Consultation with states and territories

15.55 The Victorian Government suggested that, if the Australian Government were to take sole responsibility for classification laws, it should have an obligation to consult with state and territory governments on policy matters of significance to the scheme.

15.56 The Victorian Government advocated legislative requirements for ongoing consultation on, and state and territory government endorsement of, significant policy changes. Significant policy changes were seen to include changes in relation to: classification categories and criteria; restrictions on access to content (for example, display requirements) or related offences and penalties; the use of co-regulatory codes of conduct; and the form of any public consultation in relation to classification matters.[48] The Victorian Government submitted that consultation obligations should be ‘entrenched in the governance framework underpinning the content regulation scheme’ to ensure consultation ‘is meaningful and to allow Victoria to make informed contributions to policy proposals’.[49]

15.57 The fact that, under the ALRC’s recommendations, the Australian Government would have sole responsibility for classification laws does not rule out the need for consultation with the states and territories about the operation of these laws.

15.58 However, the ALRC does not consider that specific consultation obligations need to be imposed by legislation. Australian Government policy and practice recognises the importance of consultation with states and territories, including through ministerial councils. The Regulator can also be expected to consult interested stakeholders before making significant regulatory decisions and the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 (Cth) requires appropriate consultation to be undertaken before a legislative instrument is made, complementing existing Government policy and practice.

15.59 Further, under the Classification of Media Content Act, state or territory governments would continue to be consulted on the membership of the Classification Board,[50] have standing to request reviews of classification decisions made by the Classification Board or industry classifiers, and be involved in the enforcement of classification laws through the activities of state and territory police forces.

Recommendation 15–1 The Classification of Media Content Act should be enacted pursuant to the legislative powers of the Parliament of Australia.

Recommendation 15–2 The Classification of Media Content Act should express an intention that it cover the field, so that any state legislation operating in the same field ceases to operate, pursuant to s 109 of the Constitution.

[48] Victorian Government, Submission CI 2526.

[49] Ibid.

[50] As is currently the case under Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) s 48(3). See Ch 7.