Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Classification of Publications, Films and Computer Games) Bill

Second Reading

It is with pleasure that I introduce this bill, which amends the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, to abolish in the South Australian Classification Council and repeal the Classification of Theatrical Performances Act 1978.

 

This bill is one of the many measures that the Marshall Liberal government is implementing to ensure that our laws stay current and relevant to contemporary South Australian needs. As some members may know, the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act is dealt with under a national scheme, which was implemented by the Commonwealth Classification (Publications Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, which hereinafter I will refer to as the ‘commonwealth act’.

The commonwealth act establishes the Classification Board, an independent statutory body which makes classification decisions for films, computer games and certain publications in accordance with the criteria set out in the National Classification Code and Classification Guidelines. The commonwealth act also establishes the Classification Review Board, which can review certain decisions of the Classification Board and make new classification decisions where appropriate.

Each state and territory has enforcement legislation which complements the commonwealth act and which sets out how material may be sold, hired, exhibited, advertised and demonstrated. In South Australia, the classification of publications, film and computer games is governed by the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the SA classification act).

Part 2 of the SA Classification Act establishes the South Australian Classification Council. The council is a separate statutory body, in that it may examine and classify a publication, film or computer game, and determine relevant consumer advice. This may be done on the initiative of the council or on the direction of the minister.

South Australia and the Northern Territory are currently the only jurisdictions to maintain a separate body for classification. All other jurisdictions rely on the Commonwealth Classification Board for the handling of complaints and classification decisions. The Classification Board offers the same complaint resolution service as the council. Since it was first established in 1995, the council has classified only 29 items, that is, 24 publications and five films under the SA classification act. A further film was refused classification by the former attorney-general, the Hon. John Rau MP, in 2011.

The council has not made any classification decisions in relation to a publication, film or computer game since 2011, and the council has not met since 2014. In view of this information, I subsequently undertook broad consultation with relevant government industry and advocacy bodies to seek their views on whether the council should be abolished. I am pleased to advise that there was overwhelming support for the bill and the repeal of the council. All submissions received on the bill either indicated their support for reforms or provided a ‘no comment’ response.

In particular, stakeholders noted that the bill will help to reduce regulatory confusion amongst industry and consumers and bring greater consistency and uniformity to the content classification regime in Australia. The commonwealth Minister for Communications, Cybersecurity and Arts, the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, has also written to me to express his support for the bill, and he has not identified any issues of concerns with the proposed amendments at a federal level.

In light of the relative inactivity of the council in recent years, and the extensive overlap of functions between the work of the council and the Classification Board under the national scheme, it is therefore the government’s view that it is appropriate the council should be abolished. As a result of these amendments, it is intended that all complaints and matters relating to classification of publications, films and computer games will be determined in accordance with the national scheme under the commonwealth act. This will ensure that all material classified for South Australia is assessed by the Commonwealth Classification Board in the same way that material in other states and territories is currently classified and that any consumer advice issued will be consistent across the participating jurisdictions.

In addition to abolishing the council, the bill also repeals the Classification of Theatrical Performances Act 1978 (the theatrical performances act). Under this act the council has powers to review and classify theatrical performances and to impose conditions restricting the publication of advertisements in certain circumstances.

Since the theatrical performances act was first enacted in 1978, the council has only ever classified two theatrical performances and, notably, has not reviewed any theatrical performances since 1997. No other Australian jurisdiction currently regulates the classification of theatrical performances. While the theatrical performances act may have once provided a legitimate benefit to South Australians, it is clear that the act has now long outlived its original purpose and is out of step with contemporary South Australian attitudes. Accordingly, it is the government's view that it is appropriate that the theatrical performances act be repealed.

It is the government's view also that these reforms will create a simpler and more efficient classification process for both consumers and industry alike by avoiding unnecessary duplication, delay and expense. I commend the bill to members and I seek leave to have the explanation of clauses inserted in Hansard without my reading it.

Leave granted.

Explanation of Clauses

Part 1—Preliminary

1—Short title

2—Commencement

3—Amendment provisions

These clauses are formal.

Part 2—Amendment of Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995

4—Amendment of long title

This clause amends the long title to reflect the content of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 as amended by this measure.

5—Substitution of section 3

This clause repeals the provision setting out the objects of the Act and substitutes new objects.

3—Objects

Proposed section 3 provides that the objects of the Act are—

(a) to give effect to the scheme for the classification of publications, films and computer games set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 of the Commonwealth by—

(i) making provision for the enforcement of classification decisions applying in South Australia; and

(ii) prohibiting the publication of certain publications, films and computer games; and

(b) to provide protection against prosecution under laws relating to obscenity, indecency, offensive materials or blasphemy when classified publications, films or computer games are published in accordance with the Act.

6—Amendment of section 4—Interpretation

This clause amends a number of definitions. The changes are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

7—Repeal of Parts 2 and 3

This clause repeals Parts 2 and 3 of the Act which established the South Australian Classification Council and set up a State publications, films and computer games classification scheme administered by the Council and the Minister.

8—Amendment of section 28—Exhibition of film in public place

The amendment made by this clause is consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

9—Amendment of section 37—Sale of films

The amendment made by this clause is consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

10—Amendment of section 40—Films to bear determined markings and consumer advice

The amendments made by this clause are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

11—Amendment of section 47—Category 1 restricted publications

The amendments made by this clause are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

12—Amendment of section 48—Category 2 restricted publications

The amendments made by this clause are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

13—Amendment of section 48A—Sale or delivery of publications contrary to conditions

The amendment made by this clause is consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

14—Amendment of section 50—Misleading or deceptive markings

The amendments made by this clause are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

15—Amendment of section 60—Computer games to bear determined markings and consumer advice

The amendments made by this clause are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

16—Amendment of section 66—Certain advertisements not to be published

The amendment made by this clause is consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

17—Amendment of section 72—Advertisement to contain determined markings and consumer advice

The amendments made by this clause are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

18—Amendment of section 73—Misleading or deceptive advertisements

The amendments made by this clause are consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

19—Amendment of section 83—Evidence

The amendment made by this clause is consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

20—Repeal of section 90

The repeal of section 90 is consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.

Part 3—Amendment of Summary Offences Act 1953

21—Amendment of section 33—Indecent or offensive material

The amendment to section 33 is consequential on the repeal of Parts 2 and 3 of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.

Part 4—Repeal of Classification of Theatrical Performances Act 1978

22—Repeal of Act

This clause repeals the Classification of Theatrical Performances Act 1978.

Part 5—Transitional provisions

23—Transitional provisions

This clause ensures that members of the South Australian Classification Council will cease to hold office when the repeal of Part 2 of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 comes into operation. It also ensures that part-heard processes and proceedings before the Council or the Minister before that repeal takes effect can continue to be dealt with and completed by the Minister after the repeal of Part 2 takes effect.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Brown.