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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3259


Senator HARRADINE(3.04) —I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The need for the Government to implement the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Video Material and in particular to ensure an immediate ban on video materials which have received the `X' classification by the Film Censorship Board and contain depictions of incest.

I understand that, by agreement, there will be 10 minutes for each speaker, and I would be obliged if the clock were set accordingly. In order to understand the point of this motion, it is important to know what the Senate Select Committee on Video Material did. The Senate Select Committee, whose final report was presented to the Parliament on 28 March 1985, recommended that the Federal Government take action pending the outcome of the Joint Committee inquiry, that Joint Committee having been established earlier in March of 1985. The Senate Committee said that these interim measures should have regard to the many problems brought to it in evidence concerning the extent of violence and sex depicted in videos, their transmission by post and accessibility to children. It specifically recommended a moratorium on the sale and hire of X classification video material and on its importation until the Joint Committee investigated and formulated considered recommendations on the subject and the Parliament and the Government had considered those recommendations.

The Government has repeatedly refused to act on these recommendations of the Senate Select Committee despite the fact that its original formulation of an ordinance on this subject was based on the proposition that there should be uniformity throughout the Commonwealth, despite the fact that since then all of the States have banned X-classified videos, and that X-classified videos are now available for sale and hire only in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, which represent some 2 per cent of the population. Nevertheless, there has been an enormous dislocation, so far as the States are concerned, because of the fact that this material is being sold from Canberra by post to the States, thus undermining the very principle that the Government said was at the centre of its ordinances. The inaction of the Government has prejudiced the work, I believe, of the Joint Committee in that the argument being advanced very strongly now is that the material is so prevalent that it would be very difficult to have such matter excluded from the community.

The Senate Committee also recommended a moratorium on the importation of this material. But, because of the inaction of the Government, the country has been literally flooded with that material. What is the nature of the material on which the Senate Select Committee sought to have a moratorium imposed? The nature of its contents is not well known amongst the community. How many Australians, for example-indeed, how many members of parliament-would know that the possession for sale and hire of a particular video which in Australia fits within the guidelines for the X category would in Canada be an offence? Canada, as we know, is quite a liberal society. Indeed, it is proposing a tightening up of its laws. But there is available on the shelves here for hire and sale material the possession for sale and hire of which in Canada would be an offence.

I refer to the judgment in R v. Wagner, Alberta Queens Bench, Canada. Wagner was convicted of having certain videos in his possession for the purpose of distribution or circulation. At least two of the titles are legally sanctioned for hire and sale under the Australian Capital Territory Classification of Publications Ordinance and classified by the Film Censorship Board in the X category. The judgment referred to these two particular videos-and these are an example-as: `sexually explicit, without violence but de-humanising or degrading'. Through the Joint Select Committee secretariat, one of these videos was hired from a Canberra video outlet. I viewed that video from start to finish and I know of very few human beings who would not regard it as non-violent, dehumanising or degrading pornography and beyond the pale. It may be asked: `What of the new guidelines that were adopted by the Film Censorship Board in late 1984?' This video was classified X in April 1984 by the Film Censorship Board and, on reference by the Victorian police, in May 1986 it was declared by the Film Censorship Board as identified correctly as X under its current guidelines.

The bulk of material in the X category would fall into a category of non-violent, dehumanising or degrading pornography. This material has been described in the academic literature as depriving `fellow human beings of identity and community'. `Women, particularly, are deprived of unique human character or identity' and are depicted as sex stereotypes, `anonymous panting playthings, adult toys' to be used and discarded. They are depicted as lacking free will, discrimination, choice, judgment, self-control or integrity and as made ready to meet any sexual demand at any time. That is how this material is described in academic literature. To use the terminology of a Canadian feminist who applauded the Canadian court's decision, this material:

tends to objectify or dehumanise the persons portrayed, so that the participants are stripped of all individuality and all persons of a gender class are thereby reduced to their genitalia.

The Canadian court was convinced that:

Men, who are repeatedly exposed to such films, become more sexually aggressive in their relations with women and more tolerant of such behaviour in others. That leads to increased callousness towards women on a personal level and less receptiveness to their legitimate claims for equality and respect.

In addition to what I have said, 25 per cent or more of material that is classified by the Film Censorship Board as X has explicit depictions of homosexual acts. Also, other material includes the theme of incest. Let us consider for a moment that we are allowing material which explicitly depicts incestuous acts and indeed promotes them. Of course, I am not talking about themes in films or books which seriously question or consider the subject of incest. Anybody who has seen the material to which I referred will know that I am not talking about that; what I am talking about is the explicit promotion of incest. Consider whether that is appropriate in view of the fact that only last year we in this chamber had before us the Crimes Amendment (No. 5) Ordinance of 1985. This material is promoting the type of incest which under that Ordinance is punishable by imprisonment for 10 years.

I am not sure how much time is left to me. My concern is that there is a Government proposal that this material and other material which is also described as non-violent, dehumanising and degrading pornography now in the X classification should be placed in a new ER category for sale and hire under the Australian Capital Territory Classification of Publications Ordinance. It is disturbing that though this question was raised in the Victorian Parliament recently, the Victorian Government stated in evidence to the Senate Select Committee on Video Material, as reported at page 1273 of the transcript, that the Films (Classification) Act of 1984 allows for this new category to be automatically introduced in Victoria if the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance is amended to introduce it into the Australian Capital Territory. It is of concern that there is an attempt-we should face this-to so entrench this material in society that it will be too hard to get rid of it and we will have to tolerate it. I believe the time has now come for Parliament no longer to be a party to entrenching this type of material in the community. Indeed, it is being forced on to the States through the post at present. This motion should be adopted.