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Wednesday, 27 November 1974
Page: 2827

Senator EVERETT (TASMANIA) - I direct a question to the Attorney-General relating to a national law for so-called pornographic material. I preface my question by referring to the conferences organised in 1973, on the initiative of the Australian Government, between representatives of the Australian Government and of the State governments and which were aimed at producing a uniform legal approach throughout Australia to questions relating to so-called pornographic material. Following the last conference, which I think was in November 1973, has any progress been made towards a national adoption of the Australian Labor Party policy in respect of pornographic material? As far as the State of Queensland is specifically concerned, is there any prospect that it will soon be relieved of the repressive legislation under which it suffers in this context?

Senator MURPHY -Mr President,there has been progress. There was another meeting of Australian Government and State government Ministers, I think in February of this year, and it seems that the States have come round to agreeing with the Australian Government. Indeed, the political parties seem to have come round to very much the same viewpoint- that, in general, adults ought to be able to read, hear and view what they wish in private or in public and that persons and those in their care should not be exposed to unsolicited material that is offensive to them. I understand that this viewpoint was adopted by the Liberal Party of Australia in Victoria some time last year. The verbiage might be slightly different, but it is to much the same effect all over the country.

The Queensland attitude, as I understand it, is not really very much different in theory. Queensland wants to maintain its own kind of censorship machinery in relation to films, books and so forth. But in practice there seems to be a very grave departure from the general principle to which I have referred. I think that the sooner we can implement these general principles on all hands the better it will be for everyone. The result of it, of course, will be that we will tend to become self censors and people will have the freedom to read the material they want to read and yet not be exposed to material which they find offensive. That seems to be a reasonable balancing of the conflicting views in society. A great deal of work has been done. There have been some departures from the aim of implementing this policy, but my understanding is that it was accepted and that we should work towards this general policy.

Mr President,I think that the Senate probably is entitled to access to the proceedings of those meetings. I will endeavour to see whether the record of those proceedings can be released. It is in accordance with the standing approach of the present Government that when it enters into such discussions with State Ministers the record of the proceedings ought to be made available. It probably would be useful to everyone if we were to have made public the record of the various conferences which have been held so that the Senate can judge for itself what the attitudes are and how much progress is being made.

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