Published on 9 September 1991. Last modified on 7 October 2015.

In May 1990 the ALRC was given terms of reference to report on how the laws relating to the censorship and classification of film and printed matter for public exhibition, sale or hire could be simplified and made more uniform and efficient while still giving effect to the policy agreed between the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory.

Key recommendations

  • There should be a national legislative scheme to deal with censorship issues. A federal Act should establish the administrative bodies and set out the procedures for classifying films and publications.
  • A non-legislative code should contain the criteria for classification.
  • The States and Territories should adopt the classifications determined under the code and provide enforcement proceedings.

Implementation

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) was enacted in March 1995, implementing recommendations made by the Commission. The Act provides for the classification of publications, films and computer games for the Australian Capital Territory and, with the enactment of complementary State and Territory legislation, would form the basis of a national classification scheme.

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) was amended by the Broadcasting Services (Online Services) Amendment Act 1999 (Cth) to provide for censorship and classification of internet material and online services. Under the provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act, complaints regarding content can be made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which can ask the Classification Board to classify the content consistent with the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) and the National Classification Code (2005). ACMA can require a host or service provider to stop or restrict access to certain content, depending on the classification it attracts.

Information on the operation of the National Classification Scheme can be found at the Australian Government Clasification website.

Continuing issues

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) was amended by the Broadcasting Services (Online Services) Amendment Act 1999 (Cth) to provide for censorship and classification of internet material and online services. Under the amendments online service providers are responsible for the content of all hosted services. Complaints regarding content can be made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which can ask the Classification Board to classify the content consistent with the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1994 (Cth). Where the content receives a classification of RC (refused classification) or X, the ABA can require the online service provider to stop hosting the material (if hosted in Australia) or take measures in accordance with the relevant Industry Code of Practice.