Films, Videos, And Publications Classification Amendment Bill (no. 3)

  • Tony Ryall
Justice

SECOND READING SPEECH NOTES
I move that the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Bill (No. 3) be now read a second time.

Mr Speaker it is my intention that the bill be referred to the Commerce Select Committee for report back to the House.

I should like to thank all the parties in the House for their co-operation in this matter and acknowledge their contribution to the passage of this bill.

While I am not proposing any specific report back date I would appreciate the Committee giving the bill some priority.

This is because one of the amendments contained in the bill relates to the relabelling of videos and needs to be brought into force by 1 April 1999.

The bill makes two amendments to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

First, it provides greater flexibility in relation to the terms of appointment for the Chief Censor of Film and Literature, the Deputy Censor and the classification officers of the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Second, it removes the requirement for videos previously labelled under the Video Recordings Act 1987 to be relabelled under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act by 1 April 1999.

Currently the Act imposes certain restrictions on the terms of office for the Chief Censor, Deputy Censor and classification officers.

A person may only hold office in any of these positions for a maximum of two consecutive terms, with each term being no longer than three years.

After that a person may not hold any of these positions again for at least three years.

The restrictions imposed by the Act have proved too inflexible for a number of reasons.

The maximum period of office of six years prevents the Classification Office from retaining officers with experience and expertise.

It also hinders the development of any career structure because classification officers cannot effectively be promoted to the Deputy Censor or Chief Censor positions.

Furthermore, the restriction to two terms has caused difficulties because it applies regardless of the length of the terms or the reason a term ends.

This means a classification officer cannot practically switch between full-time and part-time positions.

It has also prevented the development of a pool of part-time classification officers, who could be drawn upon, from time-to-time, in response to the often unpredictable fluctuations in the Office of Film and Literature Classification's volume of work.

The bill therefore amends the Act to allow the Chief Censor, Deputy Censor and classification officers to be employed for any number of consecutive terms provided that no term exceeds three years.

The change will allow the Office of Film and Literature Classification to retain experienced staff and be more responsive towards changes in volume of work.

It will also allow a career structure to be developed within the Office.

The second amendment contained in the bill relates to the current provisions in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 that provide that videos labelled under the Video Recordings Act 1987 cannot be legally supplied to the public from 1 April 1999 unless they have been relabelled under the 1993 Act by that date.

When the 1993 Act was passed, transitional regulations were made allowing the continued supply of videos labelled under the Video Recordings Act up until 1 April 1999.

After this date any video supplier who offers to the public videos not labelled under the principal Act commits an offence.

The objective of the relabelling requirement was to ensure that within five years there would be one comprehensive labelling system, covering both films and videos.

However, the relabelling requirement imposes large compliance costs on the video industry as it applies to about 60% of all videos currently supplied to the public.

Because of the compliance costs and practicality of physically relabelling all these videos it was decided that the relabelling requirement for videos should be removed.

The practical effect of this is that the two labelling systems currently operating will continue in place.

The two labelling systems have operated side-by-side since 1994 with few apparent difficulties.

However, to minimise the potential for any confusion in the future, video outlets will be required to display a poster explaining the ratings and labels under both systems.

Over time, a process of attrition will eventually remove from the shelves of video suppliers most of those videos that are currently labelled under the older Video Recordings Act 1987.

It should be noted that the bill only removes the requirement for videos to be relabelled.

It does not alter the requirement to relabel films labelled under the Films Act 1983.

Films exhibited to the public from 1 April 1999 will still have had to be relabelled under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classifications Act 1993.

I commend the bill to the House.