Senate Inquiry into Classification of materials that 'advocate terrorist acts'
Saturday, 11 August 2007

 

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Terrorist Material) Bill 2007 (‘the Bill') was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee on 21 June 2007 for inquiry and report.

The aim of the Bill was to amend the National Classification Code and the relevant guidelines to ban material that ‘advocates' terrorist acts. It was AMCRAN's view that the Bill not be adopted. AMCRAN made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee, making the following observations:


  • Uncertain purpose

No clear justification had been advanced to demonstrate how the proposed measures would assist in combating ideologically or religiously motivated violence, or strengthen security. At the same time, the restrictions on publication significantly curtailed free speech.

 

  • Broad definition of ‘advocate' and ‘terrorist act'

The notion of ‘advocating' or ‘terrorist act' which form the basis for proscriptions are vague and endlessly elastic terms, capable of capturing a variety of material. The problem is exacerbated by the inclusion of ‘indirectly' as a qualifier

 

  • Wide coverage

The breadth of the proposed proscription powers is even more worrisome when it is recalled that section 5 of the Classifications (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 defines ‘publication' particularly broadly as any writer or pictorial matter; and defines ‘publish' to include selling, offering for sale, letting on hire, exhibiting, displaying, distributing or demonstrating.

 

  • The limitations of proposed Section 9A(3)

Proposed section 9A(3) of the Bill states that material would not fall within the s9A ground for proscription if the depiction or description of a terrorist act was considered merely part of public debate or as entertainment or satire. AMCRAN was of the opinion that the exemption did not go far enough to ameliorate the effect of the other provisions on freedom of speech.


AMCRAN submitted that the consequence of the Bill if passed would be the increased monitoring of visible sectors of the community; and that the provisions would lend credibility to banned materials that they might not otherwise have and force those materials underground. For these reasons, AMCRAN concluded that the Bill would likely be an encumbrance in the struggle to understand and contain ideologically and religiously motivated violence.

 

This submission was prepared by Agnes Chong. AMCRAN made a submission to this as well as the earlier inquiry conducted by the Federal Attorney General’s Department. For more information on the Inquiry, visit the Senate Inquiry website.

 

Download AMCRAN's submission to the Senate Committee here. The Senate has also released its report.


The Bill was ultimately enacted with amendments as the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (full text available here).