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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 53

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (12:59 PM) —I thank honourable senators for their contributions. I will briefly summarise aspects of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2004. By enacting this law, parliament will be indicating its intention that a classification decision should be considered valid where there is a defect or deficiency related to the technical application requirements of the act. Although the bill only refers to decisions made in response to applications from law enforcement agencies, this is not intended to create any implication that a classification resulting from an application of a commercial client should be invalid if that application had a technical defect. In other words, if the court would have considered a classification decision valid despite a defect in a commercial application, this bill will not change that result.

It is also important to note that the amendments have no impact on the decision-making provisions of the act. The formal requirements for applications are separate from the substantive provisions governing the decision-making processes of the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board. The full rigour of the classification decision-making process will continue to apply to all products admitted for classification. As a further point of clarification, this bill does no more than validate a limited class of classification decisions and the actions subsequently taken by the Classification Board, the director and the Classification Review Board in respect of those decisions. The bill does not affect the responsibility of law enforcement authorities to make proper applications for classification, and it does not otherwise impact on the rights of defendants in criminal proceedings.

I will briefly respond to three matters raised by Senator Greig. First of all, the bill does not affect the obligations of Commonwealth, state or territory police to submit applications properly. They must still use their best endeavours to follow the requirements of the act. It merely ensures that if a mistake is made in the application process that is not picked up by the OFLC then the decision made is still valid and the prosecution is not compromised. Second, the bill does not affect a defendant's right to argue in court that the product classified was not the material seized by the police. The matter of whether the material classified by the board is the same as the material that was submitted or the same as the material seized is properly a matter that the court would need to assess.

Third, the government is aware of suggestions that X-rated films, RC films and unclassified films are being sold illegally in the states. Regulation of the availability of films and the enforcement of prohibitions or limitations on sale are state and territory responsibilities. The Office of Film and Literature Classification's Community Liaison Scheme routinely inspects restricted premises and retail stores to educate about and advise on legal obligations. These Community Liaison Scheme officers have identified and reported breaches of legal restrictions on the sale of X-classified films to the relevant state censorship officials and nominees of enforcement agencies. The enforcement of prohibitions on sale is a state responsibility which the Commonwealth expects to be upheld under the national classification scheme. I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the debate on this bill and commend it to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.