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X marks the rot as we go the way of China and Iran

23 January 2010 No Comment

X marks the rot as we go the way of China and Iran

THE last couple of months have seen a tsunami of censorship wash over Australia. Once we were a nation where the freedom of non-violent ideas and speech was guaranteed but now we are sadly approaching China and Iran, as one of the worst nanny states in the world.

Last month a Sydney man became the first person in Australia to be jailed for selling an X-rated DVD from his adult shop. What this means is that he was jailed for selling a film that had been classified by our federal authorities as suitable for all Australian adults to import, buy, sell and possess. X-rated films are strictly non-violent and show only consenting adults, so how is it possible that you can go to jail in NSW for complying with commonwealth law?

This ludicrous situation is only possible when a large group of state politicians and people in positions of authority, have an ideological agenda that they wish to pursue against the commonwealth. In this case, it’s a moral witch-hunt by Christian and morals campaigners in NSW.

Last month a Melbourne man became the first person in Australia to be charged with making an X-rated film. Again, this person faces a jail sentence for complying with commonwealth laws. As in the case of NSW, these laws and penalties have been on the Victorian statute books for over a quarter of a century and have never been acted on. Now, within the space of a couple of months, the sleeping monster has awakened.

These NSW and Victorian charges are being brought under legislation that is outdated and illogical. It is not an offence in Victoria to make or take explicit photos of people having sex, only to film them. So on any modern digital camera, the difference between shooting within the law and without is a flick of the mode switch. It’s a joke. And so are the attorneys-general in both states who make out that silly laws are acceptable legislation for people to live by.

The case in Victoria is a wake-up call to the hundreds of thousands of Australian adults who have used their digital camera to film themselves in a sexual act. The state is coming for you, so you’d better delete all those old films you made in an amorous moment, take down all those clips you made for the dating site and retrieve all those little keepsakes you have ever sent a lover in the past. Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls and his NSW counterpart, John Hatzistergos, will send the police in to break your door down and find the evidence.

The humourless Hatzistergos has also announced that artistic merit will no longer be considered as a defence in any child pornography charge in NSW. Then he asked for more public comment. Hatzistergos should have finalised public comment before making his announcement, not after. Clearly he has already made up his mind on the matter, so why bother with the charade of public consultation? This proposed law is totally unjustified and will be used by Christian campaigners and fundamentalist feminists to punish innocent people. Child pornography laws under the Crimes Act and the NSW Classification Act already deal with this issue extensively and if judges and police officers cannot distinguish between evil child porn and art when they see it, then it’s probably art.

This law will seriously influence the selection of photos by newspaper editors, the stock in public libraries and the way in which child sex education is imparted in schools. It’s a move that is designed to fit beautifully with a moralistic Christian approach to sex education where the trick seems to be to say as little as possible about it. Indeed the Rudd government’s recent $70 million allocation to Exclusive Brethren schools is to be given without any guarantees of proper sex education courses being taught.

The NSW Attorney-General needs to clarify what his proposed change to the law would mean to the general public. How will it affect people’s home libraries, for example? How do the tens of thousands of people in NSW who have a copy of one of David Hamilton’s books or a copy of his R-rated film, Bilitus, fare under this new law? Each one of this famous royal photographer’s books shows underage girls in nude and clearly sexualised poses. Hamilton is not the only artist who depicts nude children in sensual and sexual poses for artistic intent or social comment.

The US photographer Jock Sturgess and up to a dozen other acknowledged photographers have thousands of books on sale and in people’s homes that show underage models in sensuous and sexual poses. What about Annie Liebowitz’s recent nude photos of 15-year-old pop diva Miley Cyrus? There was clearly a sexual tension to them. Also anyone who has a book of Lewis Carroll photos should be writing to the Attorney-General to clarify their situation.

If child porn is now determined to be any depiction of a minor in a sexualised pose without the defence of artistic merit, Hatzistergos should recall all these books or he will allow a very dangerous double standard. The average police officer who sees a photo of a child in the same poses as Hamilton’s or Carroll’s photos but in the family album, could even charge the parents with making child porn.

The Rudd government’s new position paper on R-rated computer games goes out of its way to let everyone know that the debate does not and will never include X-rated games. But why not? The R and X ratings are both restricted categories for adults and uniform laws on censorship should be the norm. Reports from the US say the X- rated industry over there is making all the running on the new 3D technology, so why not include this sector in federal-state discussions?

Ironically, Iran is showing Australia how to manage a government-controlled blacklist of transgressive internet sites. It publishes them. At least Iranians know what their government is banning. The infiltration of religion and moral panic into Australian politics continues apace.

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