Documents on Attempts to Stifle Free Speech in Australia
The Australian Magazine, January 27, 2001
"The Cutting Edge"
[...] "THE jury is still out on Des," says John Davey from the Eros Foundation. "He is a person with good intentions but I have reservations about his capacity to stand up to government and say, I will not compromise the independence of the OFLC." Des argues that [the censors] are just humble public servants who apply what the attorneys-general tell them. That is just bullshit. They [the censors] are judge, jury and executioner of one of society's most fundamental rights, the freedom of speech."
In truth, Clark is not the all-powerful censorship guru Davey claims him to be, but neither is he the powerless public servant Clark would have us believe. He and his team of eight full-time and four pan-time censors must work within classification guidelines agreed to by the government of the day "We classify within our interpretation of what's given to us to work with," Clark says. This means that the censors must observe certain levels of violence or sex before they can slap an R18+ rating on a movie or a book. But every day without fail, there are films or computer games that sit on the borderline of two classifications, according to former OFLC censors.
"That is where the liberalism or conservatism in interpretation comes in. It's not dominant, but it's not insignificant," one former censor told The Australian Magazine. One example of the many dilemmas censors face was the case of the controversial British historian David Irving. In 1993, the OFLC found itself having to classify a video of David Irving expounding his views that the Holocaust did not happen. While the ideas Irving was putting across were abhorrent, the video itself was tame. It contained no grisly visual images that would justify the censors slapping a high-classification on it. As a result, opinions were split.
"Just over half of us took the view that it should be rated G, that this should live in a marketplace of ideas and that it was not ours to judge what are bad ideas," a former censor recalls, "The second-largest group argued for a PG rating because the video raised serious-historical issues about which parents might like to supervise their children's viewing." Only one censor, who was Jewish, considered the video was not in the public interest. The majority view prevailed and the video was classified G.
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