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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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