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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5219

Senator WALTERS (6.02 p.m.) —In proposing this amendment, I stress that the Opposition does not agree that the various channels are abiding by the classification criteria as set out in AO. We believe that many of the channels have overstepped the mark quite considerably. The Minister rightly says that that is a matter not for us here but for the ABT or for the ABA in the new legislation. I agree with that.

  The interpretation of the AO classification concerns me. Could the Minister explain to me the interpretation that he has on the channels' AO classification. We have to remember that this is self-regulatory. The section on language says, `The occasional use of offensive language must be appropriate to the story-line or program context'.  That is done to guard against gratuitous language just being thrown in without any reference to the story-line or program context. I was wondering whether that is the correct interpretation of that. I believe that is as it is done by the Film Censorship Board, as was the intention of the original AO guidelines.

Senator Collins —I would agree that Senator Walters's interpretation of that guideline is correct.

Senator WALTERS —Bearing that in mind—because I believe that was the original intention—I know that at least one channel has been arguing that the use of offensive language—and this applies in other areas as well—more than occasionally can be justified in the context of the story-line because the story-line says that it is a very volatile story or program context. The channels can override `occasional' under the guise of saying, `Well, the program context is such that we must use it very regularly'. That is of concern to me. There was one particular program that I think the Minister would remember: Phoenix, on the ABC. It was a typical example of very offensive language being used every second word. There was a fair amount of concern in the community about that. I want to make sure that my interpretation is right and that television stations cannot assert that the fact that it is in the context of the program means that the original intention can be abused.