Bi-partisanship is rare in modern politics but on the failure of our film and literature classification system to serve the interests of children and parents, both sides are in furious agreement.
Before the election Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told an ACL web-cast audience that the classification system was “broken”.
And in a pre-election video interview with ACL’s Managing Director Jim Wallace, Prime Minister Julia Gillard responded to community concerns about the sexualisation of children saying that “there’s work to do on classifications and content” and that there would be a review in the light of the “new media environment”.
She went on to say: “I think that’s an appropriate approach, so we know that we’re dealing with classifications properly across all media and are live to this issue, about what it means to young people and what it means to children.”
The Gillard Government has made good on this promise with the Attorney General Robert McClelland tasking the Australian Law Reform Commission to review the National Classification System and report back by January 2012.
So broken is the classification system that there are five recent and on-going Government, parliamentary and Senate Inquires into problems with the system.
These do not count two Senate Inquires held during the Rudd Government’s tenure examining the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media and advertising standards.
The ALRC review is in addition to these and will examine each as it seeks to develop recommendations for a “new or reformed classification system”.
This is why the Justice Minister Brendan O’Conner’s decision this week to propose the introduction of new forms of extreme sex and violence in computer games is difficult to understand.
The extent of the brokenness of the classification system was revealed last year when the Classification Board and later the Classification Review Board granted an R18+ classification to the film Salo, a film with a long history of being refused classification because among other things it contains scenes of ‘simulated paedophilia’.
Sexual abuse of minors is prohibited by the guidelines but this did not stop the board going against their own rules to give Salo the green light.
In Senate Estimates last year, the Director of the Classification Board, Donald McDonald justified the decision saying ‘simulated paedophilia could be acceptable in the context of a particular film’.
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