that I am saying is that there are two types of R-rated material. Clearly the Committee will need to examine this aspect at some stage.

I wish to move another amendment which seeks to insert after paragraph (1) (g) new sub-paragraph (ga) so that the Committee can examine and report on the following:

Whether the sale, hire, distribution or exhibition of films and videotapes/ discs that would, under existing laws, be accorded a classification above 'R' should be made unlawful;

One of the defects of the motion before us is that it does not say whether material that is currently classified as X-rated or material that is classified as being above R-rated should not be permitted by law in Australia to be made available for sale, hire, distribution or exhibition. It is high time that the people of Australia had an opportunity to have their say on this matter. We know the problems that exist as a result of the new provisions introduced by this Government which have legalised for the first time in Australia the general importation of hard core pornography and its commercialisation in the Australian Capital Territory. I believe that the public has been concerned about this matter from the start. This Committee will give the public the opportunity to have its say.

The establishment of a select committee of this character is an extension of the representative functions of members of parliament. We are here after all to represent our constituents. Our constituents will have in this Committee a sounding board, if you like, for their views. I do hope the reasonable and responsible views of the community will be put forward to this Committee in a logical manner so that it can examine the ramifications of the existing laws, the ramifications of the widespread availability of video material in the community at present and not least the effect of this material on children.

I had proposed further amendments which would have dealt with print material containing pornographic, violent or obscene publications. It has been suggested by some video distributors that the concentration by members of parliament and the public is on video material and that people have ignored the fact that objectionable print publications are widespread. There is a great concern about objectionable print publications. I would have liked this Committee to have dealt with the public's viewpoint on that matter. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that evidence will be produced to the Committee that there is a need for consideration of the laws relating to such material. I am sure that the Committee will receive evidence of this. I am told that it is the concern, particularly of the Opposition and the Government, that we should focus now on video material, so I have agreed not to press at this stage that the Committee's terms of reference be extended to cover objectionable print publications. With those reservations and with the following amendments I support the motion for the establishment of the Committee. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to move my four amendments together.

Leave granted.


Senator HARRADINE —I move:

1. Paragraph (1), leave out 'Censorship', insert 'Material'.

2. Paragraph (1), after 'operation of', insert 'the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations,'

3. After sub-paragraph (1) (c), insert the following new sub-paragraph:

'(ca) whether ''R'' rated videos should be permitted to be displayed for sale or hire in the same area and side by side with ''G'', ''PG'' and ''M'' rated videos and, if not, what restrictions should be imposed on the display of ''R'' rated material;'.

4. After sub-paragraph (1) (g), insert the following new sub-paragraph:

'(ga) whether the sale, hire, distribution or exhibition of films and videotapes/discs that would, under existing laws, be accorded a classification above ''R'' should be made unlawful;'.

Amendments agreed to.