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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1107

Senator REID —My question is to the Attorney-General. I refer to the meeting between the Attorney and State Ministers responsible for censorship which was held in Melbourne last Friday and which was called because of the shambles that has been created in regard to uniform laws for censorship of video material. Why are the Attorney and the State Ministers now fiddling around with proposed new classifications for violent material and even proposing a special classification of R+ for certain erotic material in the absence of any proper inquiry into public views on the matter? Why is the Government not proceeding with the joint parliamentary committee to inquire into these questions which was forced upon the Government by its back bench six weeks ago? Does the Government intend to set this committee up or is its tactic to stall the issue until the dissolution of the House of Representatives for the unnecessary early election prevents the committee being established?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government is proceeding with the establishment of the committee. It certainly hopes to have it off and running within the next fortnight or so. If the honourable senator can give us some guarantee that her parliamentary colleagues will not use the occasion of setting up the committee for another four, five or eight-hour debate in which prejudices are rampantly paraded through this place, it might be possible to give her an undertaking about bringing that debate on in both the Houses rather earlier than might otherwise be the case. Of course there are difficulties with the time-tabling of legislation and other government business which make it difficult to give priority to something which is going to take a massive amount of time.

It is certainly our intention to establish the committee because, as both I and other spokesmen have indicated in the other place, there is a job to be done in this area. The Government is not fiddling about with this issue in terms of trying to wrestle with the difficult problems of creating accurate guidelines. We do not adopt the robust approach of some members of the Opposition, that everything in sight ought to be banned without regard to any principles of free speech, free expression or the right of adults to view material in private. There are, of course, a number of competing public policy considerations which are relevant here. They are not easy questions to resolve but they are not helped in their resolution by the kind of pig-headed, narrow-minded attitude which so many people on the Opposition side have brought to bear in what is obviously a very sensitive and difficult matter for public debate.