The Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, here in referred to as the Classification Act, determines the manner in which content is labeled and subsequently classified for censorship, however each state and territory dictates at what level criminalization occurs within each individual jurisdiction. Upon classification of each product, (theoretically) distribution must then occur in relation to legality within each state and territory.
Commonwealth law, and Territory law (excepting the result of the Northern Territory intervention) allow for the possession, production and distribution of X-rated films, and restricted (so-called Category 1 and 2 by the Classification Board) publications. Within the states, X-rated films are legal to possess, yet illegal to produce and distribute. In Queensland (Cat 1 and 2) restricted publications are illegal material, whilst in alternative States Category 1 and Category 2 restricted publications are legal.
An integral debate is that of regulation, and how this is conducted within a country with differing legislation, state and territory wide.
Due to the current inconsistencies within the law, the classification system does not function, and no longer reflects community needs or values, whilst also limiting rights to civil liberties.
Censorship or Classification?
The Australian government applies censorship widely to that which is deemed "obscene and objectionable" material. However, implementation of the terminology "classification" is what's actually applied. In utilising this terminology, this does not change the fact that the current system isa strict form of censorship in some states. When analysing the Queensland system, filming certain moving images is legal, yet 'still' images are not. However, if an individual were to purchase a Category 2 magazine and film the still images, thereby creating moving images, these images would then be legal.
All film and publications produced within Australian states and territories must be processed through the Classification Board, (previously the Office of Film and Literature Classification). The representatives of each state and territory have the ability to decide what category of content will be legalised under their jurisdiction, and also criminalised.
According to Parliamentary Information Australia, although the current legislation in regards to film and publications "Is not perfect... It is an almost classic example of how a Federal scheme can operate successfully to meet national imperatives while at the same time retaining a degree of local control". However, are the 'national imperatives' and 'local control' actually achieved?
Government must prioritise the necessity to ascertain the level to which there is a marriage between the legislative frameworks and regulation at ground level, or is this legislative framework merely a representation of symbolic politics?
Pornography is at the nexus of criminological and societal debate in regards to where to draw the line between that which is public and private, whilst still striking a balance between morality and legality.
Censorship suppresses the public voice, and state legislation has taken a hand in suppressing the private voice, with the assistance of the varying state's Classification (Enforcement) Act 1995. This sparks questioning in regards to whether the line has been crossed in regards to civil liberties.
With Australian laws censoring what Australian societies are "allowed" to watch, in the name of harm minimisation, how exactly is this minimising harm? Such content is readily available online, and for whom is this directed at?
Australian Parliament information states that the censorship policy is based on two main arguments; 'that adults should be able to read, hear and see what they wish subject to adequate provisions ' and also 'the concept of the views of a reasonable adult becoming the basis upon which classification decisions are made' (Commonwealth of Australia 2008). However, these two criteria are contradicting. On the one hand, adults may view what they wish, subject to provisions. Yet, who are these "reasonable adults"? Is Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls reasonable? Because if he is, how can he be as equally reasonable as those legislating Federally: those who have created the X18+ category? If these two opposing figures are equally reasonable, how can one legitimise X18+, and the other criminalise the very same material?
The Australian Government states that the Classification Act 1995 was introduced due to a necessity for a national scheme, subsequently as a response to recommendations stated by the Law Reform Commission, in regards to "censorship procedure in 1991" (Australian Government Attorney-General, 2008). However, this proposed classification uniformity never came to fruition.
According to the Australian Government's Attorney-General's office, the Law Reform Commission suggested the necessity for solid framework to ensure uniformity within classification throughout the country (Australian Government Attorney-General, 2009 ). Underlying the scheme was the committal into an Intergovernmental Agreement on Censorship between the states, territories and Commonwealth (Australian Government Attorney-General, 2009).
However, due to this independency, at this point in time, classification procedure within Australia is broken, and full of inconsistencies.
Katie Blakey is currently completing a thesis analysing the implementation of the Classification Act 1995 in regards to X-rated films, and the application of regulatory procedure at both state and territory levels. She ran in the Victorian election for the seat of Albert Park, following her debut for the Australian Sex Party as a Senate candidate in the 2010 Federal Election. Follow her on Twitter at @katieblakey
Source: Technology and Games