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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5220


Senator HARRADINE (6.07 p.m.) —I am pleased to hear what has been stated in the chamber. I, of course, studied the terms developed by the ABT, in respect of their particular classification criteria, over a period. In so far as AO is concerned, there has been something of a deterioration in the terms used in that classification criterion. I am concerned about the interpretation that is made of the AO classification by one network in particular, and therefore a number of television stations throughout Australia. I am also concerned about the interpretation by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal of these particular guidelines.

  I know that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal is now defunct, but I am not alone in my view about its interpretation of the wording in the AO classification—`relevant to the story-line or program context'. That appears in the areas of language, as Senator Walters has said; and as she has also said, it appears in the classification criteria for sex and nudity and for violence both physical and psychological.

  By agreeing to this amendment, it therefore appears that we are not agreeing to the interpretation placed on the AO classifications by at least one and perhaps two networks and are not agreeing to the interpretation placed on these particular classification criteria by the ABT.

  Some of the programs that have been the subject of such public outcry in recent months have been justified by the ABT because of the content being in context. I have a copy of a letter—unfortunately I do not have it with me—written to a former managing director of the ABC. He wrote to the ABT and found its response to be totally unsatisfactory.

  It should be noted by all concerned—bureaucrats, public servants and statutory officers who may be responsible as well as the broadcast television stations—that by agreeing to this measure the Senate is not saying that it regards the actual texts and the interpretation of the AO classification criteria as being satisfactory. I ask the Minister: is it a fact that at the end of the day the whole area of program standards is subject in one way or another to scrutiny by this Parliament?