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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4164

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (15:49): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I table an explanatory memorandum and I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Mr President,

I introduce the Freedom of Speech Legislation Amendment (Censorship) Bill 2018.

Free speech involves both the freedom to communicate and the freedom to receive communications. Yet the Commonwealth restricts what we can read, watch, play and listen to.

This censorship hurts those Australians who would choose to read, watch, play or listen to censored material. And other Australians have a clear option if this censorship was not present: we can choose to not read, watch, play or listen to the material. Free speech includes no obligation to listen.

This is a measured Bill.

It removes the ban on publications, films and computer games on the grounds that they offend against standards of morality, decency and propriety. However, publications, films and computer games that promote, incite or instruct in crime, or that portray children engaged in sexual activity, will continue to be banned, and dealings in child pornography will remain serious criminal offences. Moreover, all publications, films and computer games, including those no longer banned, will continue to be subject to classification rules that restrict access where material is unsuitable for a minor to read, see, view or play.

The message is clear: if you don't want to read a particular book, then don't. If you don't want to watch a particular film, then don't. And if you don't want to play a particular computer game, then don't. However, we should respect the fact that others may have different views.

The Bill makes associated changes. It removes a ban on publications, films and computer games that meet the broad criteria of advocating terrorism, but retains the ban on material that promotes, incites or instructs in terrorism. Arguably Rambo III meets this broad criterion, because it praises the Taliban fighting against the Russians in the 1980s. Publications, films and computer games that promote, incite or instruct in terrorism will continue to be banned.

The Bill also removes the obligation on the Classification Board to ban certain advertisements for publications, films and computer games, while leaving in place a discretion for the Board to do so.

The Bill also removes some racist law. Currently publications, films and computer games that are legally available across the country are not available in parts of the Northern Territory because of Ministerial decree. Criminal offences apply. My Bill removes this ban, which is thinly-veiled racism.

Censorship is not limited to publications, films and computer games, but also extends to content in broadcasting, datacasting and online. This Bill pares back bans on broadcasting, datacasting and online content, with a specific focus on bans affecting services provided behind paywalls, as such services are less likely to involve unsolicited or underage viewing.

Current law pushes prudish community standards in broadcasting and datacasting codes of practice. This Bill limits this prudishness so that it does not apply to codes of practice for subscription broadcasting or datacasting subject to access-control systems.

The Bill allows subscription television broadcasters to broadcast X 18+ and R 18+ programs if access to such programs is restricted by disabling devices acceptable to the regulator.

The Bill will also allow online content services to host X 18+, R18+, 'category 1 restricted' and 'category 2 restricted' content provided that access to such content is subject to a restricted access system.

Finally, the Bill addresses electoral censorship. It removes the ban on broadcasting electoral advertising on election day or on the preceding Thursday or Friday. This ban does nothing to prevent broader electioneering on those days, with many voters casting their votes before election day, and in any case voters need not be shielded from electioneering in order to make well-considered votes. The best way to ensure that votes are well-considered is to make voting voluntary.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.