[LINK] Senate Inquiry into changes to censorship laws
Sun, 27 Feb 2000 20:40:50 +1000
The Federal Government has introduced a Bill into Parliament to amend the
Australian Commonwealth Classification (Censorship) Act. The Bill, if
passed, will have a range of effects further restricting adults' freedom to
choose to see and hear what they want.
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee has called for
public submissions regarding proposed amendments - closing date Friday 10
March 2000. (See details at end.)
The Bill abolishes the X classification (non violent sexually explicit
material) and creates an NVE classification.
The Bill also has the distinct potential to affect all classifications,
particularly MA and R - classifications applicable to films, videos and
Changes with regard to X/NVE include a ban on depictions of consenting
activity between adults that the government and/or censors consider to be
unacceptable "fetishes" and content that allegedly "lowers the dignity or
standing of the person or character". Apparently Federal politicians are
now going into the business of approving fetishes - those not banned will
obviously have a government seal of approval.
The proposed change to the Glossary definition of "demean" to include
"lowers the dignity or standing of the person or character" will affect,
not only X/NVE classified videos, but films, videos and Internet content
classified MA and R etc. The principles set down in the National
Classification Code require the Classification Board, in making decisions
across all of the classification categories, to "take account of community
concerns about ... the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner". While
the existing definition enables the Boards to take that into account,
the proposed change clearly has the intent of giving the Boards far broader
grounds for banning material. Senator Harradine has been requesting that
change and querying OFLC Board members and A-G departmental officers about
the meaning of the word "demean" for at least two and half years.
In addition, the expansion of the definition of an "aggrieved person"
proposed in the Bill appears designed to enable pro-censorship groups like
the three who lodged an application for review of Lolita, and had it
declined by the Review Board, to have standing in future as aggrieved
persons. The proposed change maintains a very narrow definition, and
certainly excludes ordinary members of the public.
The Bill also amends the Online Services Act to incorporate the expanded
definition of an aggrieved person. The definition appears to be quite
blatantly designed to favour groups promoting increased censorship.
The Bill was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation
Committee on 16 February 2000 to conduct an inquiry into
numerous issues relative to the Bill and report by 4 April. The Committee
has called for public submissions, closing date for submissions is Friday
10 March 2000. This will presumably be advertised in the newspapers soon.
Meanwhile, the Committee's web site was updated on Friday 25th February
with an advert. See:
EFA is intending to send a submission, and recommends that individuals also
lodge submissions. The pro-censorship lobby will be out in force and it is
not improbable that the end result will be even more restrictive than that
proposed in the current Bill.
Links to the Bill, Explanatory Memorandum, Bills Digest, proposed changes
to the Classification Guidelines and Code, and related information are
Irene Graham, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. PGP key on h/page.
Burning Issues: <http://www.pobox.com/~rene/>
Secretary, Electronic Frontiers Australia: <http://www.efa.org.au>