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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2737

Senator COLLINS(5.49) —I am not quite sure why I am doing this again. Neither is the Whip. Everyone groaned and said, `You are not really going to say something, are you?'. But I am, again, briefly. Like many other people in this country, I share very deeply the concerns that Senator Harradine has and even, if I really stretch it, the concerns that Senator Walters has.

Senator McLean —We all do.

Senator COLLINS —That is right, but it is such a difficult and subjective area. The reason that I rise briefly is that once again Senator Harradine talked about the classification of non-violent erotica (NVE) that was determined by the Joint Select Committee on Video Material. I rise to make the point again-as I did in the previous major debate on this subject-that that majority recommendation on NVE and the qualification that was then put on it by Mr Jull, who provided that majority, simply indicates the artificiality of a great deal of what has been said in this debate. The distinction was, as Senator Harradine will recall, that Mr Jull was in that same middle ground. He is not a person who supports that particular material. He would not walk across the street to watch it himself. But, because of his true liberal ideals-and, from my slight knowledge of Mr Jull, I do credit him with those sentiments-he is not a person who wants to impose more censorship and more government regulation on a free democratic people than is absolutely necessary. That is where we are all torn.

I have a very large collection of videos. I bring them down with me from Darwin every now and again in the Budget sessions of the Senate, and we watch them in the annexe. Very few of my videos were produced after 1960. Most of them are in black and white and star Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. If I had my choice and I were to impose my views on the world, that is the sort of movie I would want people to watch-no sex, no drugs, no rock and roll, no violence and no plots, actually. But there would be great music, great dancing, and very corny sets-wonderful stuff. I yearn for the days when that was the accepted norm-when that was what people liked to watch. That is what people like me still love to watch. I would like, if I could, to pass a law in 1989 saying that that is the sort of stuff that everybody should watch and, in fact, that that is all they can watch.

Senator McKiernan —Make it compulsory.

Senator COLLINS —Yes, I would make it compulsory to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. But I have an emotive approach to this debate, as has Senator Harradine. I respect his commitment to this issue.

Senator Harradine —I thought I had spoken without any emotion.

Senator COLLINS —Senator Harradine has a logical and rational as well as an emotive commitment to this debate, but I would not suggest that he would want to deny that he has an emotive attachment, as I do, to this debate. My emotive attachment to this debate is that I passionately and virulently do not want people like Senator Walters to tell me what I can read, hear and see. I may disagree with a great deal of that material, but I do not want people who have that particular view of the world telling me that I am not allowed to see, watch or listen to it. I would like, in a free society, to be able to make that choice myself.

There has been a great deal of talk about the alleged effects of this material in terms of inciting the level of crime and violence that exists in the world today. The people who tell us this say with a straight face that crime and violence has never existed to such an extent in the world before. I must say that they have an extraordinarily warped view of history, even recent history. How could anyone who was even mildly familiar with the history of Australia say that we have only recently become a violent society? What about the First Fleeters and the conditions under which they lived in the mother country? What about the laws that were applied to them and the things that could be done and were done to them by the state as a result of laws passed by members of parliament? It could be cogently and, I think, effectively argued on many fronts that in 1989 we have, to a very great degree, become a far more civilised society than that which existed 50, 100 or 200 years ago.

The trouble with people generally is, whether or not one believes in the Christian concept of original sin, that we are pretty violent animals. We do violent things to each other, to other animals of this planet and to the environment which we inhabit. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the violence we have done to our own environment in the last hundred years can be very graphically and effectively described by a crude Australian expression which I cannot use, because it is unparliamentary-but we are in fact fouling our own nest. That indeed is a very profound form of violence. But in terms of the kind of violence that Senator Harradine was talking about-violence to women and to each other-one could argue that, if anything, at least in an organised sense, we are becoming a more civilised society.

Let me deal with the things that corrupt. This is obviously a major concern for everybody, particularly for parents. I am not suggesting that these feelings are confined to parents, but they are felt by parents, particularly parents of young children. The greatest corrupting influence on young people in this world today is, and always has been, money. As I said before in a previous debate, we are not really taking a rational approach; there is no question about that. If one talks to the people who deal with the most horrible forms of sexual exploitation, the pederasts-the people who organise themselves on an international basis into clubs; they exist in Australia, as everyone knows, and elsewhere in the world, and consist in the main of extremely wealthy and well placed people in the community-one finds that money, and the exploitation of economically deprived people by using money, is still the greatest form of corruption of youth. If honourable senators do not believe that, they should just go the Philippines. But they need not go to the Philippines; they need go only to Sydney or Melbourne. The rational way to counter that is not to ban $50 bills; that simply will not work.

The Age story has been mentioned again today. The whole point of the Age story is that the material that was described is currently, under present laws, illegal material. We should remember that before we dealt with Senator Walters's legislation, the kind of material that was being hawked around Victoria is currently banned and illegal and people can be prosecuted for trafficking in it. It has been illegal since 1984. That does not stop the traffic. No parliament can do that. As I also said in a previous debate, if the welfare of my children in terms of their moral, spiritual and physical well-being is dependent on laws passed in this Parliament, God help them.

What I am saying-and I am saying it with some feeling-is that I am personally in a very difficult position on this debate, as are many other people. But, finally, I have come down on the side of drawing a line, as everyone else does. I suppose it is fair to say that the only difference really between Senator Walters's position and mine is that I have drawn the line on one particular part of the map and she has drawn it on another. I guess that is really the only difference between us. But I have, I guess, a predisposed bias to counter and to oppose government regulation on things that we can think, see, read, hear and speak. It takes a lot of persuasion and an enormous amount of evidence to persuade me that I should change my view on that, despite what I think personally.

An obvious example is the recent movie The Last Temptation of Christ. I have certain beliefs and principles to which I adhere in my own life. I profoundly disagree with a great deal of what was portrayed in that film-and I saw it. But I would really hate to live in a society which successfully passed laws saying that I was not allowed to see it. The fact is-and Senator Harradine cannot deny it-that the people in this place this afternoon, like Senator Walters, the sponsor of this Bill, who are telling us that we cannot see this material and that we should ban it, are the same people who wanted to see that film banned and prevented from being displayed at all in Australia.

Senator Harradine —Excuse me!

Senator COLLINS —Senator Harradine can look at the Hansard; I am referring to people such as the sponsor of this Bill, Senator Walters. I do not know what Senator Harradine's position was on that film, but I certainly know what Senator Walters's position was.

Senator Walters —No, you do not.

Senator COLLINS —Is Senator Walters telling me that she had no objection to that film being shown? Questions were asked and petitions were laid before this Parliament by people who wanted to see that movie banned. I assumed, from the interjections that Senator Walters was making at the time, that she was very enthusiastic to see movies like that banned. The problem is that it is all a question of subjective judgment. It is all a question of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. It is all a question of who is qualified to be the censor.

Senator Zakharov —Who censors the censor?

Senator COLLINS —That is right, who censors the censors. It is the old question that is constantly asked.

Senator Puplick —Juvenal.

Senator COLLINS —Yes. The Joint Select Committee on Video Material watched an X-rated movie along with a lot of other rubbish, called Deep Throat Two, which was produced by the adult video industry in the United States as a lobbying tool. I must say that, when the pornography was taken away from that movie, the point it made was a very valid one. It featured an American Senate committee deliberating on the question of X-rated movies. The point made throughout the movie, in which American politicians were thundering from the pulpit, `We do not think that people should see this material because it corrupts them', is perfectly true. The question was always asked, `Your committee has sat through dozens of these things. Are you now corrupted as a result?'. The answer from the politician is always `No, I am immune from that personally, but it is the ordinary people out there in the streets who will be corrupted'. Politicians of course, are a special breed who are not corrupted! There are probably as many corrupt politicians around the place as there are in the community at large. By and large, politicians are ordinary people. Some of them are very ordinary people-by and large it is ridiculous for us to take the stand that we are in some way immune from this material ourselves but that everyone else out there should be prohibited from watching it.

I personally draw the line on this issue in terms of the protection of young people. I come down quite happily with banning beastiality, child pornography and violence. They have all been banned and prohibited since 1984. But adult people have to have the right in the privacy of their own homes to watch what they want within those broad limits, provided that the youth of this country is protected to the maximum degree that that is possible to do so by passing laws. Despite my own personal views on the question of this material-of course, there is a very large market for it among the good burghers of the Australian Capital Territory-consistent with the recommendations of the Meese report brought down in the United States, I am perfectly happy for the elected government of the Australian Capital Territory to make the decision whether the electors to whom it is responsible can watch it or not.