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What’s baffling me just at the moment is government ministers who seem to have no idea how the laws that they’re tinkering with work, let alone interact with each-other.

Apparently both Julia Gillard (Australia’s current and 27th prime-minister) and Senator Stephen Conroy (current Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) are ignorant of how Australia’s classifications and ratings systems actually work, and how the legislation actually applies.

Do some research, if you're interested Classification of media by the ratings board yields either a marketable rating (G, PG, M, MA15+, R18+ or X18+), or the catch-all designation “RC” (for “Refused Classification”). Anything that doesn’t fit into the regular ratings categories gets an RC, and the advertisement, sales or rentals of such material is unlawful for Australians.

That doesn’t mean that it is illegal though. You can still buy, own, keep, import and view RC content in the various Australian States and Territories, so long as the sale doesn’t take place in a State or Territory where it is prohibited (there’s no restriction on the purchaser).

In addition to RC content, there is content that is actually illegal. The two sets overlap, but are not the same. You could certainly purchase an RC title from overseas without either you or the seller breaking the law, so long as the content wasn’t separately illegal.

As a random example, The Peaceful Pill Handbook which the Classifications Board assigned an R18+ rating, is actually illegal. American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, is also rated R18+, but is illegal in the State of Queensland.

The autobiographical novel, Borstal Boy (classifed M) is another item that’s illegal in Australia.

So, only some RC content is illegal, and some illegal content is not RC.

Australian lawmakers, however, seem to be ignorant of those basics. Granted, the Australian Customs Service is also ignorant of that at times, which occasionally leads to seizures of material which has either been rated MA15+ or is RC, but is not illegal in either case.

When it comes to talking about the National Internet Censorship Filter, however, Prime-minister Gillard and Senator Conroy seem to be ignorant of this very fundamental distinction, and speak as if all RC content is also automatically illegal content.

Either they’re ignorant of the difference or they’re not telling the truth. It’s hard to say which might be the case.

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Categories: Law, Opinion.



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