Ms Patten (Northern Metropolitan) — I am very happy to be speaking on my old friend, the Victorian classification act and the new bill. The act is a piece of legislation I have spent decades talking about, writing about and campaigning on. In fact it was probably our first connection, Ms Symes, was it not?
As a whole I support the bill’s changes to the act, which came out of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations on classification changes in Australia. The classification tools that are being introduced will allow computer games in particular to be classified more easily. One of the things that people do not understand is that in a lot of computer games there can be up to 90 hours of content. For a classifier to classify a game would mean them having to watch 90 hours of contact. If you are charging a fee for service to do this, that is impossible; you just cannot afford to classify it in that way. Therefore to allow this form of self-classification is very sensible.
When we are talking about online content, I always find it kind of curious when we are dealing with state bills and state classification acts that we are somehow going to work to provide enforcement relating to online content and content that is available nationally and internationally. We have had legislation that imposes a penalty of 240 penalty points for an unclassified computer game being sold or exhibited in Victoria. When such games are online, it becomes very difficult. My general take on this — and it has been my take for the last 5 or 10 years — is that state classification acts are largely obsolete now and that we need to be looking at a federal system, which is exactly what the Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended. Sadly, I think the federal Attorney-General’s department and even the states are making only piecemeal responses to that recommendation.
Making it easier for film festivals to apply for exemptions will be welcomed by the film festival industry and is certainly welcomed by me. Film festivals generally also have the restriction that they are only open to adults, so I question why we are even involving ourselves in what adults choose to view. However, I welcome the fact that this legislation makes those applications for exemptions easier. Of course, film festivals like getting a film banned; it is really good for business. When Ken Park was banned, the Sydney Film Festival’s ticket sales went up. When L.A. Zombie was banned, the Melbourne International Film Festival’s ticket sales went up. Banning films is actually a great way to promote a film festival, so this will probably create some disappointment for the film festivals, as they will find it more difficult to get a film banned. I would like to assure them, however, that under this legislation they will still be able to get a film banned! The bill does not remove all responsibility from them.
I would like to make a couple more points about the fact that we are talking about classification tools for online content within the structure of a state bill and state legislation. I have to say I think the move towards a federal system of classification makes a lot more sense. In Victoria, while this bill is moving towards bringing our legislation further into line with the federal classification act, we must all remember that Victorian legislation is not in line with the federal classification act. I would like to see adult material such as X-rated films legally available in Victoria before they are available only online.
Just for the interest of members, you can still buy unclassified DVDs from a newsagent on Russell Street if you so choose. This provision is largely not enforced, although a woman in Ballarat was facing jail just two months ago for selling an adult film from an adult shop to an adult. In Victoria police are still arresting people for selling adult material to adults and, as previous speakers like Ms Springle have mentioned, we have got the internet now. Obviously I support this bill, but I would like to see this government bring the Victorian classification act into line with the federal act, and one small step it could make would be to legalise the sale of X-rated films.