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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 953

Senator HARRADINE(12.37) — I join my fellow members of the Senate Select Committee on Video Material in congratulating the Chairman, the Secretary, Mr Ron Wiber, and Mary Louise Willheim on the work they performed. We worked under somewhat difficult conditions. We received an enormous number of submissions and were working against the clock to get this report out today-the last day, under a resolution of the Senate, on which we are able to present it. As has been said, the overwhelming majority of written submissions were in favour of the banning of films in the X-rated and proposed ER-rated classifications. It has been suggested that the people who wrote those submissions are not experts. I place before the Senate the view that, in matters of morality as they impinge on public policy, everyone is an expert in a democratic society. That is the nature of a person's right to determine what is right and what is wrong. It is the right of persons to submit to a committee such as ours their views as to what should guide the considerations of a committee in respect of recommendations concerning public policy. So, in that sense, everyone is an expert and the submissions should be given due weight.

The Committee made a firm recommendation that a moratorium should be placed on the sale and hire of X-rated videos in the Australian Capital Territory consistent with the resolution of the Senate on 17 October. When the Senate made that decision, each senator, in considering his or her position, came to a determination and voted accordingly. The Committee recommended upholding the Senate's decision. It did so after it had received submissions, had viewed the material which it was considering banning and had noted the inconsistencies in and inadequacies of the current law. I agree that uniformity is not overwhelming in the consideration of this matter. We made our decision having reviewed the material, having read the submissions and having looked at the state of the law-not only State law but also Commonwealth law. As we said in the report, the Commonwealth law is internally inconsistent. We also made certain observations about the fact that the law is not being enforced and about the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. I point specifically to paragraph 4.8 of the report, which states:

There is a discrepancy between the provisions of sub-regulation (1A) and the provision as described by the Attorney-General's Department. The goods described are not 'prescribed as prohibited imports'.

So at present we have a ludicrous situation. A case which is described on page 41 of the report, paragraph 4.26, was brought to us by the Customs Officers Association of Australia. It was clear in that case that a person had brought into the country child pornography, yet that person could not be charged with bringing in child pornography. I said last year that the person could not be charged. I was challenged; I was told that I was wrong. Now, after all the evidence has been brought before us, it is clear to the Attorney-General's Department, to the Australian Customs Service and to everybody else that persons cannot be charged under the circumstances as described on page 41. That situation has to be rectified, and rectified very quickly. I believe that it has been said that there is a need for further enforcement of the law. The police in the Australian Capital Territory need to see this matter as a matter to which the Parliament gives high priority.

I sympathise to a certain extent with the Attorney-General's Department because evidence came before us that the section of the Department which deals with this area has only three people. No wonder we get the sort of advice which emanates from the Attorney-General's Department. It is absolutely overburdened with administrative matters. When it comes to policy considerations, to dotting all the i's and crossing the t's, of course there are slip-ups. We have seen them occur as a result of the measures we have considered. The Film Censorship Board ought to be required to reflect more adequately the reasonable and responsible opinion that is widespread now within the community about the video material which the Board classifies. It ought to be required to administer the law properly. In this report one sees that it is not doing that. It needs further resources, as we have recommended, but so does the Customs Service. Customs officers brought before us certain information and suggestions as to how certain areas could be tightened up at the Customs barrier and subsequently. They should be given further consideration by the Committee and by the Government.

Finally, I say that something ought to be done whereby the Film Censorship Board could classify certain R-rated films in a manner that would exclude them. Certain R-rated films do not meet the 'reasonable adult person' test because they are exploitive. It has been said that banning such material will drive it underground and lead to criminal activity. However, we received evidence that the majority of X-rated material is now under the control of the Mafia.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ryan) adjourned.