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Wednesday, 2 May 1984
Page: 1457


Senator HARRADINE(10.13) —I move:

(1) That the following regulations be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs:

(a) Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations (Amendment), as contained in Statutory Rules 1983 No. 331 and made under the Customs Act, 1901;

(b) Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations (Amendment), as contained in Statutory Rules 1983 No. 332 and made under the Customs Act, 1901.

(2) That the Committee advise the Senate whether the aforementioned regulations remove from existing Commonwealth law-

(a) the power to prevent the importation of hard-core pornography (e.g. 'x' rated videos) and publications which consistently incite the use of hard drugs;

(b) the power to prevent the importation of grossly obscene publications including those associated with blasphemy;

(c) the power to require videos for non-commercial use to be registered by the Film Censorship Board before release from Customs.

(3) That the Committee report to the Senate on or before 29 May 1984.

I gave notice of this motion last night.


Senator Missen —Not to the Committee.


Senator HARRADINE —Nobody gave me any notice of the fact that these matters were to be adjourned today, and it was in response to the whispers around Parliament House that they were to be adjourned that last night I hurriedly prepared this motion and put it into the Clerk. I then sent a copy to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button), the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney), the Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Chipp) and to the mover of the motion, Senator Mason, who did not have the courtesy to advise me and who has other motions afoot, that he was going to move for their adjournment today. I am doing this in response to that action. I apologise if the Committee has its nose in a knot about this matter, but if one looks at the motion one can see that the Committee could say yes in five minutes.


Senator Jack Evans —As long as the Committee agrees with you.


Senator HARRADINE —Not as long as it agrees with me, because people do not realise what these amendments contain. Senator Mason certainly does not realise what they mean, judging from what he said in this chamber on 5 April, the last sitting day on which we discussed this matter.

This is a very serious matter and it is important that everybody knows what they are doing if we do not disallow these regulations. I assert that if we do not disallow these regulations we will be removing from existing Commonwealth law the power to prevent the importation of hard core pornography. They are not my words. They are the words of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). If one looks at the new Commonwealth Censorship Procedures for Publications, issued by the authority of the Attorney-General, one sees that the words in the second paragraph say:

Officers of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department will be employed to classify publications under the ACT Classification of Publications Ordinance 1983. These classifications will apply in the ACT and some States.

Here is the nub of it:

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

'Barriers to the importation of hard core pornography . . . have been lifted'- those are the words of the Attorney-General. It is a half minute job for the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Furthermore, if we do not disallow these regulations we will be removing from existing Commonwealth law the power to prevent the importation of publications which consistently incite the use of hard drugs. Nobody has ever raised that previously. But that is what the Attorney-General has deliberately done in these regulations, with or without consultation with the appropriate Minister, which is the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Button. I will come to that in a minute. Let me make the suggestion to the Committee that its members cast their eyes on some of the available material. I ask honourable senators to turn to item 18A of the Second Schedule of the original Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. Under item 18A these goods can be prohibited from importation:

Goods that are of their own nature or having regard to any advertising or other matter with which the goods are packaged encourage or tend to encourage the taking of a drug being a drug specified in the Fourth Schedule.

I invite the Committee to look at the definition of 'goods' under the Customs Act. It will come to the conclusion that 'goods' can be interpreted to include publications. What are we asked to do in these new regulations? Again I invite honourable senators to turn to the new regulations. The new regulations state under the Second Schedule, item 4:

The Second Schedule to the Principal Regulations is amended by omitting items 18A, 20 and 21.

Items 20 and 21 deal with terrorism, which is deliberately reinserted in new regulation 4A. But the item dealing with drugs is not. For the first time the Attorney-General is deliberately removing the power under Commonwealth law to prevent the importation of publications encouraging hard drugs. He has done that quite deliberately.


Senator Elstob —That is not right.


Senator HARRADINE —If it is not right, let me quote what he has said. Does the honourable senator mean to say that it should not have been done?


Senator Gareth Evans —Where is the regulation that does that?


Senator HARRADINE —He does not know. Good grief!


Senator Gareth Evans —Where is the reference to drugs in the existing 4A (1)?


Senator HARRADINE —Minister, please look at the Second Schedule, 18A, of the original Regulations. Look at the Schedule you are removing. That Schedule enables not the Attorney but the Minister for Industry and Commerce to prevent the importation of publications which incite the use of hard drugs. You have done it deliberately, or somebody in your Department has done it deliberately, even though you may not know.


The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator will address his remarks through the Chair.


Senator HARRADINE —Through you, Mr President, I again ask honourable senators to turn to the document issued under the authority of the Attorney-General's Department entitled 'Australian Capital Territory Classification of Publications Ordinance 1983-Standards for Classification of Printed Materials'. Those printed materials can now be sold in the Australian Capital Territory and can therefore be imported under category 2, which states inter alia:

Publications which consistently incite the use of hard drugs.

We have a very interesting situation indeed in this country. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars tracking down those people who are importing hard drugs into this country. Police and Customs officers wage unremitting war with public support against the importation of drugs. I bet the public does not realise that the Federal Government has removed from Customs regulations the power to prevent the importation of publications which encourage the use of hard drugs. It is something that one would not read about, but it is true. As I have stated, the Attorney-General's classification standards issued in February, from which I quoted, specifically enable-and I quote again-'publications which consistently incite the use of hard drugs to be sold in category 2'. That is nothing short of a scandal, and we were about to allow it to go through and not disallow it.


Senator Mason —It has been adjourned, Senator. Do you know that?


Senator HARRADINE —Did the honourable senator intend to agree to that? Of course he did.


Senator Mason —I am saying that we adjourn it for nine days.


Senator HARRADINE —Yes, it would be adjourned for nine days in order to do another back door deal. That is another reason, while I think of it, why it is important to have the matter dealt with by a committee. I can prove logically, backed up by documentation, the facts that I am asserting. I do not ask honourable senators to agree with what I am saying, but I do ask that a group of us have a look at the matter to see whether the assertions, which are quite devastating, are true.

The other problem that we have in considering these matters is that they are not like legislation. The Minister has not explained in detail the measures and provisions in the regulations. There is an explanatory note in the regulations, but that is all, and then it is open for us to disallow or otherwise. That is another reason why they ought to be further considered. I will come back to that point in a moment. So the first reference in (2) (a) of my motion reads:

. . . whether the aforementioned regulations remove from existing Commonwealth law-the power to prevent the importation of hard core pornography (e.g. X-rated videos) and publications which consistently incite the use of hard drugs;

I ask the Committee not to be too pedantic about the wording of my reference because it was done rather hurriedly last night. I mentioned X-rated videos. The Committee could say no to that point, because obviously they are not X-rated until a classification has been applied. But I ask the Committee to bear in mind that that point refers to videos which are likely, having regard to the film censorship classification track record, to be classified as X-rated.

The second thing that I would like the Committee to look at is whether the aforementioned regulations remove from existing Commonwealth law:

(b) the power to prevent the importation of grossly obscene publications including those associated with blasphemy.

It has been put to me very seriously by a number of people, including a letter that I received only today-the Chairman of the Committee may be interested in this-from a person in Huonville, that films have been made which are highly ' blasphemous' in the technical sense of that word, and I have read the legal history of that particular word. They relate to such topics as the sex life of Jesus and Mary Magdalen. These are awaiting importation into this country. If we do not disallow this regulation, we shall have removed the power to prevent the importation of grossly obscene publications, including those associated with blasphemy.

I am also asking the Committee to look at the question whether or not the regulations remove from existing Commonwealth law the power to require videos for non-commercial use to be registered by the Film Censorship Board before release to Customs. That is a very important point. Quite obviously, the answer is yes. One has only to go to the explanatory memorandum to the Customs ( Cinematograph Films) Regulations (Amendment) and one will see it there. I suggest that the Committee look at the letter which the Chief Censor, Mrs Janet Strickland, sent to the Mahoney inquiry and see what she had to say about what had been going on in the Customs Service. Her concern is expressed there.

As I indicated initially, I raised these points at the last minute last night because I had considered that we were going to debate the issue to its extent today, but I heard on the grapevine that Senator Mason would be adjourning it yet again. Why will he be adjourning it again?


Senator Mason —So that we can negotiate.


Senator Gareth Evans —Because we are still drafting the regulation.


Senator HARRADINE —So that the honourable senators can negotiate? They did not know what it was about. This is one of the very reasons--


Senator Gareth Evans —So that you could have new draft regulations before the debate recommences. So that you are not just blustering on in the abstract.


Senator HARRADINE —No, the Attorney-General is going to do another back-door deal with the Australian Democrats. Senator Giles is laughing.


Senator Gareth Evans —Stop trailing your obsessions through this Parliament.


Senator Peter Baume —Did not the Attorney-General say 'buying their lousy votes' ?


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! There are too many interjections. Senator Harradine has the floor, and I ask him not to respond to the interjections but to get on with his address.


Senator HARRADINE —I think that the words used by Senator Gareth Evans on the last occasion were to the effect: 'If taking out the word ''extreme'' can buy your lousy vote, we will chop it out'.


Senator Gareth Evans —That is not correct.


Senator HARRADINE —The Attorney-General should look at the words. This is one of the problems that we have in regard to this type of measure coming before us in the shape of regulations and ordinances. I thought seriously of having it referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. I am sorry that I did not consult Senator Missen last night.


Senator Missen —I am not the person to be consulted; it is the Chairman of that Committee.


Senator HARRADINE —I did not have time. I had the period between 10.10 p.m. and 10.29 p.m. to get it in.


Senator Missen —That is your problem.


Senator HARRADINE —It is not my problem, because I did not know that the issue was going to be adjourned. I have some rights in regard to that. Honourable senators should bear in mind that initially I was going to move for the disallowance of the regulations, and Senator Mason said that he would do so. I said: 'In those circumstances, go ahead', but now he is prepared to pull them out.


Senator Durack —He has sold out.


Senator HARRADINE —Of course he has. I come to the point that it is necessary for these matters to be very clearly before the Senate so that every honourable senator, in his or her own conscience, knows precisely what is involved. The Attorney-General has stated categorically in response to an interjection that he would not allow a conscience or free vote by any Australian Labor Party senator on this issue.


Senator Gareth Evans —It is not a matter of me; it is my Party. You know the way this place works.


Senator HARRADINE —So the Labor Party does not allow a conscience vote on this issue.


Senator Gareth Evans —On your obsessions, no.


Senator HARRADINE —My obsessions? What the Attorney-General is doing is removing from Commonwealth law the power to prevent the importation of hard core pornography and removing from Commonwealth law the power to prevent the importation of publications which incite hard drugs. Is that what the Attorney- General is on about? He wants to remove from Commonwealth law the power to prevent the importation of grossly obscene material including that associated with blasphemy. If that is what the Attorney-General is on about and if those are the issues on which he and his Party will not allow a conscience vote for any individual ALP senator it is about time that those senators stood up and were counted. It is the same sort of tack that Party President Wran in New South Wales has threatened. He said that he would go to the State conference and remove the conscience vote on homosexuality. If that is the way the Party is proceeding then that is almost more devastating than the matters we are discussing at this point of time. What an irony to impose that sort of censorship. How is that for censorship when we are dealing with such questions as we are today.

I invite the Senate either to accept the assertions that I am making, backed up as they are by factual reference, or, if it has any doubts, to send the matter to a committee, either the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs or some other committee, in order to ascertain from such committee the aspects that I have raised and request it to report as soon as possible. I have put down 29 May. I do not know whether that coincides with the date Senator Mason has for the seven sitting days hence but no doubt the committee will want to bring a brief report in to the Senate on whether or not these issues are as stated. I hope it would do that.

There are a number of other matters that I would like to have included in the reference but because I did it in a hurry last night I was not able to give it the thought that has been suggested was required. For example, I would have liked to include the Australian Capital Territory Classification of Publications Ordinance for reference to the committee to confirm that it removed certain powers. I would also have liked to include in the reference relating to the Customs regulations a question of whether they removed the ultimate powers that the courts now have at a particular stage. However, I did not have time between 10.10 p.m. and 10.29 p.m. to do that.


Senator Lewis —Did you explain why this did not go to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee?


Senator HARRADINE —I did question that matter. One of the problems there, as I understand it, is that if I were to refer the matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances I would not, under Standing Orders, have the priority that I have today in referring it to a Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee.


Senator Durack —It may not come within the charter of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.


Senator HARRADINE —There is the other aspect of the charter of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee as well, but I am not competent to comment on that. Perhaps Senator Missen or some other--


Senator Missen —The Senate can send what it likes to that Committee.


Senator HARRADINE —I am easy as to what committee it goes to. One thing is certain: What we do want to have are the facts before we make a judgment in conscience on these matters which are of very grave concern to the people of Australia.