Film And Video Tape Classification (Amendment) Bill
FILM AND VIDEO TAPE CLASSIFICATION (AMENDMENT) BILL
Debate resumed from 5 May.
The Hon. R. D. DYER [5.20]: The Opposition indicates its support for the Film and Video Tape Classification (Amendment) Bill. The measure before the House, in essence, provides for the classification and regulation of computer games. It has the effect of complementing the Classification of Publications Amendment Ordinance 1994 of the Australian Capital Territory, which is intended to form the basis for a national classification scheme for computer games. The effects will be that computer games will be classified by the Commonwealth Office of Film and Literature Classification. That office already undertakes the classification of films, videos and publications on behalf of most States and Territories in Australia. In fact, the Commonwealth Office of Film and Literature Classification commenced classification of computer games on 11 April, and it has become necessary to legislate for that purpose in this State.
The proposed legislation provides for classification ratings of computer games ranging from G-rated games, which are suitable for even the youngest child, to MA-rated games, which are restricted to persons 15 years and over unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. A new G8 classification is also included in the bill. This takes into account advice from early childhood experts to the effect that children under eight years of age are less able than more mature children and adults to distinguish fact from fantasy. Last week the Attorney General said in his second reading speech that a particular attribute of computer games is their interactive nature. This creates a problem in regard to use, particularly by young children, in that the repetitive use of a game with violent content can have a harmful effect on the young people in question.
In his second reading speech the Minister stated that it is proposed that both X-rated and R-rated games be given a refused classification in New South Wales, and I am referring to computer games. The Opposition supports that approach. The Minister in his second reading speech said it was his understanding that a similar approach will be taken in all other Australian jurisdictions, both State and Territory, with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory. Clearly that is a disappointment, a problem, and it leaves a loophole. However, the Opposition's view is that it is the duty of the Government, the Opposition and all members of Parliament to act so far as possible to deal with the problem in this State.
The Attorney General pointed out also that the prohibition on X-rated and R-rated games is consistent with the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services using Electronic Technology. That committee reported in October 1993 on computer games and classification issues. The Minister raised a significant point when he indicated that the introduction of this legislation to regulate computer games is consistent with the Government's commitment to the United Nation's International Year of the Family. I wish to strongly associate the Opposition with that expression of opinion because the Opposition believes that it is appropriate in the International Year of the Family to support the Government's legislation.
The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith: What about my bill?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: In regard to the bill of the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith, I have noted that the Government has additional speakers on Thursdays to debate the bill, presumably because the Government envisages some problem with the legislation. The Opposition will indicate its attitude when and if the bill comes to a vote.
The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith: I have the Government's support.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The honourable member indicates that she has the Government's support. In that case I suggest she calls off some speakers and brings the matter to a vote. In any event, I am speaking to the Government's measure rather than the private measure. In regard to computer games, the Opposition is more than willing to support the legislation on its merit and on the basis that it is consistent with the Government's commitment to the International Year of the Family - a view adhered to by the Opposition. I outline my own concern and that of some of my colleagues in another place who have raised the issue of particular computer games. I refer to the offensive nature of some video games, and I call for some action in regard to the problems disclosed. Since the Minister gave his second reading speech last week press reports have referred to the quite extraordinary violence and distasteful content of some computer games. I should have thought that would be unhealthy for all members of society, let alone the children who have access to those types of video games.
For example, a report in the Daily Telegraph Mirror of 6 May referred to a game known as "Custer's Last Stand" which showed soldiers raping women. A game entitled "Auschwitz" shows a player winning by forcing the most people into gas ovens. Other games referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 May included one called "Streets of Rage", in which players use chains, whips and bats to kill opponents. Another game named "Street Fighter" is said to give realistic sounds when a punch or kick hits an opponent's body. A game called "Terminator 2" is based on the movie of the same name in which the hero violently kills his opponents. There are plenty of statistics and serious crime incidents to show that violence is a problem in our society. All the material to which I have referred is unhealthy and, as one member opposite said, quite sick in impact and content.
On 17 November last year in the other place my colleague the honourable member for Cabramatta raised a matter of concern in relation to Hyper, a video game review magazine targeted at the 10- to 14-year age group. One would think, reading many parts of that magazine, that it is intended for a relatively young age group. For example, the magazine's centrefold has displayed on its cover a picture of Walt Disney's Aladdin, with references to "Aladdin", "Thunder Hawk", "Battle Maniac's Final Fight" and other types of video games that young people might legitimately be interested in. However, inside the magazine is a quite amazing article containing obscene language. It is not necessary or appropriate for me to read the material on to the parliamentary record. However, I ask members to accept my word that the material is most certainly obscene and is unsuited to the age group at which it is targeted.
The Attorneys-General of this country are right in wanting to regulate video computer games and to put some of them beyond classification on the ground of their obscene or excessively violent content. Children and young persons of relatively tender years should be protected from some of this material. Computer bulletin boards containing most distasteful material can be accessed. Commercial interests involved in the distribution of these computer games suggest, conveniently for them, that the difficulty of controlling material accessible in computer bulletin boards is an argument against regulating video computer games. I reject that argument.
The Legislature should act against these games to the extent it can and should explore what other means are available to deal with other manifestations of this problem that might exist in society. The claim that some aspect of the problem is presently beyond the reach of the Legislature or beyond ready or easy control does not mean that the problem in computer and video games should not be fully addressed. The Opposition does not wish to delay the House. The issue is a serious one for our society. On the basis I have briefly mentioned, the Opposition indicates its firm support for the bill.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [5.35]: I am pleased to speak in support of the bill, and I commend the Attorney General for introducing it in this Parliament. I would like to share with honourable members a review published on 17 April in the Sunday Telegraph of a new computer game. One is led to conclude from the style of the review that it is written by a young person, someone called Jason Hill, though I do not know his age. His review states:
Playing Doom reminds me of watching one of those sick and gory horror movies like The Evil Dead.
Most of the time you're rolling about the floor laughing at the stupid and senseless violence, but occasionally you're very frightened - or sickened to the stomach.
So it is with Doom, one of the most violent and incredibly fun games ever.
You are a lone marine sent to deal with thousands of demons and psychopathic ex-marines at Phobos.
All you have is a measly pistol which won't get you very far.
The name of the game is "shoot everything that moves". You must try to find the exit to each level and make it out alive, using all the gadgets and weapons you can find along the way.
By far the best weapon available is the BFG 9000, which takes out every monster in a room. But don't expect to find one straight away.
For the most part, you must make do with your fists, pistol, shotguns and chain guns.
Rocket-launchers and plasma rifles are deadly and great fun, but the most enjoyment comes from finding the very well hidden chainsaw.
That is what we are talking about in the bill. There have been frequent examples in the press of the sorts of games our children and other children have been exposed to in recent years. This material is particularly prevalent overseas. Chris Brennan wrote about an overseas example in the Daily Telegraph Mirror of 31 May 1993. In that article he gave a description of three young boys sitting in a middle-class suburban home playing a very interactive computer game which builds into a crescendo of excitement as, on the screen:
Here's the magic of Doom. What other game allows you to hack through a cacodemon or imp with a chainsaw until their head explodes?
. . . a scantily dressed actress screams as she stumbles into the clutches of a ghastly chainsaw-wielding freak who thumps her to the ground and then grinds his chainsaw into her skull.
These are the sorts of computer games that are available and the direction that the interactive medium is heading. The social issues committee, in its inquiry into youth violence, has heard repeatedly from a range of experts, parents, teachers and academics. A broad range of people who have given testimony to the inquiry are extremely concerned about media violence and its impact on young people. Though concerns range broadly across various kinds of media and
perceived effects of medium, one example that has been brought to the committee's attention is computer games, because of their interactive nature. It is too early to assess how dangerous these materials are because research is not available. However, the experts are saying that they are more concerned about these games than they are about regular television - and regular television is certainly dangerous enough. A wide range of research is available on the effects of television violence.
In 1973, when a town in mountainous western Canada was wired for television signals, University of British Columbia researchers observed first and second graders. Within two years, the incidence of hitting, biting and shoving increased by 160 per cent among those children. Other researchers have followed a group of children for 22 years. They found at the end of that longitudinal study that watching violence on television is the single best predictor of violent or aggressive behaviour later in life. Perhaps the most fascinating example are the studies of communities into which television is introduced. Researchers are now going back and studying murder rates and violence rates in countries such as the United States and Canada. What they are now finding is that beginning from about the mid-1950s there was an increasing explosion of murder rates in both the United States and Canada which is now being linked back to the introduction of television in those countries.
Even more fascinating was the study of the introduction of television in South Africa. A University of Washington Professor, Brandon Centrewall, found that eight years after television was introduced in South Africa, South Africa's murder rate skyrocketed, just as had happened in the United States and Canada. The most telling finding in that case was that the crime rate increased first in the white community - the community that had had television first. There is a great deal of research, more than 3,000 studies, into this area, as has been alluded to by American expert Barry Weisberg. That is just one calculation. The evidence is now overwhelmingly that television violence is harmful. If we are concerned about a passive medium that children just sit in front of, how much more so must we be concerned about a medium with which they can interact and which allows them to increase the violence?
It is enormously important that we protect our children. Because of the appalling consequences of violence I am delighted that we are doing so. There is a great deal of public discussion at the moment about the level of violence in America. Much of the speculation appears to focus on the gun ownership laws of the United States. I am not about to defend the gun ownership laws of that country - which I think are quite insane - but Americans have always had those laws and have always had guns. There has not been a change in that particular social variable in the last half century or so. We have to look elsewhere for what has caused the particular explosion of violence in the United States in the last half century. And it has been an explosion.
Between 1938 and 1988 more Americans died from gunshots in the United States than from all of the wars in the history of that country. If Americans were killed by guns at the same rate as young African-American males, 260,000 people a year would be murdered. Is it coincidental with the level of violence on American television and movies? The escalation of violence went from eight murders in the film "Death Wish" in 1974 to 18 in "Die Hard" in 1988, 32 in "Robocop" in 1985, 62 in "Rambo 2" the same year, 74 in "Total Recall" in 1990, and 106 in "Rambo 3" in 1988. The film "Die Hard 2" escalates the figure to several hundred. I do not have that figure, but I have seen it. Consequently there is a huge explosion of violence.
I am of the firm conviction that violence in the United States is very strongly related to the pervasiveness of media violence and the accessibility of media violence. One of the most pernicious and dangerous forms of that media violence is the computer game, with its interactiveness. I am delighted that the Government is moving to control violence in computer games by careful and strict labelling and by not allowing the sale either of R-rated or X-rated computer games. My concern here is with violence. The producers of X-rated videos as well as X-rated computer games presumably argue that their product is non-violent. All the information that I have is that X-rated videos, and one presumes computer games as well, are extremely exploitative and they do appear to give thrills to their users by degrading and subjugating women. To my mind that is a form of violence, particularly in our society where thousands of women experience sexual violence in New South Wales alone every year. We cannot afford to be complacent about that.
I commend the Attorney General. I commend the Government. My only regret is that the Australian Capital Territory is not following on with this legislation, unfortunately. There will continue to be a loophole whereby our children will be able to get access to this poison. I can only commend to all members that we and all other concerned citizens, not just in New South Wales but in Australia, have to pressure the Government of the Australian Capital Territory to become socially responsible and start having a concern for our children too.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [5.46]: The Australian Democrats support the Film and Video Tape Classification (Amendment) Bill. This bill complements the Classification of Publications Amendment Ordinance of 1994 of the Australian Capital Territory. This ordinance was endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers responsible for censorship earlier this year and was intended to be the basis of a national classification scheme for computer games. Accordingly, the bill provides for the classification of computer games and creates certain offences concerned with the sale, distribution and demonstration of computer games. The bill is in response to community concern about ultra-violent and sexually explicit computer games.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer has already talked about the game named "Auschwitz" which has the objective of cramming as many Jewish people as possible into a gas chamber. He also mentioned "Custer's Last Stand", in which soldiers rape American Indian women. The classification of computer games will be carried out by the Commonwealth Office of Film and Literature Classification. The categories are in line with those proposed by the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies. These are "G", games suitable for children from the earliest time they can see a television screen to the age of 7; "G8", eight to 14 years; "M", 15 to 17 years; "MA" restricted to those of 15 or more years unless accompanied by a parent or guardian; and "R", games restricted to those of 18 years of age and over.
However, given the interactive nature of computer games, classification guidelines will be much stricter for computer games. Both R-rated and X-rated videos will be refused classification in New South Wales. This approach will be followed throughout Australia except for the Australian Capital Territory. This is because many parents do not necessarily have the competency to ensure adequate parental guidance. I am also informed that the early stages of some of these games - bear in mind that parents are not as computer literate as their children and may not be able to carry the games through - the games appear reasonably acceptable. Further into these games the scenes become more violent. Therefore it is possible that a parent may look at only the beginning of the game and think it is acceptable, and may not even be around when the child has got into really dangerous territory where it will undoubtedly have an effect on him and possibly totally damage his personality.
The legislation will also cover all advertisements relating to computer games, and to computer games including trailers advertising other games. I hope that in this regard it will also cover the trailers on videotapes. I frequently hire videotapes. I am not interested in violent videos of any sort and I am frequently horrified when I watch the trailers and see a lot of material that I would not want to hire under any circumstances. The films that I hire are suitable not only for me but possibly also for my young grandchildren. The children who watch those videos are therefore exposed to trailers of extremely violent so-called entertainment which normal parents would never wish them to see. That should be considered by the classification board.
In spite of the remarks of the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith about the number of studies that have now been carried out in the United States, it is true to say there is no statistically conclusive evidence that the consumption of violent material through the media leads to the user engaging in violent acts. However, there is sufficient anecdotal evidence; therefore it is important for this classification system to be put in place. I would also support research being carried out by the Office of Film and Literature Classification into the effects of video games and computer games. I would support such research being based on the effects on the public in Australia, so that we are provided with our own empirical evidence and do not rely on evidence that has been collected in the United States. United States society is totally different from Australian society, and has a totally different racial mix as well as an inherited belief that all Americans have a right to carry a gun.
The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith mentioned that she did not believe that the right to carry arms in the United States had led to greater violence in the past. I wonder whether that is not a chicken and egg argument. Are the many videos and movies available in the United States fuelling the desire for people in the United States to have even more guns? Did they have the same number of guns at the time the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith was referring to as they have now? When I was involved in the gun control committee I became aware that it is not unusual for an ordinary law-abiding citizen in the United States to have as many as three or four guns in the family car and that it is perfectly acceptable - in fact expected - that the majority of women have small handguns for so-called personal protection. I do not think it was the norm in the more settled parts of America 50 or 75 years ago, though it may have been the case in the frontier States.
The Government needs to consider how to address pornographic and ultra-violent material on bulletin boards. This will create complex regulatory problems and will probably need some measures of prohibition at source. Honourable members may be aware that at one time I was Vice-President of Actors Equity of Australia. About 10 days ago Michael Crosby, who was the Assistant Secretary-General of Actors Equity at that time, returned to Australia for a 10-day holiday. He is now the Secretary-General of the International Federation of Actors in Great Britain and travels widely in America and Europe. He was explaining to a meeting held in the Media Alliance headquarters in Chalmers Street the problems that will come into existence when we move into the new age of technology with the superhighway. It is already possible for people with satellite dishes in Europe and in America to phone in to a source in Atlanta, Georgia for all types of music. That music is then played through satellite on sound systems in their own homes.
Within a few years it will be possible for them to obtain computer games, by a telephone call, played into their computers and films played through their home television sets. This will be done by joining a club and paying a small fee for club membership. We will have to face that when it happens, because there is no doubt that although a wide range of entertainment will be available through these sources - fine music, classical music, good films, possibly excellent television documentary programs such as those produced by David Attenborough and the science unit of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the classical dramas that are produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation in collaboration with many European television
production companies - there will also be channels which devote their entire output to violent pornographic material, violent and pornographic music and the most violent video games. We have to find some way of controlling the input of that material, which will be available by satellite.
When I discussed this matter with the Attorney General at the crossbench meeting recently he said that satellite dishes will be expensive and people will not be able to afford them. Currently in Australia a satellite dish costs about $5,000, but possibly within five years a small satellite dish will cost the same as a video recorder costs now and will be available to every home in Australia. Australia already has the highest number of video recorders of any western country, because that is the type of electronic appliance that Australians like to spend their money on. There will be many problems in future in this regard, and it is only proper that these matters should be addressed as a matter of urgency. I was horrified to read in the Sydney Morning Herald that there is a loophole in our legislation. The Sydney Morning Herald of 6 May stated:
An excited cheer goes up from the boys who have carefully controlled the action of this computer game all the way to its blood curdling end.
The article referred to bulletin boards and to some of the terrible programs that were so graphically described by the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith. There are 976 bulletin boards in Australia compared with only 193 five years ago. Again, Australia is the second largest user of bulletin boards outside the United States of America in spite of our small population in comparison to that of the United States. An investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald found that one Sydney bulletin board was offering users images detailing sexual intercourse, homosexuality, incest, child pornography and bestiality. I think that would cause great alarm for all honourable members, however much they demanded anti-discrimination legislation for the homosexual community.
I was happy to see that the Federal Government established a task force, which will hand down recommendations about how to control the spread of information through bulletin boards. It is also appropriate to put on the record that a survey by the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia found that computer games encouraged emotional detachment as well as negative responses to real life situations. It found that games such as Leisure Suit Larry, Spellcater 101, the Elle show and the Cindy show were usually obtained through friendship networks; therefore they were impossible to police. Pamela Carder, a member of the association's social issues committee said:
Children will still be able to play sexually explicit and violent games on their home computers despite a State Government ban this week . . .
She went on to talk about war-type games and said:
You cannot stop children getting hold of them through the network of older siblings.
Teachers also found that, when children were playing these games, they got excited and the adrenalin began to rush. It was suggested to some children at that point that they should stop playing the games. However, there is a possibility that some children might not and the damage is done. I believe we have to take on board very rapidly the problem that has arisen over bulletin boards. That is not a matter that has been addressed by this legislation. I discovered an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Australian Capital Territory was holding out over the video ban. The Attorney General accused the Australian Capital Territory Government of compromising community safety by failing to join a ban on X-rated and R-rated computer games. Other honourable members might have seen, as I did, the Attorney General on the "7.30 Report" the other night.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Our Attorney General?
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: Our Attorney General, yes. I applauded the stand he took. I was quite appalled when I discovered that the Australian Capital Territory Government is so greedy, stupid and totally wrong that it will not join all the other States and the Northern Territory in implementing, on a national basis, this important legislation. The article to which I referred in the Sydney Morning Herald states:
These games harm children and teachers have found that some children actually mimic in the playground the violent behaviour they see in the games.
It was at that point that I became aware that a disallowance motion was to be moved in the Senate on this important matter. Yesterday I received from the office of the Whip of the Australian Democrats, Senator Vicki Bourne, the following memorandum:
At a meeting of state Attorneys-General set down for June, Mr Hannaford will increase the pressure on the ACT Government for a uniform approach to the classification of film, video and computer games endorsed by all other States.
I got in touch with Senator Bourne's office because I was hoping that some pressure could be brought to bear on Senator Tierney. Members of the Government are able to do that because Senator Tierney is a Liberal senator. The excuse I was given at the time was that it was unlikely that he would be bringing on this motion as a matter of urgency because he would be tied up with budget debate this week. There are many things in the Budget with which he may or may not agree, but I believe that so far as he and his leader are concerned, his disallowance motion should take precedence over the Budget. I have the telephone number for Senator Tierney. I also have the telephone number for the secretary of the community standards committee. I believe that pressure should be brought to bear on Senator Tierney and the Federal Opposition to ensure that this important motion is brought on in the Senate as a matter of urgency. I will read the notice of motion:
. . . two disallowance motions moved by Senator Tierney on 4 May. Fourteen sitting days remain for these motions to be dealt with, i.e. before 22 June. Senator Tierney can bring them on any time he is ready but we are not expecting debate this week. Next sitting period starts 30 May.
Senator Tierney: To move - That section 4 of the Classification of Publications (Amendment) (No.2) Ordinance 1994, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No.1 of 1994 and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, be disallowed.
Fourteen sitting days remain for resolving.
Senator Tierney then lists all the sections of that ordinance that he wishes to disallow which relate to R-rated and X-rated videos. I was not aware - but I am delighted to discover - that in these cases it is possible for the Senate to override the powers of the Australian Capital Territory Government. If we need any further ammunition or any additional confirmation that the Senate is most necessary and should not be abolished, which is what has been suggested by the Prime Minister, and in order to prevent the Senate from further attack, which is what the Prime Minister is so fond of doing, this is a concrete example of the value of the Senate. I urge honourable members to get in touch with their parties and the senators representing their parties to ensure that that loophole in the Australian Capital Territory is closed by rapid disallowance in the Senate, which I believe should be done as a matter of urgency.
Once that material starts filtering into New South Wales it will change hands. We will not be able at that time to say that it is illegal because the legislation will have been proclaimed. By that late stage the material might have fallen into the hands of people who could take great pleasure in distributing it or even copying it illegally. It is not always easy for this sort of material to be tracked down once it is available in this State, either through illegal means from video stores which are not obeying the legislation, or being passed from hand to hand in a network of friends, particularly a network of young people who are not under the proper control of their parents. I ask honourable members to try to bring some pressure to bear so that the Senate acts in that way. The Government, all members and all Attorneys-General should put pressure on the Australian Capital Territory Government at the meeting of Attorneys-General to be held later in June. I support the legislation.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [6.9]: The Call to Australia group is very pleased to support the Film and Video Tape (Amendment) Bill and congratulate the Attorney General on bringing forward this legislation. With the co-operation of the other States, this will be uniform legislation. However, there is a major loophole with the situation in the Australian Capital Territory. I am sure that situation is causing concern to members of this House and to the Attorneys-General of the other States. Every effort has been made to obtain uniformity, but the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly appears to want to go it alone. The objects of the bill are:
Senator Tierney: To move - That the following parts of the Classification of Publications (Amendment) Ordinance 1994, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No.1 of 1994 . . .
To amend the Film and Video Tape Classification Act 1984 to provide for the classification of computer games and to create certain offences concerned with the sale, display, distribution and demonstration of computer games. The Bill complements the Classification of Publications (Amendment) Ordinance 1994 of the Australian Capital Territory ("the A.C.T. amendments") which commenced on 11 April 1994, and is part of the classification scheme for computer games agreed on between the Commonwealth, Territory and State Ministers responsible for censorship. For the sake of uniformity, this Bill follows the terminology used in the A.C.T. amendments.
In that regard Call to Australia believes it is far more desirable to see MA 15+ clearly defined as AO, or adults only. That was the original classification and it was far clearer and more meaningful than the proposed classifications. I doubt whether many parents understand MA as meaning 15 years plus, whereas even a simple-minded adult or parent would realise that a classification for adults only means it is suitable for those of 18 years and over. MA, which has taken the place of AO, has been redefined as 15 years plus. I believe a lot of that material is suitable for adults only, even though I have reservations about it being seen by anyone, a young person or an adult. I believe it would be more accurate if it was AO, that is, suitable for persons over the age of 18 only.
In the past problems occurred with the question of film and tape classifications by the Commonwealth, acting on behalf of New South Wales. The whole issue of quality control is a State right. I believe the Commonwealth review organisations - the censorship board, the classification board and the review boards - have acted irresponsibly, although I hope that situation will improve. If it does not, New South Wales should consider restoring its own State power. Queensland had that power until recently and I am sure that State regrets that the new Labor Government abolished that power. I understand the Western Australian Government is considering reintroducing certain controls because of its concern, which I share, about the operations of the Commonwealth.
It would be a pity to have a breakdown in uniformity, with some films shown in some States yet banned in other States. That is a reason for uniformity. But if decent standards cannot be obtained, there is no choice. If the choice is between uniformity with low standards, or State rights with high standards, I would opt for State rights, providing positive leadership for the six or seven million people of New South Wales. It must be noted also that the Australian Capital Territory is the weak link. I know pressure can be put on the Senate, and I am always
seeking to do that, and to work with co-operative senators. Over the years I have worked with Senator Harradine and Senator Walters who have tried devices such as disallowance motions, but with little success. I hope this new effort will be successful.
The mentality of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly gives cause for deep concern. Instead of Australia's capital being a place to be proud of, it seems to be setting the pace for the lowest possible standards. Leaving aside the present issue relating to film and videotape classification, in recent months that Government has been involved with legalisation of brothels in Canberra, including publicity such as an open day for people to visit a brothel. There have been changes to the marijuana laws in the Territory, and also consideration of the legalisation of euthanasia. With the strong support of the Labor members of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly and some of the Independents, particularly Mr Moore, the Australian Capital Territory Government seems to be hellbent on dragging Australia's capital down to the lowest possible level.
Members of the Liberal Party-National Party coalition and the Labor Party should make urgent contact with their respective party members in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly and tell them that enough is enough, that they want responsible leadership from them. The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly should not regard itself a spearhead for permissive policies, setting the pace - downwards, in my opinion - in controversial, sensitive areas in which State governments, whether coalition or Labor, have moved carefully. In many cases State governments have held conservative views on these controversial issues. The Australian Capital Territory seems to be throwing that out the window. It is not considering the concerns of the people of the Australian Capital Territory, not to mention its failure to consider the concerns of the country. The Australian Capital Territory Government should be working in harmony with other States and should be concerned about the welfare of our capital city.
Canberra should be a place of pride for all; it should not be known as the pot capital, the porn capital or the pimp capital. I believe those terms can now be applied to Canberra and that is a disgrace. In this debate some speakers have raised the question of a link between sexual violence depicted in videos and films and violent behaviour. I have seen studies that show a definite link. If the members of the House want to spend time on a matter of public importance I can take them through those studies. A large number of studies have been conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom that show a causal link. I am amazed that some honourable members - I think the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby was among them - said that no studies show that link. Studies relating to children have been conducted specifically for that purpose.
I remember one report I read in detail by Dr Belson in the United Kingdom who conducted an extensive study on this theme. That study showed the direct association between the violence that children were seeing either on film or television, and their behaviour. The children were monitored and filmed in the school playground and they demonstrated not only violent behaviour but imitated the violent behaviour they had seen on the violent film or television program. The children were not only more violent but were using the same violence that they had seen in a particular television or video program. I would go further and say that the evidence exists and the onus is now on producers of violent videos and video games to prove that no link exists. Why should the Festival of Light, Call to Australia, the Catholic Church or Catholic school organisations have to spend time and money proving that there is a link? Let the producers try to prove that no link exists. They will not be able to do so.
Many universities that conduct research programs that may appear to have a neutral result or try to argue the absence of any link are staffed by researchers who are emotionally opposed to all forms of censorship. An anti-censorship philosophy is dominant in universities; that is understandable. However, I believe that philosophical approach has had an effect on research, in particular with some of the major research studies conducted in various areas. The Kinsey studies have been totally discredited because of the built-in bias of researchers. The evidence shows that other researchers have been able to acquire the research material relating to the experiments and have discovered that the deductions are not even based on the research; they have no direct link with it. Other researchers would have come to different conclusions.
One of the modern tragedies is that universities often have a strong philosophical position that is conveyed to students by lecturers. Those students become researchers and much of the bias is carried forward with them. There can be deliberate bias in their research, or the bias can occur unwittingly, because of the built-in bias. The researchers would always be looking from another angle and would not be realistic or face up to the facts. I understand that a similar thing has happened in the debate on marijuana and its health dangers. Researchers who have used marijuana, or are using it, find it difficult to come to the conclusion that it is harmful.
Debate adjourned on motion by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile.
[The President left the chair at 6.23 p.m. The House resumed at 8.30 p.m.]
At present under the Film and Video Tape Classification Act 1984, arrangements are made with the Commonwealth for the functions of a censor of film to be exercised, on behalf of New South Wales, by a Commonwealth authority. This arrangement will be extended to computer games, so that the classifications for computer games as determined by the Commonwealth censor can be applied in New South Wales. The classifications ratings for computer games will be "G", "G (8+)", "M (15+) and "MA (15+)". Computer games classified as "R (18+)" or "X (18+)" by the Commonwealth censor will automatically be refused classification in New South Wales.