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Wednesday, 4 April 1984
Page: 1227

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN(6.03) —I support the motions of Senator Mason and Senator Harradine for the disallowance of regulations and ordinances in respect of video material. By making a change in the Customs regulations the Government has allowed into Australia a considerable amount of material such as hard core pornography which previously was not available. I have a paper from the Attorney-General's Department which states:

Barriers to the importation of hard core pornography-other than child pornography, publications which incite terrorism and publications containing extreme violence and/or sexual violence-have been lifted.

I understand that video material is virtually the same as the items listed in that paper. I repeat that the paper says that barriers to the importation of hard core pornography have been lifted. I feel that the Senate, by supporting the motion today, will be seen as doing away with the degradation of women firstly in the Australian Capital Territory and then throughout Australia. I wish to refer to a letter written by Mrs Esther Doyle, State President of the Catholic Women's League of New South Wales, which appeared in the Australian today. She made the following points about the importation and distribution of pornographic material:

1. Material promoting the degradation and exploitation of women should be refused classification.

2. All pornography should be banned. Reason: Classifying it gives it legality.

3. The views that adults should be entitled to indulge in pornography, or that it should not be permitted only if it offends reasonable adult persons, are naive and irresponsible.

I agree with Mrs Doyle when she states:

. . . There is no way that such material can be prevented from getting into the hands of those not able to cope with it.

It is very difficult to stop children viewing material such as this which comes into a home. She maintains in her letter:

In the past decade existing laws have not been suitably enforced. It is imperative that these laws be enforced and that more precise wording be introduced into further legislation to deal with technological developments such as video discs.

No one could be so unrealistic as to believe that television and films have no effect on their viewers. Our legislators must face the fact that the young, the unbalanced and the perverted will be affected by viewing horror, violence, sadism, sexual deviation, etcetera, and many will perform criminal acts as a result.

I consider that the action of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) was premature in making a change to the Customs regulations that could result in a flood of hard core pornography into Australia. In fact, the industry has felt that it has been given a green light for video sex. Unfortunately, when the change was made to the Customs regulations the State governments did not have their legislation in place to censor X rated hard core pornographic video material, although I understand that South Australia has now got complementary legislation in place. I am pleased to see that the Queensland Government is doing something about this matter. I note that the Queensland Government made a statement this week that it will bring forward new legislation on video censorship which will, I understand, mean the banning from our State of all video films with X censorship classification.

It is said from time to time that Queensland is a bit of a stuffy State because of its censorship laws. However, it seems, when one reads an article in one of Queensland's daily newspapers, that although Queensland has censorship laws one store in that State produced a collection of sex movies which an attendant said could not be put on the shelves. This could be the result of the new censorship procedures which came into operation in February. The newspaper article continued:

The movies were brought out with no hesitation and the attendant offered them for hire.

Although one of the films is banned from cinemas, no law can ban a video of the same movie.

I feel that that is an important point. The article pointed out that the manager of the television rental company said that his libraries had a standing order banning people under the age of 18 hiring videos. The article continued:

But he said there should be strict guidelines on what videos could and could not be hired.

These are important facts. However, there is a time lapse between bringing in the legislation and putting the legislation in place. Therefore, I feel it is necessary to pass the disallowance motion to give all States time to put their legislation in place. I believe that this Government cannot legislate to treat the Australian Capital Territory as an island. If all the other States decide that they will go ahead and put legislation in place, I think it is very important that we do it together. The New South Wales Women's Advisory Council in a report to the Premier of New South Wales on hard core pornography said:

Sexually explicit subordination of women, graphically depicted in pictures or words including the showing of women as things, commodities or objects or where women are injured, degraded, abused, tortured et cetera is not the sort of material that any women want to be available in Australia.

That is something of which the Senate should take note when examining this motion.

Senator Harradine —That is right. X rated videos will be some of those.

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN —Yes, I agree with Senator Harradine. In common with other senators, I have had much correspondence about the need to disallow the regulations and ordinances on video material. An article in the Queensland Courier-Mail on 20 March stated:

Lack of censorship of video movies could have a major effect on society by allowing children to view sex and violence at home, according to police.

They are concerned unrestrictive viewing of videos in the home could have undesirable influences on juveniles.

Police say videos distributed for home viewing in Queensland need censorship control, but admit it is almost impossible to monitor what people watch privately.

. . . .

Another senior police officer said the problem had arisen because no clear censorship guidelines had been set for videos, when compared with present restrictions on cinema films, television and reading material.

. . . .

He said sex and violence seemed to be becoming noticeable in the Australian way of life and this was reflected in juveniles.

'If they are exposed to pornography and violence, it must have an effect on them'.

That is why it is necessary for the Senate to support this disallowance motion. If it is supported, then most certainly the Government will be able to enforce the law as it is now. The Censorship Board will be able to make judgments, as in the past, in relation to material as well as on films for public viewing. I certainly support the disallowance motions moved by Senators Mason and Harradine .