CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) AMENDMENT (ADVERTISING AND OTHER MATTERS) BILL 2007
Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (11.32 a.m.)—I too want to pay tribute to the member for Makin for her capacity to raise difficult issues in the parliament and to truly represent the people in her electorate.
I have visited her electorate many times and the way in which Trish Draper is regarded by the people who live in Adelaide—she is just a legend—must be seen to be believed. She has contact with all levels of her community and they all respect, appreciate and like her. A few do not vote for her, but they should. I think if she stayed there a little longer she would persuade more to vote for her than currently do.
Trish has taken up causes relating to women and children, particularly young children, and to the prospect of the abuse of young children. I think my first introduction to her courage in this situation was when the House was considering changes to the classification of films and television. Trish played a role in bringing forward some horrible films that really were pornographic and that related to the abuse of children, and she was courageous in drawing the attention both of this House and of the Attorney-General at the time, Daryl Williams, to the problems he was creating by refusing to classify certain films, which I will not name, in a way that would have completely restricted their use.
Trish sought always to protect the safety of women and children, and today we have the federal government seeking to protect the lives and ways of women and children in the Northern Territory’s Indigenous community—taking strong steps to ban pornographic material, taking strong steps to make sure that classifications in the Northern Territory are observed and that material is removed. The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, is going after anything he can to make sure that pornography and the abuse of children does not continue in Indigenous communities. But here in this city, in Canberra, it is being created. It is being created in this territory to go to another territory.
The government will take action against the Northern Territory, but another area where action needs to be taken is in the general area of classifications. The waffle that the former Attorney-General Daryl Williams put up has made it very difficult for classifiers. It is such an open and undefined area that I would hate to be a classifier because you are always going to be wrong; you are going to be too harsh or too easy on material placed before you. The lack of clarity in SCAG, the meeting of Attorneys-General of Australia, was in my view a detrimental step. Before he retired Minister Williams said that if the scheme proved to be more open under his regime he would change it. He never had that opportunity. I do not know whether he had any intention of doing so, but his statement at the time was that he would review the classification of film and television.
Is this a prudish approach? No. Some may think that of me, but I think that adults have a right to watch material even though it may be destructive of their minds. I find it destructive, from the glimpses I have had of it. I do not like it one little bit. I find it extremely difficult to scrub it from my consciousness. I assume that everybody is somewhat the same, although some seem impervious to it—but not the Indigenous community, because night after night, day after day, they have been watching pornographic material and abuse of children—
Ms Burke—Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: we are swaying from the topic somewhat extraordinarily, and I really ask that the member comes back to the legislation at hand today.
Mr CADMAN—You are sensitive to this issue.
Ms Burke—No, I am not. I think this is an abuse of the parliamentary—
Mr CADMAN—No it is not.
Ms Burke—It is.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. AM Somlyay)—Order! The member for Mitchell has the call.
Mr CADMAN—The abuse by the Indigenous community indicates that there will be a softening of process if there is no certainty in classification. The current classification guidelines show that there is no certainty. The classifiers cannot do their job. The review board cannot do their job. What is happening with this legislation? We are bringing a new group of material into a classification process that currently exists. Therefore, to describe what we are doing we need to know what the current situation is. I have described it to some degree. Unclassified films, computer games and publications can be brought now into a system. There is going to be more consistency now between different types of media than has formerly been the case.
One area of interest to me—and I know the member for Makin was aware of this too—is the abuse in the series Big Brother. That series, which was created outside the studios and sold to Channel 10, overstepped normal classifications. I am thankful that there has been a bringing together of the classification of programs for film and television, video games, computer games and publications and unclassified films. I think that what is being done is an advantage. However, I hold, with the member for Makin, some really serious concerns about some aspects of this process. The advertising program has been changed so that advertising can go ahead at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way on an estimation of a likely classification made by classifiers employed by the firms providing the material. That is my understanding. That, for me, has raised some concern because there is a training program for this privatisation process. For Big Brother there were two classifiers. They are currently surveying the material as it is being made and after it has been produced. They did not do their job. That was obvious and it was proved later that they did not do their job.
We are seeking some certainty that the training process in this instance will provide classifiers who are going to stick with the rules and who will be able to apply with sufficient vigour the processes desired by the parliament. The parliament is very clear and the minister has made it clear what his intention is. My concern is: will it be tight enough for the individuals who have previously strayed or individuals like those who have strayed?
There is a simplification of the rules. It is supposed to provide a scheme which operates effectively in the current entertainment market. It is supposed to provide better information for consumers and promote compliance. They are the objectives of this legislation. So I have that one concern, as expressed.
Unclassified films and computer games can be advertised with classified material only if an assessment has been made by an authorised assessor of likely classification. Such an assessment can be made only by the Classification Board or an appropriately trained or authorised industry assessor. That is very clear. That is what this legislation does. Industry assessors have strict mandatory training requirements on an ongoing basis—that is, initially and at annual refreshment courses. Training must be approved by the Director of the Classification Board and cannot be training completed for other classification systems. For example, people who assess /files/includes/content.css for the purpose of broadcasting will not be considered as adequately trained or authorised for this scheme. There we have perhaps a difference, and I have pointed to that difference. This indicates that this is going to be a more rigid and certain process—and I hope it is. But our experience has not been good in this area.
A new advertising scheme will eliminate unnecessary red tape and clarify legal requirements to improve compliance. It is limited to unclassified films and computer games only, and it will not permit unclassified submittable publications to be advertised and will not permit sexually explicit material likely to be classified as 18+ or material likely to be refused classification to be advertised. So there are two areas that cannot be advertised.
There are all sorts of combinations in the ways in which advertising can work. I have seen appalling advertising of late-night television taking place at family viewing times. I have been to cinemas and seen inappropriate advertising or trailers of coming films prior to the presentation of a G-rated film. I have seen those things happen; they are things that the public do not want. The public want to know with certainty that what they are going to see is what they expect to see. The classification guidelines have been a problem and continue to be a problem. There is a prospect of people enjoying salacious, dangerous and violent activities over the internet and one on one with video games. That is a real problem and a real possibility. I am pleased that we are bringing video games into this process. It needs to happen and it is a good thing that it is happening.
I have mentioned the problems with classifiers. I move on to the capacity to classify episodes. This is an area where I have previously sought clarification because it appears—and I may be completely mistaken—that a series such as Big Brother could be classified on the average viewing quality rather than on specific episodes. That is where I would seek some clarification. If there is an episode that is off, out of classification, wrongly typed for what is presented, then that episode really sets the standard for the whole lot. It is not an average that is being sought by the community; it is for the unexpected, the shock, the thing that parents do not wish children to see and that they are not prepared for. That episodical inconsistency needs addressing.
Then there are the safeguards for advertising: the Director of the Classification Board can call in advertisements to the board for approval and a distributor must within three business days submit to the Classification Board for approval a copy of each advertisement used or intended to be used. So there is capacity for the board if they are concerned to intervene. It will address advertisements that the board considers describe, depict or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence, or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be approved. It also addresses material that is used or likely to be used in a way that is offensive to a reasonable adult or advertisements for films or computer games that are likely to be refused classification—and I think also those classified 18+, but I could be wrong there.
There is also a revocation process. The authority of assessors to continue to make assessments under the scheme can be withdrawn if they have fallen down in the eyes of the director. There is a capacity also for the director of classifications to revoke distributors’ ability to participate in the scheme if they transgress. The scheme proposes that the director can revoke a Classification Board decision on the likely classification of an unclassified film or computer game. Under the existing arrangements for exemptions for cinema release films there is an anomaly that allows films likely to be classified PG to be advertised during exhibition of G-rated films. This will be removed. I am pleased about this because that is the circumstance I described previously in my remarks.
There is going to be a community liaison scheme, whereby a community committee is going to monitor compliance with the scheme. There is going to be education of the industry about the obligations and, where appropriate, the referral of matters to law enforcement agencies. There will be a three-year review. The government has consulted—and I have received papers for consultation. I want to thank the Attorney for endeavouring to bring my views into this scheme. I continue to express doubts because I have been bitten twice in this area, although not by the current Attorney. I am really concerned about the power of the industry and the capacity for state attorneys-general to take the easy option that will put the Attorney-General in a difficult situation. I would like to see that change because I believe that I am expressing the views of the community.
I am not seeking to censor material; I am seeking to have greater certainty in the way in which things are done and have no failures. It is the nasty failures that produce the pain here, in my electorate and in families. It is with the unexpected and the nasty that people want to push the boundaries. This industry is notorious for pushing the boundaries. It will try to get away with the most subtle suggestions of things occurring. In some of the film material that I have seen—and I say again how I hated seeing some of those clips—there was violent and horrible treatment of human beings. If people want to see that and it is within the classifications of 18+ or RC, then so be it.
From my perspective, we need greater certainty. I would be wrong to say that this does not move towards greater certainty, but there are still areas of concern. They have not been completely removed, but I am looking forward to a change. I hope that this is the start of the change that I have been looking forward to for a long time. Certain decisions made by the previous Attorney-General worried me at the time and nothing that has occurred since has alleviated that concern, and I guess that is the next area for attention.
I thank the House for its time and I thank the member for Makin and once more pay tribute to the member for Makin for her courage and determination to make sure that families and family living have the prospect of stability and not abuse. There is too much abuse between family members, particularly family members that are not blood relatives, and we have seen an extreme reflection of that in the Northern Territory.
Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 8th August 2007
Release Date: 8 Aug 2007