Australia Censorship News

 2005

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10th December   Filter First, Ask Questions Later

From The Age by Guy Barnett, a Liberal senator for Tasmania

Last month, 62 members of the federal Coalition signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for a ban on access to pornographic, violent and other inappropriate material via the internet.

The signatories believed the internet should be regulated in a similar way to other media. If adults wished to "opt in" to access the material then of course that would be their right, and they would have to apply for their right of access.

It is too easy for children to access all manner of material on the internet, and I believe the system should default automatically in favour of protecting our children before we start considering the rights of adults.

General access to this material at public facilities is an area of particular concern. According to the Australian Library and Information Association survey of its 91 members in late 2003, the majority of libraries in Australia did not apply filters. There is no legal obligation on public libraries to use filtering to prevent children accessing pornography.

Options include filtering applied at the internet service-provider level (e.g. Telstra, Optus, Primus). It could be applied on the basis that those customers who wish to access pornographic or other adult material could apply to do so.

An Australian Government review last year found there were a number of difficulties in mandating filtering at a server level with the cost of applying the filters being $45 million and ongoing costs of $33 million a year. Given the significance and magnitude of the reform, it could be seen as a small price to protect our children.

This reform would be supported by parents and would have the effect of filtering out pornography at home and on public sites, with the onus being on adult users to apply for unrestricted access if they wish.

The Australian Government established and funds NetAlert, monitoring safety on the net. In addition the federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, has announced an internet audit to ensure internet providers are complying with their codes of practice, and recently introduced a $2 million National Cyber Safe program.

The Government also bans X and refused classification (RC) material from being hosted by Australian ISPs and content hosts, and requires all ISPs to provide filters at cost or below to consumers. It can fine ISPs if they do not comply with the industry codes.

I do believe our Government should regulate the internet at home and in public places to ensure the best interests of children are protected.

A survey by the Australia Institute called "regulating youth access to pornography" dated 2003 found that 84 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had been accidentally exposed to pornographic material on the internet, while two in five boys had deliberately used the net to see sexually explicit material.

The survey found that 93 per cent of parents were in favour of filtering out pornography available on the home computer, let alone those in public buildings. The survey also drew a link between prolonged exposure to this material and tolerance of sexual aggression. Is this why some men see women as a fashion to be used one day and discarded the next? Women deserve respect and our children protection from obvious indecency. Any civil rights claim to automatic access is overridden by these principles.

One can only presume that unchecked, these statistics concerning internet misuse will grow, and will not be reduced unless action is taken. Why is the internet so different to any other medium? Because it is difficult and costly to regulate does not mean we should keep a hands-off approach.

If an adult family wishes to restore its right to have access to pornographic and other material on the internet that may be deemed inappropriate, so be it, but if the family includes children then the parents must acknowledge their responsibility and duty of care to ensure their children do not become victims.

 

1st December   Downloadable Banned Games

Press release dated 23.11.05 from www.gopostal.com spotted by Refused Classification

Postal Games Now Available via Download No Country Is Safe Running With Scissors Offers Softwrap's Online Delivery System

Tucson, AZ After dealing with censorship at virtually every level of the game industry for nearly a decade, the world's most blacklisted and banned software company Running With Scissors has discovered the means by which to cure the entire world's need to go POSTAL.

Through a partnership with Softwrap, Running With Scissors is now making available for the first time in many countries it's POSTAL games. Actually because Softwraps service allows you to download these games, there isn't a country or place on earth that can stop you from getting these hard to find game titles. The original cult favorite POSTAL: Classic & Uncut, the sequel POSTAL 2: Share the Pain and the recent all too insane add-on Apocalypse Weekend are currently available from the RWS store.

"Softwrap gives Running With Scissors the ability to deliver POSTAL games to every human being regardless of their state of freedom." explained the company's devious spokesman, potential Bond villain and CEO, Vince Desi. Governments, customs agents or other traditional barriers to going POSTAL will become irrelevant as the Softwrap system sidesteps distributors, retailers and other would-be gate keepers to deliver the game anywhere and everywhere. From the land Down Under to the mountains of Korea, the world can now go POSTAL in peace and privacy, as God intended. Softwrap employs a system whereby the user can purchase, download, install and play games without having to enter an activation code.

Gamers anywhere in the world with Internet access simply visit the RWS gift shop and access the link to electronic delivery. This will transport them to a page hosted by Softwrap where they can make their purchases. Following the transaction, a link is provided that allows the user to download, install and activate the game(s).

See www.gopostal.com for further details

 

29th November   50 Cent Appeal Fails

From Refused Classification

50 Cent Bulletproof refused classification upon review

A 3-member panel of the Classification Review Board has, after playing the game for a cumulative 42 hours determined, in a unanimous decision, that the computer game entitled 50 Cent Bulletproof be refused classification.

Refused Classification means the game cannot be legally sold, hired, advertised or exhibited in Australia.

The game’s central character is rap star 50 Cent. The play is situated in New York where 50 Cent seeks revenge for the killing of his former cellmate K-Dog. Whilst the violence, coarse language and drug use in the main narrative and game play is justified by context, this cannot be said of that in “arcade mode”. This mode allows players to perform counter kills unremittingly without the benefit of context.

Maureen Shelley, convenor of the Classification Review Board said, The counter kills are enacted in detail, they are prolonged and take place in close up and slow motion. The most impactful of the counter kills involve knives and on-screen blood splatter. The Review Board determined that the impact of this mode was high and could not be accommodated at MA15+ classification. Therefore the game must be refused classification

The Classification Review Board convened today in response to an application from the distributor, Vivendi Universal Games. The Classification Board refused classification for the computer game on 24 October 2005.

 

28th November   Assemblies of Nutters

Based on an article from The Age

A nutter campaign to try to stop Shepparton's first brothel from opening helped elect two members of the Christian right to Greater Shepparton Council at the weekend.

Salvation Army welfare workers Sondrae Johnson and Dallas Terlich, who campaigned heavily against the brothel and a sex shop that is yet to open, got strong voter support for seats on the seven-member council.

Johnson said she firmly believed the Shepparton community had "voted for change" by electing "Christian conservatives" to council. We've both been heavily involved in stopping this brothel … we have huge concern in Shepparton about a brothel being established here and the council has chosen to ignore us.

Johnson, a member of the Mooroopna Christian Community Church — part of the Assemblies of God movement gaining influence across the country — says her Christianity
doesn't qualify me to do anything, but explains why I do it.

 

25th November   Active Sexual Agents

From 7.com

A new Australian study has cast doubt on the commonly held view that pornography shows women as nothing more than sex objects. The study, to be published in the prestigious international Journal of Sex Research, analysed 50 of the bestselling pornographic videos in Australia to find out whether people were represented as sex objects.

Queensland University Professor Alan McKee, who led the study, said researchers compared the way women and men were represented in each video. They noted such things as who initiated the sex, whose pleasure was paid attention to, whether people in the videos got to speak about what they wanted during sex and whose perspective the videos were presented from.

We were surprised at just how active and in control the women were in these videos, Prof McKee said.This study suggests that mainstream pornography in Australia doesn't represent women as sex objects, it shows them as active sexual agents.

The findings are part of a three-year government-funded study - the most comprehensive of its kind - on pornography in Australia. Interim results released in 2003 on the content of pornographic movies found super-size breasts scare some men, conservative voters love dirty magazines and adult videos have realistic plots.

Dr Alan McKee said those initial results had shattered the "dirty old man in a trenchcoat" stereotype of pornographic consumers. Of the 320 respondents who said they used mainstream porn, 20 per cent were younger women, 33 per cent were married, 93 per cent believed in gender equality and 63 per cent considered themselves to be religious.

The researchers pored over the same 50 top-selling porn videos to analyse their plots and found most were believable and empowering for the fairer sex. The majority of videos were imported from the US and bought through mail order companies in the ACT.

Dr McKee said the majority of respondents were Liberal/National voters, which was interesting given those political parties were anti-porn.

The final results about the content of the movies will be released next year, and written up into a popular culture book, with an executive summary to be given to the federal government.

 

23rd November

 

  Classified as a Waste of Police Time

Based on an article from Herald Sun

Melbourne police have seized hundreds of videos from a Fitzroy bookshop. Officers from the Melbourne regional response unit raided the Polyester Books shop in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, on Wednesday morning. The raid was supposedly in response to a complaint alleging X-rated and unclassified videos and DVDs were openly displayed in the shop. Officers seized about 500 videos and DVDs.

The shop's owner, Paul Elliott, is expected to be charged on summons with selling unclassified or X-rated material. Elliott's shop was raided in 2000, when books about the drug culture were seized but returned to him.

 

21st November

 

  Growing Up

From The Age

There is a renewed push for a computer game R classification after a study found that 88 per cent of Australians supported its introduction.

Bond University's GamePlay Australia 2005 survey found most people want an R18+ rating to deal with high-level violence and to protect children.

The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia is using the results to lobby state and Federal governments. An R18+ classification would require the unanimous support of all attorneys-general, but association president John Watts says the survey is causing governments to examine the proposal "in a different light".

Australia is the only Western country without an R rating. If a game is deemed unsuitable for MA15+ by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, it is refused classification and cannot be sold. Titles including 50 Cent: Bulletproof, Postal 2, Leisure Suit Larry, NARC, Singles and Manhunt have all been refused classification in the past two years.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls called for an R18+ rating at a November 4 meeting of Australian censorship ministers. The topic will be debated at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in March.

Hulls says there should be a consistent rating system spanning films, literature and games: It is anomalous that adults can purchase and view R-rated films and literature but are unable to play computer games with a rating higher than MA15+. Children are no more likely to access an R18+ computer game than they would a DVD or videotape.

The survey of 3700 people found the average age of gamers is 24. It showed parents are more concerned about game violence than television and movies, with 68 per cent saying classification was "very important" when choosing a game; more than 60 per cent said they monitored their children's game playing "a lot".

 

20th November

 

  Wowser Premier Peter Beattie

Based on an article from News.com.au

Explicit sex acts will be banned in all Queensland pubs and clubs as part of campaign against unlicensed peep shows and other adult entertainment venues.

The Beattie Government has rejected a Crime and Misconduct Commission recommendation to liberalise the adult entertainment industry and will instead force current unlicensed parts of the industry to be regulated. Wowser Premier Peter Beattie said yesterday he did not believe the general public supported allowing more explicit sexual performances in licensed premises. We're not wowsers, BUT... we do not believe those types of activities have a place in pubs, clubs or other entertainment venues," he said.

Under the current system, only venues selling alcohol have to be licensed and regulated by the Liquor Licensing Division. Operators in these licensed venues have to undergo criminal history checks and, while performers are allowed to lap dance naked, they cannot engage in explicit sex acts which include masturbation, self-penetration or sexual intercourse.

But in a recent review, the CMC found these restrictions applied to only one in four adult venues, with unlicensed premises showing more explicit acts simply because they did not fall under the laws.

It was supposedly concerned about the possibility of the industry being infiltrated by organised crime and prostitution and recommended a major shake-up, including that all venues be regulated and permits for those wanting to show more explicit performances such as "genital self-penetration".

But this was rejected by the Government, with all of Cabinet opposed to the plan, and, instead, the previously unlicensed operators will now be covered by the existing regulated scheme.

Liquor Licensing Minister Margaret Keech said the new laws would also prohibit venues employing anyone aged under 18, even if they are not performing in the shows: Currently, minors cannot be employed to perform adult entertainment under permits held by licensed premises. There was no such restriction on conduct in the unregulated sector.

The new laws are expected to be in place by mid next year.

Logan City councillor Peter Collins, who led a coalition of councillors opposed to any liberalisation of adult entertainment, yesterday welcomed the Government's decision. The Government has responded to concerns expressed by the community. We tabled a petition (with) in excess of 16,000 petitioners who opposed this and we're happy we've been listened to.

Groups representing the performers had also expressed some concerns about the CMC's recommendations saying it could blur the line between entertainment and prostitution and also exploit the female workers.

However, it had argued that explicit sex shows should be allowed in private rooms at strip clubs and pubs with dancers separated from patrons by glass.

 

19th November

 

  Ex-Freedom

From 7 News

Australia's states should legalise the sale of X-rated films in line with federal censorship laws, a visiting American adult entertainment advocate has said.

Yet American legislators could learn much from Australia's approach to legalising prostitution in registered brothels, Free Speech Coalition spokeswoman Kay Sunlove said in Melbourne.

Sunlove, the legislative affairs director for the coalition, the trade organisation for the US adult entertainment industry, is in Melbourne for talks and to open the annual Sexpo exhibition at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

While she said she was impressed with Australia's film classification system, which she said made it clear to film producers what was legal, she said the sale of erotic films varied between the states. It's a fascinating irony that Australia has practical laws and a federal classification system that the states have signed up to, but it is not legal to sell X-rated films in many states, Sunlove said.The authorities turn a blind eye in several states to the sale of X-rated films and (the inconsistent laws) could foster a disrespect for the law itself, and that's not what anyone wants. We want reasonable regulation. Reasonable regulation by governments implies legitimacy and gives standards to judge behaviour by.

But Sunlove said laws in most Australian states legalising prostitution at licenced brothels, according to strict planning conditions and regular health checks for sex workers, were well ahead of contemporary thinking in the United States: It is in stark contrast to what we have in the States, where prostitution is illegal in every state other than in some parts of Nevada.

While the Free Speech Coalition represented only legal segments of the US adult industry, Sunlove said she would discuss with the coalition's directors the health and workplace protection afforded to Australian sex workers by legalisation.

 

19th November

 

  The Full Holocaust

Another of the UK's video nasties found itself also banned in Australia. In 1983 Fox Columbia Film Distribution had the 96min version refused. A few months later another print, cut to 89min was also refused.

Thanks to Mick who now reports that Cannibal Holocaust has finally passed the Aussie censors uncut R18+

 

18th November

 

  Urging Hostility to Free Speech Denying Politicians

From Worldpress.org
From The Age

Most of the criticism publicized by the corporate media of the Australian government’s Anti-Terrorism Bill (2005) has concentrated on its granting to the Australian Federal Police of powers to secretly detain terrorism suspects and witnesses or place them under indefinite “control orders” without charges.

However, under the cover of introducing new laws against terrorism, the bill includes amendments to the sedition laws in the federal Crimes Act that will give the government sweeping powers to criminalize peaceful political dissent.

Under the existing sedition laws it is a crime, punishable by three years’ imprisonment, to intentionally “excite disaffection against the government or constitution” of Australia or “against either house of the parliament”; or to “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of her majesty’s subjects so as to endanger the peace, order or good government” of Australia.

The amendments to the Crimes Act would make it an offence, punishable by seven years’ imprisonment, to intentionally “urge disaffection against” the Australian constitution, the federal government or either house of the federal parliament and “to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different groups so as to threaten the peace, order and good government of” Australia.

Under the old law, a person was committing a seditious act if their opinions, expressed orally or in print, had an effect on others — “excited” disaffection with the government. The amended law would make it a criminal offence to “urge disaffection” with the government even if this urging has no effect on others.

The call for the Federal Government to change its planned sedition law has widened with the NSW and Queensland premiers joining Victorian Premier Steve Bracks to criticise it.n NSW's Morris Iemma said the wording should be tightened, while Queensland's Peter Beattie said he was concerned the sedition provisions will impose restrictions on free speech which aren't intended.

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said it was an assault on the right of Australians to engage in political debate.

But Prime Minister John Howard said that under the legislation people can still attack me and Mr Beazley and lampoon us … without any fear of being put in the slammer. The Government has said it would look at the wording next year, but would not alter it before the bill was passed. He said he did not believe the sedition provision needed tightening.

 

16th November

 

  Bulletproof but not Censorproof

Thanks to Mick

The game 50cent: Bulletproof has undergone review at the OFLC. No decision has yet been made as to whether or not it should be granted classification, expect a final decision within the next few days.

The Australian censor was asked about his decision and responded with the following letter:

As you are already aware, on 24 October 2005 the Classification Board classified the computer game 50 Cent Bulletproof RC (Refused Classification). In the Board’s majority view 50 Cent Bulletproof contains depictions of violence that have a high impact and as such the computer game cannot be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification. Computer games that exceed the criteria for MA 15+ must be classified RC and cannot be sold, hired, demonstrated or advertised in Australia.

The Board report notes that the highest classifiable element in this computer game is violence.
In the opinion of the Board the following factors contributed to increasing the impact of the violence above strong:
• Many violent sequences are rendered in slow-motion with some zooming in on the action and the moment of death;
• Some of these sequences also include blood spray onto the screen;
• Some victims scream, moan or beg before they are killed; and
• A victim who is injured can be shot and killed as they crawl away.

You may be interested to know that the Classification Review Board has received an application to review the RC classification for this game. The Review Board is scheduled to meet on 9 November 2005 to consider the application.
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body which makes a fresh classification decision that takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board. When making a classification decision, the Classification Review Board will apply the same criteria as the Classification Board – the Classification Act, the Code and the classification guidelines.

The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website once the review has been finalised.

I note your comments regarding the average age of computer game players. I am aware of research and public commentary claiming that increasing numbers of computer game players are over 18 years of age.

As mentioned previously, the matter of whether there should be an R 18+ classification for computer games is one for Censorship Ministers. At their November 2002 meeting, Censorship Ministers declined to introduce a new classification for computer games that would be restricted to adults.

Owing to the widely differing views held by people in our community it is not always possible to make decisions which satisfy everyone. I assure you that the Board takes its responsibilities seriously and tries to reflect current community standards when making decisions.

I hope this information assists you.

Yours sincerely

Des Clark
Director
8 November 2005

 

10th November

 

  Bare Back Banned Out Back

From Nine MSN

Queensland prostitutes will now be able to take a break during peak times, with the government allowing an increase in the number of workers at each brothel.

The new laws, part of the government's response to the recent review of the Prostitution Act by the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC), would also make it illegal for clients to ask prostitutes to have sex, including oral sex, without a condom.

Premier Peter Beattie denied the number of sex workers would increase in the state because of the changes, saying many prostitutes might now choose to work extra shifts.

Under the changes, eight prostitutes will now be allowed to work in each brothel, which is limited to only five rooms, per shift. Currently, brothels are only allowed to employ five sex workers per shift. This change will not increase the number of rooms or customers - it will just allow the brothel workers to have a break between clients, he said. The CMC found that on busy nights, sex workers will often work continuously throughout their shift."

Clients who broke the condom law would face a $7,500 penalty, in line with the current penalties for engaging in unprotected sex with a prostitute. One person has faced prosecution for the offence this year.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg accused the government of slowly opening up the sex industry, saying official figures showed the number of people picked up for illegal prostitution increased significantly last year.

That's been the experience ever since the government brought in the legislation for these so-called boutique brothels in Queensland, Springborg said. We've got growth in the legal industry and growth in the illegal industry.

But Police Minister Judy Spence said street prostitution had dropped considerably since the government introduced legalised brothels. Queensland currently had 19 legal brothels, she said. Anecdotally, police have told me there are probably less than five regular street prostitutes in the CBD or (Fortitude) Valley and that's a real difference from years ago, when street prostitution was a great cause for concern.

Beattie said the government was still opposed to allowing brothels to run escort services, but would wait for a separate CMC report before making a final decision on that issue. We'll take some convincing on it, but we're prepared to have an open mind. The safest environment (for prostitutes), as much as we don't condone this, is in one of these small, boutique brothels and for the police to be tough on streetwalkers.

The government had rejected the CMC's recommendation to remove a limit on where brothels could be located, and would maintain a 200 metre restriction zone between a brothel and a school or church, he said.

The laws would be introduced into parliament early next year.

 

3rd November

 

  Victoria Considering Treating Australians as Adults

From Gamasutra

According to a report on the ABC News website, the Australian provincial government of Victoria is taking the opportunity of a meeting of censorship ministers later this week to ask that national laws be changed, thus changing the rating system to include an 18+ rating.

Under current legislation which has recently seen Midway's NARC and Vivendi's Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude banned outright, the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification can either classify games as MA15+ or ban them outright, whereas films are permitted to be classified as MA18+.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls commented on this conundrum specifically, suggesting that it is an anomaly that adults can watch R-rated films, but cannot play R-rated video games, although it is unclear whether the opinion of a single province will sway the national meeting.

In related news, a survey conducted by Bond University Centre for New Media Research and Education and commissioned by the trade body the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia has indicated that 88% of Australians, regardless of whether they play or have a game device say Australia should have an R(18+) classification for computer and video games, showing popular support for the concept.

The survey of 2009 households and 3708 individuals also revealed that 78% of Australian parents who have a computer or video game device in the house consider games are educational, and that 68% of Australian parents say classification is very important when they hire or purchase a game. 76% of Australian parents advise that they set rules about the types of games their children can play, and 87% confirm they are present or have given permission when their children purchase games.

John Watts of the IEAA commented of the survey:
GamePlay Australia 2005 represents the most in-depth study of the opinions and habits of the Australian public in relation to interactive entertainment since 1999, and dispels many of the long held myths about video gaming. This report proves beyond a doubt that video gaming is not just for children and is no longer the domain of only boys and men. Video gaming is something the majority of Australian households partake in on a regular basis and it is not consumed in an addictive manner."

 

30th October

 

  Australian Games Players Treated Like Children

From Refused Classification

50 Cent: Bulletproof has joined the ever expanding list of games that have been banned in Australia. Again, this is entirely due to the absence of an R18+ rating. It is just two weeks since Postal 2: Share the Pain was also banned.

It seems that nutters have rappers in their sights at the moment.

 

29th October

 

  Tasmania Forces Girls back onto the Street

From The Indy Channel

A Launceston brothel owner says she is being forced back to being a working girl by the State Government's controversial sex industry legislation outlawing brothels.

She said brothel workers were already panicking and suffering stress because of fears they would be forced to work on the street or in illicit sex parlours, with little protection.

The Touch of Class owner, who goes by the name of Chloe, runs the administrative side of the business which she bought three years ago. She said yesterday the legislation banning brothels left her with no choice but to close her brothel. Chloe said this meant she and another prostitute would work out of the premises, putting as many as 8-12 girls out on the street. I'm being forced back into prostitution by the State Government -- how do you like that? she said.

Chloe said she had worked 12-hour days as a prostitute to help pay for the business and she only bought the premises last year. She said with closure imminent, she had no option but to go back to work. She said she was angry with the legislation, saying politicians made generalisations about the industry: I have never had children or drugs in this business, but politicians make sweeping statements saying that this is about protecting children.

Chloe said some working girls would struggle to operate privately. It doesn't suit everyone's circumstances and some don't have the wherewithall to set up privately and get a premises.

A Prostitutes Tasmania spokeswoman, known as Rachel, said illegal brothels would continue to operate despite the Bill being passed. She said more prostitutes would be exploited by dubious operators. There are some underground brothels which loan girls money, or give them drugs on credit, and then they are locked in to working for them,

Rachel said there were between 10 and 15 brothels in Tasmania but the number of prostitutes was difficult to estimate. I've seen figures there are 250 prostitutes in Tasmania -- that seems a bit low.

Rachel said brothel workers would have to take safety risks by working the streets, with some just working to pay rent, or support children.

 

26th  October

 

  Me and You and Everyone we Know

Thanks to Andrew

Something I noticed recently is the widely different classification given to the Miranda July film, Me and You and Everyone we Know here in Australia and in the UK. Here in Australia the cinema release has been given the now rarely used R rating (usually MA15+ covers many strong films) yet the BBFC have given it a 15 certificate.

 There is a sex reference (verbal) pertaining to a child but other than that this film is mild compared to films recently classified R such as Mysterious Skin and Palindromes.

 

23rd  October

 

  The New Zealand vs Australia Game

Based on an article from New Zealand Herald

Computer Games may be sold in New Zealand with a certificate from the Australian Censors. Some such games have an unrestricted certificate in Australia but are restricted in New Zealand.

The crazed New Zealand Chief Censor Bill Hastings says a check on eight violent games approved for unrestricted sale in Australia, and therefore also in New Zealand, resulted in six being restricted to older age groups under New Zealand law. Only two were allowed to stay unrestricted here.

Australian censorship ratings have applied in New Zealand since 1994. Local censors only reclassify games restricted in Australia.

But the check on the eight unrestricted games showed New Zealand law on violence is much closer to the law in Germany than to Australia. German censors restricted all eight games to at least 12-year-olds and over. On the other hand, New Zealand was slightly more liberal on a game with sexual content, Leisure Suit Harry. It was rated R20 in Australia, R18 in Germany and only R16 here.

Hastings plans a larger survey of all games given M ratings in Australia, allowing them to be sold with no legal restriction but not recommended for children under 15.

I want to do a much more comprehensive study on how identical titles are rated in Australia, New Zealand and some benchmark countries such as the UK or Germany, to see whether we should keep Australia rating our unrestricted games."

The eight violent games and Leisure Suit Harry were referred to him by Internal Affairs Department inspectors, so it was possible they were unusual.

If there were only a dozen of them it probably was not a big worry, but if there were more, he would consider recommending a law change to require all games rated M in Australia to be reclassified.

 

20th October   Island of Repression

From The Mercury

New laws that will increase penalties for running and using brothels in Tasmania swept through the Upper House yesterday after weeks of confusion and mayhem.

Under the new Sex Industry Offences Act, Tasmanian men who visit commercial brothels for sex will risk one year's imprisonment or a fine of $10,000.

But if the clients agree to turn informer and confirm they paid a prostitute for sex in an established brothel, or dob in the brothel owner involved, they can escape prosecution and the shame of having their name publicised.

At the last minute yesterday, the Government modified controversial plans to allow police greater powers. It axed the mooted police right to access the personal bank accounts of alleged brothel operators, after concern it could lead to police corruption and intimidation.

The new legislation was only written on Tuesday, throwing out old proposals made redundant after the backflip by Attorney-General Judy Jackson to move away from legalising and regulating brothels to instead ban them.

Some Legislative Councillors criticised the rushed nature of the legislation.

But Rowallan MLC Greg Hall said while he would like to see the sex industry subdued, he did not think the community would welcome further procrastination on the issue.

Other Upper House parliamentarians expressed fears that a police and legal clampdown on the industry would force prostitution underground and lead to Tasmania developing illegal red light districts and street walkers.

Civil libertarians remained incensed that police will be able to arrest anyone suspected of breaching the new sex industry laws without a warrant, and that a person charged with an offence can be prevented from finding out what police intelligence has been used to charge them.

Before becoming law, the new legislation faces tough resistance in the House of Assembly next week.

Major planks include banning all brothels, and penalties of up to eight years in jail. Fines of $80,000 are proposed for brothel operators and pimps if they continue to live off organised prostitution.

 

16th October   Filtering For Nutters and Politicians

From Australian IT

Internet content regulation has dropped off the radar for the moment in a world now more concerned with terrorist attacks than pop-up pornography.

But bubbling away in the background there is a growing push across party political lines and the conservative/radical divide for tougher regulation.

It came to the surface over the course of the federal election and tougher filtering, including proxy filtering by ISPs, remains on the agenda for some Liberal and Labor politicians, Christian lobby groups and the Family First Party.

Ironically, it was the left-leaning Australia Institute that sparked the most recent content debate, releasing research showing 93 per cent of parents wanted mandatory filtering. Study author Michael Flood, now a research fellow at Melbourne's La Trobe University, said many conservative groups had leapt on the research and touted it as backing for tougher restrictions on pornography: Many conservative groups weren't keen to hear that we should defend adults' rights to access material while limiting childrens' exposure. I was afraid the Australia Institute's push would lead people to forget the other part of the argument, which is defending adults rights to this material.

Flood  remains concerned how Family First, which used his research in developing its filtering policy, and others will use the study: I am nervous about conservative Christian groups' support for internet filtering. It could lead to a very repressive society.

Fatherhood Foundation convenor Warwick Marsh spoke to Labor and Liberal politicians during the forum, backing opt-out ISP-level filtering. The truth is it would be impossible to guarantee 100 per cent filtering due to the interconnected nature of the internet. But any filtering is better than nothing. We are trying to reduce the pornographication of our society.

The Fatherhood Foundation and other groups including the Australian Christian Lobby and the Australian Family Association had started a campaign to "mobilise people of goodwill" in favour of ISP-level filtering, Marsh said. There are isolated pockets of support for filtering within politics.

While filtering is tossed around, along with a raft of policies from the last election, officially the party is not going any further than Opposition Leader Kim Beazley's Father's Day call for a subsidy for client-side filters.

The Government seems happy with the status quo, with a spokeswoman for Communications Minister Helen Coonan saying there were a number of practical difficulties in mandating filtering at the ISP level.

Research for internet filtering company SurfControl shows there are 4.2 million pornographic websites, or about 12 per cent of all sites, meaning there are about 372 million pages of pornography online.

Surveys estimate that one in every four daily internet searches are porn-related requests, while peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa and Gnutella handle 1.5 billion pornographic downloads a month.

Under 1999 amendements to the Broadcasting Services Act, ISPs must offer filtering software to customers when they sign-up. The Australian Broadcasting Authority maintains a list of banned sites that is supplied to filter providers to be blocked. When a site is reported by a member of the public, it is assessed by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Ironically, the government has shown little interest in ISP-level filtering, arguing a recent review of the existing regime found it to be adequate. Basic web filtering involves maintaining a list of banned sites, and checking each internet address requested against the list. Complex filtering involves comparing terms on each web page, or scanning for pictures containing colour tones that indicate nudity. An ISP-level filtering system would involve users being connected to a filtering proxy server at the ISP, and using that to access the net.

Telstra, Australia's largest ISP, is against being a gatekeeper. Telstra BigPond managing director Justin Milne said it should not be an ISP's job to act as a policeman: Politicians have a history of knee-jerk reactions, and of looking to ISPs to filter the internet.
(ISP-level filtering) is technically infeasible, because the (service) quality would have to be set so low as to make it pretty-well ineffective.

 

16th October   Last Post for Australian Freedom

From Refused Classification

Postal 2: Share the Pain. The sequel to Postal took a while to be picked up for distribution in Australia. No doubt the fate of the original game played a part in the delay. Zoo Digital Publishing eventually took the plunge, but were rewarded with Refused Classification (banned) in October 2005.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand has an R18+ rating for video games. This still did not stop the game being banned there in November 2004.

 

13th October   A History of Over Rating

From Refused Classification

The rating of David Croneberg's new film, A History of Violence has been dropped from R18+ to MA15+ after an appeal by Roadshow Films. The consumer advice has been changed from 'High Level Violence, Sex Scenes' to 'Strong realistic violence, Strong sex scenes'.

This was decided by a 3-member panel of the Classification Review Board by a majority of 2 to 1.

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion, A History of Violence warrants an MA 15+, rather than an R 18+ classification because the impact of the violence is strong rather than high.

While A History of Violence contains realistic scenes of violence, containing blood splatter and visible wounds, these scenes are brief and infrequent, said Classification Review Board Deputy Convenor, The Hon Trevor Griffin.
In addition, the film does not condone or glamorize the violent acts.

 

10th October   Uncut to be Monitored, Scrutinised and Cut

From the Advertiser

Network Ten will change the format of its next Big Brother Uncut series, after the broadcasting watchdog found this year's show breached the industry code with too much sex.

Three episodes of Big Brother Uncut, the weekly late-night version of the daily reality show, were investigated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in June after complaints about sexual antics, nudity and foul language.

Last month the body found two of these episodes breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. One showed a male housemate massaging the shoulders of a female housemate with his penis exposed, which the ACMA decreed was a gratuitous and demeaning portrayal of nudity. The other episode involved a group of male contestants composing a song which the watchdog said contained references to fetishistic and degrading sexual behaviour.

The broadcasting regulator said Ten had now committed to compiling Uncut in enough time for each episode to be viewed in its entirety, so that required classification changes could be made before the program goes to air.
This means that Ten will be unable to show live footage during the Uncut shows. Two classifiers will also separately assess each Uncut episode.

Ten will also provide the ACMA with a weekly report on any complaints it receives about the late night show, along with its response. Ten will also hold a two-day education program for production crew before the 2006 reality show begins, outlining the requirements of the MA 15+ classification.

The ACMA said these steps should ensure future Uncut episodes did not contain material that exceeded the MA 15+ classification criteria.

ACMA acting chair Chris Cheah said:
ACMA will monitor the effectiveness of Ten's undertakings and may decide to impose additional conditions on Ten's broadcasting licences if concerns about compliance with the code arise again.

 

8th October   Sony Freakery Snubbed in Australia

From the BBC

Sony has lost a legal battle in Australia over the modifying of its PlayStation games console. The High Court has ruled that chipping the console so that it can play imported games does not breach copyright law. The ruling ends a four-year legal battle between Sony and a supplier of so-called mod chips, which bypass regional controls on the machine.

Consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation 2 can be modified by chips that are soldered to a console's main circuit board to bypass copyright and regional controls. The chips allow people to play games purchased legitimately in other countries, as well as running backup copies or bootleg discs.

The case in Australia revolved around retailer Eddy Stevens who supplied and installed modification chips in PlayStation consoles. Sony argued that the mod chips were a breach of copyright under Australian law.

After a series of conflicting judgements from different courts, the High Court has come down on the side of Stevens. It ruled that mod chips do not breach copyright. It decided that while the chips let gamers play copied or imported games, they do not enable the copying of games.There is no copyright reason why the purchaser should not be entitled to copy the CD-Rom and modify the console in such a way as to enjoy his or her lawfully acquired property without inhibition, said the court ruling.

Sony sought to impose restrictions on the ordinary rights of owners, respectively of the CD-Roms and consoles, beyond those relevant to any copyright infringements. In effect, and apparently intentionally, those restrictions reduce global market competition, said the judgement

A lawyer for Stevens said the judgement would allow Australian consumers to buy lower price versions of games overseas and play them on their modded consoles.

This is a hell of a victory for the consumer. That's why we did it,  Stevens told Australian television.

 

5th October   Filtering Out the Nutters

From Whirlpool News

Days before the federal election, the Western Australian Internet Association (WAIA) has strongly rejected calls from the ultra-conservative "Family First" political party for Internet censorship at all ISPs.

WAIA's Jeremy Malcolm says the policy is poorly thought out and unworkable. Internet content filters at ISP level are expensive and ultimately, the user can get around them, he said.

Family First admits the proposed filtering scheme would have adverse effects on smaller ISPs but claims in its policy document that this isn't important because adequate competition could be maintained with 30 ISPs rather than the hundreds in existence now"

It also wants internet users in Australia to pay $7 to $10 each per year to cover the cost of the filtering. WAIA issued a statement today saying it was appalled at the callousness of this argument. If the same reasoning was used in respect of farmers, there would be national outrage, Malcolm said.

The association has debunked Family First's arguments saying ISP-level filtering can be as ineffective as PC-based filtering. He used China as an example: the country attempts to carry out nationwide filtering but access speeds have simply been slowed down for end users, and many people simply use secure proxies outside of China.

ISPs already cooperate with law enforcement authorities in combatting child pornography and other crimes under Australian law. They have no interest in allowing paedophiles and similar criminals to operate using their network, Malcolm said.

 

24th September   Hauled in Front of Big Brother

Based on an article from Refused Classification

The complaints made against the TV showing of Big Brother Uncut back in June have resulted in the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) finding that C10 breached the code of practice.

From an ACMA press release:

ACMA  has found Network Ten licensees in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice for broadcasts of Big Brother Uncut.

Breaches were found in two of the three episodes of the program investigated by ACMA. The breaches were of clause 2.4 of the code, which requires that material be classified in accordance with the Television Classification Guidelines in the code.

Big Brother Uncut is classified MA, meaning it is suitable for viewing only by persons aged 15 years and over and may only be screened after 9 pm. The investigation found material was screened that was in excess of the MA classification.

Other material broadcast in Big Brother Uncut was considered to approach the limit of content permitted at the MA classification level.

MA classified material is the strongest permitted on free-to-air television. Because of this, broadcasters are obliged to exercise particular care in selecting material for this category, said Lyn Maddock, Acting ACMA Chair. ACMA has found that on two of the occasions it investigated, Network Ten did not take sufficient care in selecting material for Big Brother Uncut.

One breach, in the episode broadcast on 30 May 2005, involved what ACMA considered a gratuitous and demeaning portrayal of nudity. This scene depicted a male participant in the program massaging a female participant’s shoulders. The female was unaware that the male’s penis was exposed and near the back of her head.

The other breach, in the 13 June 2005 episode, was for very coarse language that was not suitable for persons aged 15 years or over. A group of males composed a song containing references to fetishistic and degrading sexual behaviour. The impact of the language was such that it was not considered suitable for 15 year olds.

ACMA is aware that Network Ten has taken steps to review the program’s production process in response to criticism about some of the behaviour of male participants in the 2005 series. Network Ten has offered to advise ACMA of the outcomes of that review including any new procedures that may be implemented as a result.

While welcoming the steps already taken by the licensee, ACMA will further discuss appropriate measures with Network Ten. Action requested of Network Ten by ACMA will be geared towards ensuring future breaches of the MA classification provisions do not occur, said Lyn Maddock.

If Network Ten fails to provide appropriate undertakings, ACMA will consider imposing a licence condition on the Network Ten licensees.

 

23rd September   Distributors up the Creek

Based on an article from Refused Classification

An Australian film based loosely on the disappearance of Peter Falconio and the Ivan Milat murders was given an R rating by the OFLC ahead of its November release.

But Roadshow Films, the local distributor of Wolf Creek, appealed against the rating decision so the horror film can be seen by a younger audience.

However Roadshow Films failed in their attempt to get the R18+ rating of  Wolf Creek lowered to MA15+. Once again the Review Board has deemed it necessary to change the consumer advice. It has gone from 'High Level Violence, Coarse Language, Adult Themes' to 'High Level Realistic Violence, Strong Coarse Language'.

A 3-member panel of the Classification Review Board determined, in a unanimous decision, that the Australian film, Wolf Creek, is classified R 18+ with the consumer advice, “High level realistic violence, Strong coarse language.”

Unlike typical horror movies, Wolf Creek does not employ the usual tension-releasing devices, nor the stylized approaches to depictions of violence, instead striving for a tone of realism that takes it out of the realm of fantasy, said Classification Review Board Deputy Convenor, The Hon Trevor Griffin. This very realistic tone results in a film of high impact.

Griffin also said that in the opinion of the Classification Review Board, the level of realism created by the documentary-style approach heightens the impact of the violence, which is frequent and, in some scenes, prolonged.

 

19th September   Violent Panicography

Thanks to Mick

It appears the revised version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will be once again hitting shelves in Australia with an MA (15+) rating.

 

18th September   Addicted to Intolerance

Perhaps Christian literature should carry a similar warning: Millions have been killed, maimed and tortured as a result of centuries of nutter addiction to intolerance

Based on an article from Refused Classification

PRO-family nutters; conservative and Christian nutter MPs have joined forces to push for compulsory health warnings on sexually explicit DVDs and magazines.

The activists, who boast the support of federal Employment Minister Kevin Andrews, want cigarette-pack-style warning labels placed on DVDs and magazines containing R-rated sex scenes or images. This is sexually explicit material which might lead to sex-addiction and relationship problems, is one tag proposed by the Fatherhood Foundation, a conservative group opposed to porn and prostitution.

Asked about the foundation's proposal, a spokesman for Andrews said labelling R-rated material was certainly something worth looking at.

 

16th September   Escort to a Brothel

It clearly takes a lot of political campaigning to get freedoms for the sex industry but actually a fair amount of the restrictions are supported by elements of the sex industry.

From ABC

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is holding public hearings in Brisbane today into the legalisation of escort services.

The Prostitution Licensing Authority (PLA) wants Queensland brothels to be allowed to provide escorts and outcall services. PLA Chairman, Mannus Boyce, QC, says legalising escorts would encourage unlicenced operators to get licences and make them subject to safe sex requirements, workplace health and safety, and open to scrutiny from regulators.

He has told the hearing the PLA does not support licenced independent escort or outcall prostitution agencies because it would disadvantage brothels that have high set-up and operating costs.

He says a loss of commercial viability would destabilise the legal industry and could re-open the door for illegal brothels

 

8th September   No Share in the Spoils for Kazaa

From the BBC

An Australian court has ruled that the popular file-swapping program Kazaa urged its users to breach copyright. The Federal Court ordered Kazaa's owners, Sharman Networks, to modify the software to prevent further piracy.

The ruling comes after months of legal wrangling between Sharman Networks, and a group of record labels.

Although the ruling is only enforceable in Australia, the record industry has hailed it as a victory that would resonate around the world.

Today's judgement shows that Kazaa, one of the biggest engines of copyright theft and the biggest brand in music piracy worldwide, is illegal, said John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries.

The defeat for Kazaa comes two months after the Supreme Court in the US ruled that file-sharing services could be held liable for copyright infringement under certain circumstances.

The lawsuit was brought by five record labels - Universal, EMI, Sony BMG, Warner and Festival Mushroom - who said that Kazaa technology helped copyright infringement on a huge scale.

The defendants in the case argued they had no control over how people used their technology, comparing it to a photocopier or tape recorder.

In his ruling, Federal Court Judge Murray Wilcox said the owners of Kazaa had long known that the Kazaa system is widely used for the sharing of copyright files. He went on to say that the effect of the Kazaa website was to encourage visitors to think it 'cool' to defy the record companies by ignoring copyright constraints.

The judge dismissed as "overstated" accusations that Kazaa's owners were infringing copyright themselves.The more realistic claim is that the respondents authorised users to infringe the applicants' copyright in their sound recordings.

Kazaa's owners were ordered to modify the software within two months to include filters designed to stop the sharing of copyright material.

A fresh round of hearings will now be held to determine the level of damages, which could run into the millions of dollars.

Lawyers for Kazaa said they would appeal against the decision.

The victory for the record industry may be too little, too late. Research shows that file-sharers have already moved from Kazaa to other peer-to-peer software. It just isn't as big a player as it once was, as BitTorrent and eDonkey are now far more important to file sharers, said Professor Michael Geist, an e-commerce expert at Ottawa University.

 

27th August   Shameful Fiji Law Overridden by Constitution

From Sign On San Diego

An Australian and a Fijian man won appeals on Friday against their convictions for homosexuality in Fiji, with the South Pacific island nation's High Court ruling homosexual acts in private were legal under the constitution.

Thomas McCosker, and Dhirendra Nadan had been sentenced to two years' jail after earlier being found guilty of homosexuality in a Fijian hotel room in March and for creating pornography by filming the act.

High Court Judge Gerald Winter said privacy provisions of the Fijian constitution meant that homosexual acts between consenting males in private were not illegal, but homosexual acts in public or without consent were illegal, reported local media. What the constitution requires is that the law acknowledges difference, affirms dignity and allows equal respect to every citizen as they are, Winter said in his judgment. A country so founded will put sexual expression in private relationships into its proper perspective and allow citizens to define their own good moral sensibilities, leaving the law to its duties of keeping sexual expression in check by protecting the vulnerable and penalising the predator.

The case sparked widespread debate about Fiji's strict, but rarely enforced, homosexual laws, which carry a maximum 14-year jail term. Australia has since added a warning to its travel advisory for Fiji about homosexuality being illegal.

McCosker's lawyer Natasha Khan said the ruling would have a big impact in Fiji, although she said state prosecutors have indicated they might appeal to Fiji's Supreme Court.

It's the not the all-encompassing victory we were looking for but it's middle ground nonetheless, Khan told reporters.

 

21st August

  Shameful Australia Wont Condemn Shameful Fiji

From The Age

There has been been a notable lack of public outcry, no TV specials and no government-funded legal representation. But the case of Thomas McCosker, a Victorian man sentenced to two years' jail in Fiji for having consensual sex with a man, is arguably a greater injustice than the case of Gold Coast beauty student Schapelle Corby, given 20 years for drug trafficking in Indonesia.

Homosexual sex is legal in Australia. In Fiji, under British-colonial-era laws against sodomy, it is a crime, and McCosker now lives in a grimy hotel room waiting for a decision on his appeal.

The former textile worker from Warrnambool never "came out" in Australia, fearing a negative reaction from his family and community. In Fiji, he met Dhirendra Nadan and had what has never been disputed to be consensual sex.

His trouble started when he reported Nadan to police for allegedly taking $A1500 from his wallet. As he waited for his flight home, McCosker was arrested and held for five hours without charge. Nadan had also been held and told police that McCosker had paid him for sex and had taken photographs to be sold on the internet. McCosker denies both allegations, saying they were fabricated by Nadan.

Within 48 hours, McCosker was tried and jailed for two years on two anti-sodomy charges. He had no legal representation. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty denounced the convictions as a violation of human rights.

A Warrnambool neighbour, Alan Richardson, said that after a distressed McCosker called with news of his arrest, Richardson contacted the Australian High Commission in Suva. Richardson said a consular official rang back that night and reported that "inappropriate images" had been found on McCosker's digital camera and McCosker was likely to be fined. But just 48 hours after his arrest, McCosker phoned saying both he and Nadan had been jailed. The charges had nothing to do with the alleged theft or the images on McCosker's camera.

An appeal was launched on the basis that Fiji's constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But in contrast to his conviction, four months after his jailing, McCosker's appeal has dragged on. This week, final submissions were heard in his appeal before the High Court in Suva, which will hand down a decision next Friday.

McCosker says it is tough living in the dingy hotel room he must stay in as part of his bail conditions. I would have liked the Australian Government to have taken more interest in my case, McCosker told The Age.

The Australian Government has said it cannot interfere.

Gay activist Rodney Croome — who took the fight to overturn Tasmania's anti-gay laws to the United Nations 11 years ago — said the near-silence in Australia was tantamount to condemnation of McCosker's homosexuality. It's a terrible indictment on Australian society that a man can have his liberty taken away because of a consenting sexual relationship with another man. And his family, his community, the media and the Government does nothing.

Croome is equally scathing of the Government's failure to condemn Fiji's actions as a human rights abuse. Although Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Justice Minister Chris Ellison have spoken publicly on Corby's case, both referred questions on McCosker to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

 

20th August

  Nine South Australia Nutters

From Seven News

South Australia has overridden Australia's national censorship board by banning the British film 9 Songs, which includes footage of real sex.

The national Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) earlier this year reclassified the 2004 movie as R18+, allowing it to be shown at mainstream cinemas around the country. It had earlier rated the movie X18, which would have meant it could only be hired in the ACT or Northern Territory.

South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, a regular pro censorship campaigner labeled the OFLC's change of mind perverse and complained to the federal government.

On Friday the South Australian Classification Council said that following complaints, it had reviewed 9 Songs ahead of its release on DVD. As a result it had changed the rating to X18+, which meant it could not be screened, sold or hired in SA.

South Australia is the only state to have retained its powers to override the national classification system, the council said. However, it said it was the first time in 10 years that the council had decided to change the classification of a film.

Council chairwoman Julie Redman said a substantial part of the film was footage of actual sexual activity. In South Australia it is against the law to screen or sell films of actual sexual activity, Redman said. 9 Songs has some artistic value, but its content most closely matches the X18+ category.

The council also resolved not to change the classification for the Gregg Araki film Mysterious Skin, despite similar complaints over its content. Redman said the film would retain its R18+ rating because it had significant educational merit in raising community awareness of the impact of child sexual abuse.
In this case the film does not condone or promote child abuse, but shows it up for the heinous crime that it is.

 

14th August

  Hands On Protesting

Based on an article from The Sunday Mail

Australian strippers have gone conservative. Fearing the planned liberalisation of the state's adult entertainment industry could compromise their income, the dancers are seeking an urgent briefing with Liquor Licensing Minister Margaret Keech.

The strippers have found an unlikely ally in nutters of Christian-based conservative coalition which is also fighting the reforms.

The changes recommended by the Crime and Misconduct Commission include allowing women to work in private booths with clients, and more graphic stripteases which include touching.

Stripper Rachel, who represents 150 colleagues on the Gold Coast, said the industry was already too liberal. We don't understand why Queensland is leading the way in Australia when it comes to blurring the lines between dancing and prostitution, she said.

 

13th August

  Private Sex

From ABC

A Queensland sex industry support group has rejected claims that Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) recommendations would allow for explicit sex shows in local pubs.

President of Self Help for Queensland Sex Workers group, Cheryl Matthews, believes the recommendations, that approve an expansion of the industry, have been misinterpreted

The Queensland Government has accepted a 20,000 strong petition objecting to the recommendations.

Matthews agrees sexually graphic shows should not be performed in the public arena, but says that has not been suggested. I don't think it's okay, but I don't think the sexual acts will be performed in hotels. They may be performed in a closed room, but not open to the public.

State Nationals MP Fiona Simpson believes the idea is morally corrupt: Whether or not it's in a separate room doesn't overcome the fact that you've got live sex acts in your local community, which is another form of prostitution.

The Government is yet to consider the recommendations.

 

2nd August

  Hardly a Mysterious Decision

From the Sydney Morning Herald

The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has upgraded the warnings attached to controversial film Mysterious Skin, after a complaint by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.

The Classification Review Board held a 12-hour meeting to review the R+ rating given in April to the US film, which revolves around two boys remembering incidents of sexual abuse.

The film then carried the advice: "Adult themes, strong sexual violence, medium level sex scenes". In a four to two decision, the panel on Monday determined that the R+ rating should remain, but with the consumer advice: "High level sexual abuse themes, high level sexual violence, paedophile themes".

Under the classification, only those aged 18 and over can see the film.

The board said the film warranted the classification because of its treatment of child sexual abuse from a victim's perspective, which helped educate audiences about the consequences of the "horrific crime". The subject matter of Mysterious Skin is handled sensitively and the film unambiguously condemns child sexual abuse, Classification Board convenor Maureen Shelley said.

Ruddock applied to have the film's classification reviewed, on request from South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. The Australian Family Association and the Festival of Light also applied to have the classification reviewed.

The board heard evidence from child psychologist Dr Robin Harvey and submissions from the film's distributor and the Australian Family Association before making its decision.

The film's American director, Gregg Araki, last month said Mysterious Skin had not created controversy in any other country.
The fact (is) that the film has opened already in so many other countries with no incident, no problem with censorship or anything,

 

1st August

  Driven Overseas the World Over

The Melon Farmers welcome Australians customers to UK porn websites. It is good to hear that money will be coming in to the UK adult business. We need it to make up for the mail order DVD business that we ourselves are driving overseas.

From Australian IT

Australia's internet censorship regime is driving pornographers overseas, according to Electronic Frontiers Australia, which opposes censorship online.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority's 2004 second-half report was issued last week by the Department of Communications. The communications regulator issued just one takedown notice for Australian-hosted content during the latest reporting period.

ACMA, which is responsible for investigating complaints under the Broadcasting Services Act, received 598 complaints between July and December last year, and identified 430 overseas-hosted prohibited items.

Content hosted overseas is either notified to the makers of filters, or if it is believed to be illegal, is referred to the Australian Federal Police. ACMA found complaints referring to US-hosted content dropped but complaints concerning content hosted in Russia and China increased.

Electronic Frontiers Australia said the figures showed that internet content regulation in Australia had simply pushed offensive content overseas. There's a dramatic increase in the amount of foreign-hosted content, EFA executive director Irene Graham said. They can't do anything more about it than they did before, which was, if you don't like it, use a filter.

Graham said her organisation objected to the law because it prevented adults from seeing content that was freely available in other media.

"Adults should be able to view Australian content that has been produced and hosted in Australia. If you're allowed to view it on video, you should be able to see it on the internet. This just makes Australians use overseas sites to see this material and Australian money is going to overseas content hosts.

EFA argues the internet content regime is just one symptom of a conservative attitude towards media content.

 

31st July

  Storm in a Hot Coffee Cup

From The Age

The popular computer game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has been withdrawn from sale in Australia after the Office of Film and Literature Classification revoked its MA15+ classification.

The board said in a statement today that the game contained "contentious material" that had not been brought to the board's attention when it was classified.

Take Two Interactive, the parent company of the game maker Rockstar Games, confirmed there were sex scenes in the retail version of the game on July 20 following which the US Entertainment Software Rating Board changed the game's rating from M to the equivalent of R18.

The game was released in Australia last October with an MA 15+ rating, as it contained "medium-level animated violence and medium-level coarse language".

The OFLC said it found that the content unlocked by the "hot coffee" mod could not be accommodated under the MA15+ classification .

The game cannot now be legally sold, hired, advertised or exhibited in Australia. Businesses that sell or hire computer games should remove existing stocks of this game from their shelves immediately, said OFLC director Des Clark.
Parents are strongly advised to exercise caution in allowing children continued access to the game, particularly if they might have access to the 'Hot Coffee' modification.

 

30th July

  Crashing down the Ratings Scale

From Refused Classification

A 3-member panel of the Classification Review Board has unanimously determined that the film, Wedding Crashers, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, is classified M with the consumer advice, “Frequent sexual references, Frequent coarse language.”

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion, Wedding Crashers warrants an M, rather than an MA15+ classification because, although the film contains frequent sexual references and frequent coarse language, it is light and comedic in tone and any impact is moderate rather than strong.

“The majority of the sexual references in Wedding Crashers are light-hearted and verbal and the coarse language is not aggressive”, said Classification Board Convenor, Maureen Shelley. Although it is an irreverent romantic comedy, the storyline of this film is clearly not intended for children under 15.

M is an advisory classification. Films classified M are not recommended for persons under 15 years of age.

 

29th July

  Classification Theft

From Refused Classification

Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification's has been looking at Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' classification, because of the hidden content. Paul Hunt is the office's Deputy Director. From an interview on ABC PM

PAUL HUNT: So we've just determined, through advice from the game's distributor and also our own investigation, that the content is included in the game as retail but not accessible unless you break the user agreement and modify the game to get at it.

ABC PM: So what will that mean, are you going to upgrade its classification?

PAUL HUNT: Well that means that the board… there's a provision in our legislation again. Our scheme unlike the Americans is a legislation and a regulated scheme, so there's certain procedures under law which need to be taken.

And one of the procedures is that where the applicant hasn't disclosed what's called "contentious material" to the board when they're making their decision, and it becomes apparent that there was material that should have been disclosed, as in this case, then the applicant needs to demonstrate that material to the board so the board can make a fresh decision.

ABC PM: So the classification remains the same?

PAUL HUNT: It remains the same until the board's had another look and made a decision.

Now I don't want to pre-empt the board's decision. They may look at it and say, “It's the same”, or they may look at it and say, “Oh hang, this changes it”.

ABC PM: If it does change it, the classification is at its highest rating in Australia. What would that mean if they said that this is too much?

PAUL HUNT: Well look we're talking hypothetically of course, but if they do make a different decision then the only place to go from MA15+ is to refuse classification. So it's essentially banned.

 

28th July   Topsy Turvy Justice Down Under

From The Townsville Bulletin

The Four Townsville sex shop owners have vowed to take their fight against what they call 'a stupid state law which exists only in Queensland' to an appeal court, after they were found guilty and fined for selling prohibited publications yesterday.

The four, Colin Edwards of Sweethearts, Robyn Wong of Hot Stuff, Bill Munro of Original Sin and Simon Preuss of Extasy, were charged with the offences in 2001, when an incognito inspector bought magazines from each establishment.

The matter was delayed in coming to court until after constitutional challenges had been dealt with in two similar cases. Those challenges, the same as the Townsville owners' argument that the Queensland law was overruled by a contrary Commonwealth law, both failed and were thrown out.

After hearing witnesses and legal argument, Magistrate Laurie Verra adjourned for five hours to consider his findings. In a 30-minute judgment handed down early last night, Verra said it was a curious situation where the sale of such classified magazines was legal everywhere but in Queensland.

But he ruled against defence barrister Laurie Middleton's argument that the Queensland law was overruled by a Commonwealth, which holds that governments cannot intervene in the private sexual conduct of citizens. Verra agreed with Robert Vize, for the Department of Fair Trading and previous appeal rulings that the issue was about the sale of goods, not about private sexual conduct. Restrictions on sales of pornographic material do not impinge on private sexual conduct, Verra quoted from Court of Appeal documents.

He found that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the offences had taken place, and found all four guilty as charged.

Middleton asked the magistrate to consider this was not a serious offence in the light that it was legal everywhere else in Australia. My clients should get credit that they are regulating themselves, they ensure their goods are away from the street and passers-by cannot see anything which may offend them.

Verra told the defendants that they were all reputable business people who had been operating their concerns for many years 'in an industry necessary to society'. For that reason, he said he would not record any convictions, because all had clean records. Referring to the contradiction between the relevant laws of the Commonwealth and other states in relation to Queensland, Verra said, It is not for me as a magistrate to embark on any political considerations.

He fined the companies operated by Edwards and Preuss $1000 each, and ordered they both pay $800 in professional fees. The fines for individuals are lower, so Wong and Munro were each fined $600 and $800 each in professional fees.

Edwards, speaking for all the owners said the matter would definitely be appealed to the District Court.

 

27th July   Topsy Turvy Down Under

How can two different repressive sets of legislation be so opposite. In the UK we can buy hardcore from a shop but not by mail order yet in Australia they can buy mail order but not in a shop.

From The Townsville Bulletin

Four Australian adult shop owners will know today if their challenge to a State law prohibiting the sale of erotic publications is successful. All four appeared before Magistrate Laurie Verra yesterday, pleading not guilty to charges of selling prohibited publications.

They are challenging the historical anomaly in Queensland law which says that the purchase and possession of prohibited classified material (in this case magazines) is not a crime, but selling the material is. Queenslanders can legally order such material by mail order from interstate, but local sex shop owners are breaking the law if they sell it.

Before the court were Colin Edwards, owner of Sweethearts, Robyn Wong (Hot Stuff), Bill Munro (Original Sin) and Simon Preuss (Extasy). Accompanying the defendants to court was Keith Boswell, secretary of The Adult Retail Association of Queensland (TARA), who has described the law as 'an incredible contradiction'.

Yesterday, Robert Vize, for the Department of Fair Trading, told the court that a Queensland Fair Trading officer had anonymously visited each shop in July 2001. At each place, he bought and paid for magazines off the shelf, which he then sent to Brisbane.

After examining the publications, Publication Classification Officer David Cannavan decided all the magazines were restricted and therefore not allowed to be sold in Queensland, and preferred charges against the shop owners.

Laurie Middleton, counsel for the defendants, challenged the method used by the officer to buy the magazines, arguing that the relevant Act required Fair Trading investigators to identify themselves to the operator when arriving in the store. Middleton said therefore the evidence had been gathered illegally.

Verra adjourned for several hours to consider that one aspect of the defence case, but in the end ruled against Middleton.

The matter will continue today and will centre on the defence argument that the Commonwealth Human Rights Act 1994, which covers among other things private sexual rights, makes the Queensland law invalid, as it has done in all other states and territories. Verra will be asked to rule on whether the Act's provision that no government has the right of arbitary intervention in private sexual conduct applies to the Queensland law. Verra told the parties he would deliver his ruling today when legal argument was completed.

Outside the court Edwards said if he and his co-defendants were found guilty, they would take the matter to the High Court if necessary, as a matter of principle.

 

24th July   Hardcore in the Inner Sanctum Down Under

From vbsx on The Melon Farmers' Forum

Just found this on Lyngsat. It was added July 20th. Click on "The Inner Sanctum":
It says.. "The Inner Sanctum XXX Adult Channel featuring (!) and the best XXX content sourced from around the world available in Australia via the NSS6 satellite with a 65cm satellite dish and decoder you can have hundreds of XXX uncut movies each week on your TV at home."

http://www.lyngsat.com/nss6.html

 

23rd July

Mysterious Nutters

From The Advertiser

A new film about sexually abused teenagers may be banned from Australian cinemas amid calls for a review of its R18+ classification. Mysterious Skin, by US director Gregg Araki, is due to have its Australian premiere in Sydney tonight before wider cinema release next month.

In its majority decision, the Office of Film and Literature Classification said the film's child-abuse theme was presented in discreet visuals and is justified by context.

But Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has ordered a review of the R rating after a request from his South Australian counterpart, Michael Atkinson.

In a letter to Ruddock, Atkinson said: The guidelines for the classification of films say that 'films and computer games will be refused classification if they contain depictions or descriptions of child sexual abuse'. The board's report makes clear that this film includes just that.

The Nutters of the Australian Family Association will be making a submission to the review board hearing.  Spokesman Richard Egan said he was concerned about the way the film depicted and described sexual abuse, involving an adult male and two boys aged eight and 15. I wouldn't contest that the thrust of the movie is about the damage inflicted by child sexual abuse. Filmmakers should be clever enough to convey those values without the need for such explicit description.

Based on a novel by Scott Heim, Mysterious Skin is about two damaged young men who were abused by their sports coach. While the film has been described as tough and confronting, it contains no explicit sex scenes.

The American director of the film says he is stunned the movie about sexually abused teenagers may be banned in Australia. Gregg Araki said Mysterious Skin had not created controversy in any other country. I am very surprised. The fact (is) that the film has opened already in so many other countries with no incident, no problem with censorship or anything.

Troy Lum, head of distributor Hopscotch Films, said it was an embarrassment that this film is even being debated in Australia and has more to say about faults in the current system rather than the prudishness of the general Australian.

Critic Margaret Pomeranz, who saw the film at the Venice Film Festival last year, said there was no justification for a ban. Why shouldn't you be able to deal with a topic in a film? It has been so carefully done to protect the children acting. It is about the damage that pedophilia does, and it might give a great deal of comfort to adults who have previously suffered.

The Classification Review Board hearing has been set for August 1st. In the UK the film is uncut and rated 18.

 

18th July

  Downloading More Questions

From The Register

Another day another copyright battle! Australia’s Federal Court has handed down its decision in Universal Music Australia v Cooper (the ComCen case). While no final orders has been made, Justice Brian Tamberlin found for the recording industry applicants on all counts, in what has been described by the recording industry as a “major blow against piracy".

Following an investigation by Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) into the website www.mp3s4free.net, Universal Music Australia and 30 other companies, including seven international companies, commenced proceedings against the alleged registrant of the mp3s4free.net domain name, Stephen Cooper, and the internet service provider ComCen Internet Services. Proceedings were also commenced against an employee and principal of ComCen.

MIPI proclaimed that this case was “a world first”, being an action not only against an MP3 website, but also against an ISP which provided website access to users, thereby allowing them download unauthorised sound recordings from the site. According to MIPI, the website (was)... one of the largest of its kind ... in the year preceding the commencement of legal proceedings, approximately seven million people visited the website, resulting in over 100 million hits to the website.

The case is significant because it was the first time the recording industry had accused an ISP of direct involvement in music piracy by allowing its infrastructure to be used for file-trading activities. ComCen unsuccessfully claimed that it was not liable for any copyright infringements because it didn’t host any MP3 recordings on their servers. Further, it claimed that it was not aware of any infringing behaviour associated with the mp3s4free.net website, and was in no position to control the behaviour of their subscribers. The judge rejected these claims.

The court accepted MIPI’s claims that Cooper’s website provided hyperlinks to external websites, which allowed individuals to engage in the unauthorised downloading of sound recordings. The court held that Cooper had “permitted or approved” and thereby authorized the copyright infringement by internet users who accessed the mp3s4free.net website. The court also found that the respondents engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct under section 52 the Trade Practices Act by making false claims about the legitimacy of the MP3 files available through the website, and the rights of consumers to legally download the files.

The website was “user friendly and attractive” and “visitors could readily select from a variety of catalogues of popular sound recordings for download.”

This decision may not necessarily affect the Australian peer to peer cases currently going forward including the Kazaa case, where the parties are awaiting a judgment, and the Swiftel (Perth) ISP BitTorrent case, which will be heard later in 2005. In the ComCen case users could download from a centralised server. Although the respondents didn’t host the files, the evidence indicated that these downloads could have been switched off by the respondents if they had wanted to do so. The hyperlinks could have simply been disabled. However, Kazaa, BitTorrent and other P2P systems can’t be simply turned off. There is no overriding master switch. They are decentralised systems. There simply isn’t the same level of centralised control as exists with sites like mp3s4free.

Despite the decision in their favour, the recording industry’s celebrations may be fleeting. On January 1, 2005 the Australian/US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) took effect. Under the FTA so-called “safe harbour” provisions were inserted into the Copyright Act. The effect of these amendments was to provide a defence for internet service providers excluded liability for damages for copyright infringement upon certain conditions".

The FTA provisions create four safe harbours for carriage service providers. These cover the transmission, caching, hosting and referencing of infringing materials. Eligibility for safe harbour protection is depends on fulfilling certain obligations including in same, cases the removal of content stored or cached material, or the termination of customer accounts.

This case was decided on the basis of the law as it existed prior to the FTA amendments, so this case may not be a useful precedent with respect to ISP conduct after January 1, 2005.

The decision in the ComCen case appears to raise more questions than it answers, especially for ISPs:

  • What is the current legal position of Australian ISPs with respect to the conduct of their subscribers?

  • What is the current legal position of Australian ISP employees and managers with respect to the conduct of ISP subscribers?

  • Do Australian ISPs have a duty of care to ensure that their subscribers do not contravene the Copyright Act?

  • If so, does this duty of care extend to other forms of illegal conduct?

  • What about the privacy of ISP subscribers?

  • Will ISP subscribers have to vet the contents of their website in advance, in order to satisfy their ISP that no legislation has been infringed?

  • Will personal subscribers have to submit their “blogs” to their ISPs in advance in order to satisfy their ISP that the blog does not contain any defamatory statements which could result in ISP liability?

 

13th July

  Fantastic Decision

From Refused Classification

Fantastic Four has had its rating dropped from M (Moderate Violence) to PG (Mild Stylised Violence) by the Classification Review Board who made the following statement:

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion, Fantastic Four warrants a PG classification because the overall impact of the film is mild.

In considering Fantastic Four, the Classification Review Board was primarily concerned with the classifiable element of violence, chairperson, Rob Shilkin said.The impact of the violence in the film is reduced because of its stylised comic book nature in the relevant scenes.

PG means “Parental guidance recommended”. It is not recommended for viewing by persons under the age of 15 without guidance from parents or guardians. The classification means that the film may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting and may require guidance.

 

11th July

  Nutter's Way

So who exactly is content with the practicalities of the current situation?

Based on an article from The Sydney Morning Herald

As nominally illegal X-rated videos sell in Sydney shops, unpoliced and unregulated, violent pornography can now be found upon the shelves.

David Haines ascends the narrow stairway to Adult Book. Two floors up, past the magazines, sits a wall of pornographic DVDs and videos. He scans the shelves, looking at markings on the covers. Of the 150 DVDs and videos in that shelf, two appear to have been classified, Haines says. The other shelves also contain many apparently unclassified videos and DVDs.

Selling videos that are unclassified, refused classification or X-rated is illegal in NSW. But the law is generally not enforced. However, a private member's bill that State Parliament has been considering aims to legalise X-rated sales and boost penalties for selling videos and DVDs that are unclassified or have been refused classification.

Haines is uniquely placed. He is chairman of Gallery Global Network, a listed company that distributes mobile phone entertainment as well as adult videos and DVDs. But he worked for 14 years at the Commonwealth's Office of Film and Literature Classification, including eight years as deputy chief censor.

At another store a few doors away not far from the NSW Police headquarters, Haines surveys the thousands of videos and DVDs lining the walls. The bondage sections of these stores, he says, contain most of the extreme porn.

Earlier, the Herald had visited a store in Kings Cross where a few videos of an extreme nature were for sale. A DVD, Mr Dog, with no classification markings, contained bestiality footage; price $60. Another showed sexual acts involving a woman with a gun at her head. The shop assistant said some months before there was on sale a video with footage of a woman's labia nailed to a board.

This is a taste of some of the unclassified videos sold in sex shops and adult bookstores. Industry sources estimate there are about 200 such shops around the state. A small minority of the videos portray bestiality, sexual violence and coercion, pain and other activities that would all be refused classification if they ever went near the national censor - which they don't.

Videos and DVDs submitted to the classification office are either categorised or refused classification. The X18+ category applies to films that contain actual sexual intercourse or sexual activity. No "violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion is allowed in this category", the classification office says. In the R18+ category, simulated sex is allowed, but "sexual violence may only be implied and should not be detailed", the office says.

While classification is a Commonwealth task, banning and enforcing bans on the sale of porn is a state responsibility. In the 1980s, the Reverend Nutter Fred Nile led a Christian campaign - with some feminist support - against X-rated videos. By 1984, the sale of such videos had been banned in NSW.

The same ban exists today. In NSW, it is illegal to sell videos X-rated, unclassified, or refused classification. But it is not illegal to buy or possess X18+ classified material. Despite this, X-rated videos and DVDs are available throughout the state. But most sexual videos sold in NSW are not X-rated, they are unclassified, rendering the national classification system largely meaningless in the realm of pornography.

Nile is still a state MP and opposes the private member's bill by Peter Breen, another upper house MP, to legalise X-rated sales.

Breen believes few people, including the Premier, Bob Carr, want X-rated videos to be illegal, which is why the ban on them is not enforced. Hardly any sex shops are prosecuted over their sale of X-rated videos or videos that are unclassified or have been refused classification, Breen says. The crime statistics for the years 1995-2003 support this view.

A spokesman for the NSW Attorney-General, Bob Debus, says enforcing the law is a police operational matter, not a matter for the Attorney-General. The Herald asked NSW Police why it did not enforce the ban on X-rated videos. A police spokeswoman said in a statement: Police officers do enforce the illegal sale of X-rated films. However, they are rarely reported to police. We would, however, encourage members of the public with any information about such activity to report it to police.

Other states also banned X-rated videos in the '80s, but the ACT and Northern Territory did not. The ACT has a regulated system under which X-rated films are sold only in licensed adult stores. Breen and sex-industry lobbyists say the ACT could be the model for a new regulated system in NSW. If the stores in the ACT sell material that is unclassified or has been refused classification, they are likely to lose their licence.

Even members of the Labor Party agree there is an issue that needs resolving. The NSW Parliament Standing Committee on Social Issues recommended, after studying the issue, that the Attorney-General consider either establishing a licensing scheme, similar to that which operates in the ACT, to allow controlled premises to sell X-rated material in NSW or taking more enforcement action against breaches of the legislation. That was three years ago.

But there are no plans to establish a licensing system for adult shops or legalise X-rated sales, Debus's spokesman says. Any changes "should be addressed nationally" through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, which includes state and federal ministers. NSW has no position, he says, on the direction the talks between states should take on this matter. No other state allows the sale of X-rated material, and Mr Breen's bill would result in NSW being out of step with the states and the Commonwealth, he says.

The Reverend Nutter Gordon Moyes - Nile's fellow Christian Democrat in the Legislative Council - believes the law is fine as it is, but is not being enforced. People are flouting the law because they know they can get away with it, Moyes told Parliament during debate over Breen's amendment bill. Liberalising the sale of some pornographic material will not lead to retailers restricting the material that they sell if there are no effective sanctions in place that are being enforced.

Breen's bill has fallen at its first parliamentary hurdle. Debus's spokesman said the Government decided to not support it, because there is a fatal flaw in the bill. The bill proposes to make it legal to sell and publicly exhibit X18+ rated films without any visible mechanisms for increasing the level of enforcement of the classification laws.

Breen agrees there are no such mechanisms in his bill, but says the Government could easily introduce regulations to increase enforcement.

He believes Carr does not want to take on the religious right, including Nile and Moyes. Bob Carr's attitude is let sleeping dogs lie, Breen says. And while some of the videos contain dogs, they're certainly not sleeping.

When the upper house voted last week, Labor MPs crossed the chamber to vote with the Coalition, Christian Democrats and others. Government ministers sat chatting and laughing with a senior Coalition MP while the count was taken - 32 to five against the bill.

But Breen's proposal, and the attention on the issue this year, might have had some effect anyway. While there are bondage videos on show that Haines believes would be refused classification, the even more extreme material such as bestiality tapes that were on display during his last visit several months ago are gone, he says.

A survey on sex in Australia from 2003 found nearly four out of 10 men and nearly two out of 10 women had watched an X-rated video in the previous year. Internet porn use grabs the headlines, but the survey of 19,307 adults by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University in Melbourne suggests mainstream porn use might be slanted towards videos and DVDs.

Some people are surprised that sex shops, which with mail order offer the main retail outlet for such videos, have survived the internet. But Robbie Swan, of the Eros Association, which represents adult retail and entertainment services, says there are as many as 700 sex shops nationwide. Swan told a recent Senate inquiry that the adult goods industry turns over $1.8 billion a year in Australia.

The MP Peter Breen says 5 million pornographic videos are sold in NSW every year, and 3 million are illegal, either X-rated or unclassified, based on industry briefings.

 

10th July

  Nutters Uncut

It is interesting to note that UK stories about late night fare never include details or even estimates of  the number of children watching. I would guess that such figures are available.

Based on an article from The Mercury

More than 13,000 Victorian children under the age of 13 watched Channel 10's naughtiest Big Brother episode.

Outraged nutters yesterday stepped up inevitable calls for a clean-up of Big Brother Uncut as major advertisers and even some Ten executives distanced themselves from the controversial program.

More than 52,000 under-18s currently on school holidays watched Monday night's show. Ratings figures reveal 2000 viewers were under the age of five.

The latest outrage has sparked a fresh push by federal Coalition MPs to force Big Brother Uncut off air. But under the MPs' plan, any program under investigation by the new Australian Communications and Media Authority would be dragged from TV immediately. Led by censorship nutter Trish Draper, the MPs will lobby Communications Minister Helen Coonan for amendments to the ACMA's governing legislation when Parliament returns next month. Draper said up to 30 MPs supported a ban.

Key Big Brother advertisers yesterday distanced themselves from the action. KFC, Hyundai, and Procter & Gamble were quick to distinguish themselves as advertisers of the daily program, but not of Uncut.

Within the corridors of Channel 10, reaction to Big Brother Uncut has been mixed. The Herald Sun believes several managers are acutely embarrassed about involvement with the show. Others are happy that its racy nature is helping ratings.

Ten's head of corporate communications Margaret Fearn defended Uncut as complying with the Code of Practice and attracting a million viewers each week. We appreciate and accept Uncut is not to everyone's taste, but it is popular.

And the offending details:

The camera zooms in on housemate Christie singing the national anthem in the shower while shaving her bikini line.

Later, two of the male housemates use the same shower to indulge in displays of genital origami.

Rita, one of the new "intruders" in the house, is in the lounge room trying to impress the boys with her talent for noisily expelling air from a certain part of her body.

In another room, Vesna, one of the other female housemates, lies on a bed plucking at her bikini line and share intimate conversations about personal hygiene.

After an hour of simulated sex, sex talk and profanity, and minutes devoted to toilet humour and pranks, the 9.40pm show ends with two of the girls using their microphone battery packs as sex toys.

 

9th July

  No Takers for Softcore Phone Sex

I am hardly surprised that few people are willing to pay premium prices for softcore rubbish. There are so many better ways of getting the superior hardcore product that censorship of this media must be killing a potentially large market stone dead.

Based on an article from Australian ITThe Register

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - as of 1 July the newly formed face of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority - has banned hard-core porn from mobile phones.

According to various media reports, mobile operators will not be allowed to punt X18+ content or anything which has been refused classification. They will also be obliged to check customers' ages before ejaculating "less offensive" (MA15+ or R18+) softcore. Furthermore, operators will have to monitor chat room services.

As any well-informed pundit knows, the whole future of 3G hangs on online gambling and pornography. No-one is interested in MMS or the Premiership beamed live to your handset on a two inch square screen. What people really want is the ability to play real-time poker while on the train to work, and download naked people while in the pub.

Carriers launching softcore porn services for mobile phones are likely to discover what mobile soft porn pioneer Hutchison has found: few will use the services, but those who do, like it often.

The carrier monitored feedback after launching a range of adult services last year. We were astounded by the overwhelming silence, 3 head of content Amanda Hutton said. There was very little feedback, she said, and most dealt with the strict access controls. Generally, we receive very few complaints.

Hutton said it was inevitable that other carriers would offer similar services. If they don't, there are other providers out there that will try to do it through premium SMS or MMS-type services. She said 3's adult services appeal to a very small segment of our customer base, but those that do use it, use it relatively frequently.

With guidelines from the regulator announced last week, carriers are re-examining their adult services plans. Vodafone has said it would have "access controlled" services available next year, and Virgin Mobile and Optus are leaving the door open for services.

 

26th June   Palindromes Stays Adults Only

The film was passed uncut by the BBFC with a 15 certificate

From Refused Classification

A 3-member panel of the Australian Classification Review Board has determined, in a unanimous decision, that the film, Palindromes, directed by Todd Solondz, is correctly classified R 18+ with the consumer advice, “Abortion and paedophile themes.”

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion, Palindromes warrants an R 18+ classification because the sex scenes are high in impact, not because of their filmic treatment, but because they relate to under age and paedophile sex.

The 13 year-old character, Aviva, is depicted having sex with teenage boys and an adult male, Classification Board Convenor, Maureen Shelley said. These scenes are seen to normalize under-age sex, including that of adults with minors, contrary to community concerns about these matters.

R 18+ is a restricted classification. Persons aged under 18 years cannot be admitted to films classified R 18+.

 

19th June

  Australian Censor Decision is Tat

The film was passed uncut by the BBFC with a 15 certificate

From Refused Classification

The R18+ rating awarded to Palindromes on May 26th 2005 is being appealed. Madman Entertainment were the company that initially had the film classified.

The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification for the film, Palindromes, directed by Todd Solondz. Palindromes was classified R18+ with the consumer advice, “Adult themes”, by the Classification Board on 6 June 2005.

The Classification Review Board will meet on Wednesday 22 June 2005 to consider the application. The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website once the review has been finalised.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

 

7th June   Repression Common to All Media

From Backstage.com

In what Australia's censorship agency the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) claims to be a world first, films, videos and computer games marketed and sold in Australia will now carry the same classification markings, the agency announced Monday.

The new system comes after years of discussion about how to deal with the different demands that new media options present to consumers. The new system, sanctioned through legislation by federal and state governments, replaces two codes previously applied separately to games, films and videos. The OFLC said the failure of a classification system for computer games introduced in 1994, which did not make an impact on consumers, had in part prompted the change. The gaming industry has long been lobbying for a change to the classification system.

The new system will offer six color-coded classifications. Advisory categories are a green G symbol for general exhibition, a yellow PG for parental guidance, and a blue M for mature audiences. A red MA15+ indicates that a parent or guardian must accompany anyone below 15 years of age. Black labels for restricted, adult only material are differentiated as R18+ for "high impact" content and X18+ for material containing actual sex between consenting adults.

We live in an increasingly borderless world of entertainment, where the delivery technology is rapidly converging, OFLC director Des Clark told reporters. It makes sense that people should be able to use one system to become informed about classification of entertainment, particularly when the traditional ways in which we are used to receiving our entertainment are so rapidly changing and evolving.

Clark noted that four million households in Australia now have gaming consoles and said that the increasing convergence between the movie and gaming industries meant it made sense to apply the same standard across all media.

The move will primarily affect distributors and exhibitors but Clark insists there are no extra costs involved in the transition in terms of gaining classifications.

We need to be clear about classification across all media, said Richard Payten, joint general manager of film distributor the Becker/Dendy Group. Anything that gives a consistent message and takes away confusion can only be considered a good thing.

Despite the introduction of the new system, over-the-top violent or sexually explicit computer games are not going to find their way any easier onto Australian shelves. The government has elected to continue its policy of denying classification to games that would warrant adult-only classification, typically those featuring graphic sex and violence. As a result these games will remain unavailable -- at least legally -- to Australian consumers.

Attorney General Phillip Ruddock said at the news conference that the highest classification available to games would be the red MA15+. Ministers were not satisfied that if you brought those (X- and R-rated) games into the home that children could not access them, said Ruddock of the decision.

A spokeswoman for the OFLC said only four games had been denied classification over the last three years, including Narc and Man Hunt. The first and third of the Grand Theft Auto franchise also were deemed adult content until the developers modified them for the market, making them available in Australia with an MA15+ rating.

Clark added that the OFLC's overriding concern regarding computer games was to provide a safe world for our children. The new rules are effective immediately although they will be retrospective for recent releases.

 

14th May   Reviewing the Review Board

From Refused Classification

New Appointments to the Australian Classification Review Board

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock recently announced the appointments of Gillian Groom and Anthony Hetrih, and the re-appointment of Kathryn Smith, as members of the Classification Review Board.

The Classification Review Board is responsible for reviewing, upon application, Classification Board decisions regarding films, publications and computer games on behalf of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

The Review Board is comprised of individuals so that, as a whole, it is broadly representative of the Australian community. Review Board members, as statutory appointees, endeavour to make decisions, applying the classification tools, which reflect as objectively as possible what they consider to be the standards of reasonable adults in the community, rather than the personal standards of members.

Mrs Groom is a Consultant Occupational Therapist and University Tutor from Tasmania. She is the mother of six adult children. She has been involved in many professional associations, the arts, sporting and charity organisations.

Mr Hetrih, the father of a young child, is from Victoria. He is a writer specialising in technology and computer games. He has a background in marketing and communications, and has a demonstrated and long-standing professional interest in the effects of computer games on children. He is currently researching for a guidebook for parents on the subject of computer games.

Mrs Smith is a mother of three from New South Wales. She has lived in Tasmania for most of her life, but currently lives in Sydney. She has worked as a social worker, TAFE teacher and Employee Assistance Counsellor. Mrs Smith is currently at home caring for her family and studying part-time. This is Mrs Smith’s second term on the Classification Review Board, having been a member since June 2001.

The Classification Review Board is a part-time Board that meets in Sydney at the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

 

24th April   Gored by the Review Board

From Refused Classification

In what must rank as one of the more dumb censorship decisions of recent years, the Review Board has confirmed the RC rating awarded to The Gore Gore Girls .

Three members of the Review Board viewed the film. Two voted for it to be banned. The third member got it correct

The minority view was that the film should be classified R18+ as the impact was no more than high, due to the unrealistic, “schlock-horror” nature of the special effects.

As mentioned last update, there is absolutely no way that this contains stronger material than any of the films that the OFLC have happily awarded R18+ ratings over the past couple of years.

 

17th April   Narked at Australian Censorship

From Refused Classification

The Australian censors, the OFLC, have now banned the computer game Narc. This makes it the first game of 2005 to be Refused Classification.

Even though the distributors of Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Gore Gore Girls had missed the 30 day appeal period, a review will now go ahead as: In this instance, the Review Board considered the out of time application as a preliminary matter, and determined to exercise its discretion and proceed with the application."

In 2004 the OFLC saw fit to award R18+ ratings to films such as Maniac, Last House on the Left, and Ichi the Killer. All are much more extreme than anything you can find in The Gore Gore Girls.

This is a film that even the notorious British censors passed uncut in February 2002. Compare this with the treatment they gave Maniac (May'02 cut by 58sec), Last House on the Left (July'02 cut by 31sec), and Ichi the Killer (Nov'02 cut by 3min 15sec). The OFLC passed all of these uncut!

Ichi the Killer even contains some nipple-slicing violence far more brutal than the comparable scene in The Gore Gore Girls. So, if on Monday it doesn't get its rating dropped to R18+, then it proves that nothing has changed. Our rating system is really just as arbitrary as ever.

 

15th April   Gore Gore Girls Gored

From Refused Classification

Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Gore Gore Girls has been refused classification (ie banned) in Australia. 30 days have elapsed since the decision so there will be no appeal.

This video was passed uncut by the BBFC in 2002

 

13th February   Shattered Again

From Refused Classification monitoring Australia's censors. Thanks to Andrew

In late 2004 Siren Visual Entertainment announced that they would be releasing Agustin Villaronga's 1986 Spanish film,  In a Glass Cage on DVD on March 25th 2005. On February 8th 2005 it was again Refused Classification by the OFLC. It is released internationally on DVD in 2003 by Cult Epics (Holland) and C.A.V Distribution (USA).

This was the movie that shattered the myth that film festivals were out of reach of the censors. In 1995 Queer Screen applied to show it at the upcoming Mardi Gras Film Festival. The application was refused, and an appeal to the Film Board of Review produced the following response:

Reasons for the Decision

The Review Board based its decision principally on the graphic scenes of, and unrelenting focus on, child physical and sexual abuse, torture and murder described in paragraph 5.2 above, and the tone of relish in both visuals and dialogue as described in paragraph 5.3 above. The Review Board is of the view that elements of gratuitousness and the relishing of child abuse and torture pervade the film and outweigh considerations of the film as a serious exploration of the problem of child sexual abuse and torture in Nazi concentration camps, and its consequences. In the Board's opinion these made the film 'indecent'.

In coming to this view, the Board also had regard to current community concern about child exploitation and abuse, and considered that the portrayals in the film fell within the proscriptions in all States and Territories against 'films which depict a person (whether engaged in sexual activity or otherwise) who is......under the age of 16 years in a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult. The Board is of the opinion that, when judged by current community standards and concern about child sexual abuse, the film would be considered to be offensive. The current Guidelines for the Classification of Films ,which require that films which depict child sexual abuse be refused classification, reflects these State and Territory laws.

The film was considered by the Board to be well made, and to have as a major theme the horrific consequences of wartime Nazi child abuse on the young victims, rather than that of promoting such practices. However, in the Board's view, this is outweighed by the gratuitous elements of the film and the pervasive relishing of child abuse and torture. Further, the Board notes that the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations do not provide for the consideration of 'artistic or educational merit'.

The Review Board's decision is to confirm the ban, under Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulation

 

23rd January   Songs of Censorship

Note that the original Australian X18+ is similar to the BBFC R18 rating and would have prevented an Australian cinema release. The Australian R18+ is similar to the BBFC 18 rating and can be shown in cinemas

OFLC, the Australian censor, issued the following press release found on  www.refused-classification.com

9 Songs classified R18+ upon review

A five-member panel of the Classification Review Board has determined, in a 3 to 2 majority decision, that the film, 9 Songs, directed by Michael Winterbottom, is classified R18+ with the consumer advice, “Actual sex, High-level sex scenes ”.

Only persons aged 18 years and over can gain entry to a film that has been classified R18+.

In the Classification Review Board’s majority opinion, the film warrants an R18+, rather than an X18+ classification, because, while some scenes may offend some sections of the adult community, the actual sex scenes are justified by the context, narrative, tone and artistic merit.

Classification Review Board Convener Maureen Shelley said, 9 Songs depicts a couple’s emotional and physical relationship and the sexual activity is incidental to and reflective of this theme.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.

 

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