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Ken Park is dangerous to those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation

By Nick Ferrett - posted Tuesday, 22 July 2003

I saw on the television news recently that a number of people attended a screening of Ken Park in secret. Apparently they were making a statement. The nature of that statement is unclear, but it is evidently in the nature of a wholesome protest against government censorship.

The controversy surrounding the movie arises from the fact that it portrays underage sex. The cry goes out: "The Government shouldn't tell me what I can and cannot watch." It is the cry of the absolutist, the person who believes that freedom of speech and freedom of expression should know no bounds.

I want to be free to say what I want. I want to be able to express myself as I see fit. I don't want other people to be able to say things about me which are scandalous and untrue and ruin my reputation as a result. As a liberal who prefers to live in a society rather than a vacuum, I understand that the freedoms that I want can never be absolute because such absolutism restricts the rights of others. Circumstances arise all the time where competing rights have to be balanced. Censorship is a necessary tool to do so sometimes.


Ken Park is a sex film. I have no complaint about adults watching sex films. If they want to watch them, no-one ought to be allowed to stand in their way. Ken Park is a film about child sex. I don't care what justification is advanced by people who want to watch child sex films. They should be prevented from doing so. I say this because once you make a film about child sex, you bring other people's rights into play - namely those members of society who are children.

"Ah", you say, "but there are no minors in the film. It portrays underage sex but it uses consenting adults to do so." That is not the point. The portrayal is of underage sex. If someone painted a pornographic picture of children having sex, it wouldn't be excluded from classification as child pornography merely because no actual children had been involved in its production.

The film is likely to titillate those who want to have sex with children. That is enough to ban it. Although I have not seen it, I doubt it makes some important political statement which redeems it. It may be "raw" and "factual" as members of the chatterati like to say, but it is still child pornography.

The film is likely to encourage sex among those who are probably emotionally under-equipped to do it. This isn't a situation where the "they're going to do it anyway argument" will cut it. This isn't about distributing condoms or giving advice about STD's. This is about making it more socially acceptable when it shouldn't be made more socially acceptable. We shouldn't encourage children to risk pregnancy. We shouldn't encourage children to be sexually active because it makes them more vulnerable to exploitation by child molesters. Help those who will do it anyway but don't make it more socially acceptable as a matter of generality.

Incredibly, a debate arose on the letters page of The Australian a couple of weeks ago in which some asserted that if David Irving had been allowed to sprout his anti-Jewish, holocaust-denying claptrap, why should citizens not be allowed to see Ken Park? There is a very simple answer. David Irving, however crazy and hateful his ideas, seeks to debate history and politics. Censoring those who only seek to argue about truth and politics is a significant and impermissible limit on our freedom because debate about them is central to a free society. In any event, there is the criminal law and hate crimes legislation which protect the community from the more extreme elements of Mr Irving's cabal of followers.

The right to watch child pornography is not central to a free society. In fact, to the extent that it inspires or facilitates sexual exploitation of children it is antithetical.


Interestingly, those who sought to persecute Peter Hollingworth have been strangely quiet on this issue.

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About the Author

Nick Ferrett is a Brisbane-based Barrister.

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Australian Censorship History
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