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Thursday, 5 April 1984
Page: 1255

Senator WALTERS(11.53) —Senator Jack Evans said in debating Senator Lewis's amendment that I had misrepresented the Australian Democrats' stand last night when I had said that the Democrats had backed down and that their vote had been bought by the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans. We will see how they vote today. Following Senator Mason's media release saying they would not vote for the disallowance today but would put it off until some time in the future because they had won certain points from the Attorney-General-and they took the kudos for doing that-I will be interested to see how they vote. To begin with, the Attorney-General has backed down on the compulsory section of the regulations. He was able to see that, on the numbers, he would lose on that anyway. That was part of the price paid. It is ludicrous and stupid, and typical of the Democrats, for them to say the Attorney-General backed down as a result of the Democrats' numbers. I put it to you, Mr Deputy President, that the Opposition has a few more numbers than the Democrats and without the Opposition' s assistance the Democrats could not do a darn thing. So for heaven's sake, they should not tell us that they accomplished this, because they did not. They did nothing about it. The Democrats have five votes, but there are also the numbers of the Liberal and National parties and Senator Harradine. So do not try to take your kudos from your five.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, will you address your remarks to the Chair, please?

Senator WALTERS —Mr Deputy President, it is a bit irritating when a party with five votes tells us this action is as a result of its numbers.

Senator Gareth Evans —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I suggest that Senator Walters ought not only to address her remarks through the Chair but also ought to address them to the motion. So far she has not come within a bull' s roar of addressing herself to the timing, the importance or the urgency of the matter.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, you must confine your remarks to the reason why the resumption of the debate should be at 12 noon rather than on 2 May.

Senator WALTERS —As I said, the Democrats have been proved to have been bought, to have changed their minds and they will not support the disallowance of the motion at midday today. The extreme urgency of this matter is obviously completely misunderstood by the Democrats. They have said that if they move today to have this legislation disallowed it will be open slather for people to circulate hard core pornography all around the country. What on earth do the Democrats think has been happening since 1 February when the Attorney-General brought in this regulation? Exactly that. It is because this hard core pornography has been circulating around the country we are moving for a disallowance today. The Democrats want to put this matter off until some time in the future, maybe May. If the disallowance does not take place we will have the present situation for another month. If the disallowance takes place we will go back to the law of the country as it stood before 1 February. The Attorney- General could enforce that law and we would not have the open slather that we have at present. It would continue to occur if he chose not to enforce the law.

I realise that some of the hard core pornography will get through Customs. Pornography will always be able to be hidden and will always escape the Customs net. But that does not mean that it is legal. It does not mean that it can come into this country in a legal fashion and be sold in every video shop in an open way. It has had to be done in a clandestine way; now, of course, it is open slather. Senator Jack Evans also said-I think these were his words-that I would like to set the standards according to my own ideas. If he had bothered to read the speech I made yesterday on this matter he would know that I called upon the Attorney, to prove support for his proposal, he having previously said that all the Australian people were behind him and wanted this-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, you must not resume the debate. The motion is purely concerned with the timing of the resumption.

Senator WALTERS —No, I am not. I am expressing the urgency of this matter. I said to the Attorney-General: 'Find out before you do this'. I will read my comments from Hansard. I said:

I ask the Attorney-General whether he has any evidence at all that suggests that the Australian people support the expansion of the range of hard core pornography available in this country. The range has been expanded to include X rates or Category 2 material.

I asked the Attorney-General to find out from the people of the country whether they agree with him before he opens up the regulations, as indeed they will be opened up if we do not disallow this motion today. I am quite sure they will not agree with him. I am interested to see whether the Attorney-General will find out. Senator Jack Evans was incorrect when he said that I was putting up my ideas in this regard as the ones to be adopted. I asked Senator Evans to find out what the people of this country wanted.

Senator Mason —I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. We have the interesting situation where the debate on this motion has been overtaken by the clock. I seek your ruling on the point that the debate be resumed at 12 o'clock. It is now 12 o'clock.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! This situation has arisen before. A motion for the resumption of a debate at 12 noon, in accordance with practice, is interpreted as meaning at 12 noon or as near thereto as possible. In the past debate has been permitted to continue past the time mentioned in the motion, and I so rule on this occasion.

Senator WALTERS —Sentor Mason said that one of his great victories in this matter was making compulsory the seeking of a classification of this sort of material. I believe that the Opposition was responsible for extracting from the Government that compulsory element. I come now to deal with material depicting extreme violence. If the Attorney-General removes the word 'extreme' what does that leave us? Will it mean that no material depicting violence will be able to come into the country?

Senator Mason —But that is forbidden entry. Those are things that cannot come in .

Senator WALTERS —I am well aware of that, Senator Mason. Will it mean that material that depicts no violence at all can come into the country?

Senator Mason —In those terms.

Senator WALTERS —In those terms.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I ask Sentor Walters not to respond to interjections.

Senator WALTERS —It will be interesting to see whether Senator Jack Evans sticks to that ruling of excluding material depicting extreme violence so that no material depicting any violence at all can come into the country. I have a feeling that he will come up with a different set of words rather than simply removing the word 'extreme'. It will be interesting to see whether he does. I shall take the Senate's time for only a couple of minutes more. The Classification of Publications Ordinance reads:

Subject to this section, where the Censorship Board decides that a film-

(a) depicts, expresses or otherwise deals with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult person; or

(b) is unsuitable for the viewing of a minor,

the Board shall approve the classification of the film . . .

However, that approval will be on a restricted basis. So we have the situation where the Censorship Board can allow in on a restricted basis material that is revolting or abhorrent in such a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult person. The Attorney-General said that if material is revolting or abhorrent it will be allowed into the country but it will be given an X- rating. However, he says that material will not be let in if it offends against standards of morality, decency and propriety. What on earth is the Attorney- General talking about? If it is revolting and abhorrent and causes offence to a reasonable adult person, he will let it into the country anyway. But if it offends against standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by a reasonable adult person, he will not let it in. I really do not understand what the Attorney-General is talking about, and I am darned sure that the rest of the Australian community does not understand what he is talking about.

Senator Harradine —But he does.

Senator WALTERS —Yes, he does. He sees a big difference between something that is revolting and abhorrent and something that offends against standards of morality, decency and propriety. The Australian Democrats also see the difference between those two things. They are willing to allow all this sort of stuff to flood into the country and to be available to the Australian population for the next month or so. Indeed, the Australian Democrats have backtracked. They have let us down badly. They have done a deal. They have been bought. Senator Evans said in his speech, 'If that is what it takes to buy your lousy vote, I will do it'. That shows the sincerity of the Attorney-General of this country.

Senator Mason —And he did it yesterday, what is more.

Senator WALTERS —He bought the vote of the Australian Democrats. As Senator Mason said, he did it yesterday. This is the sort of language and sincerity we have in this place from the Attorney-General of Australia. The Opposition will not have a bar of that sort of sincerity.