1.1 On 24 March 2011, the Attorney-General for Australia, the Hon Robert McClelland MP, asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to inquire into and report on the framework for the classification of media content in Australia. This framework is referred to in this Discussion Paper as the National Classification Scheme.
1.2 In considering the effectiveness of the National Classification Scheme, and options for reform, the ALRC is required to consider the extent to which the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth)(Classification Act), state and territory enforcement legislation, schs 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth), and the Intergovernmental Agreement on Censorship and related laws continue to provide an effective framework for the classification of media content in Australia.
1.3 In performing its functions in relation to this reference, the ALRC has also been asked to consider:
1. relevant existing Commonwealth, State and Territory laws and practices
2. classification schemes in other jurisdictions
3. the classification categories contained in the Classification Act, National Classification Code and Classification Guidelines
4. any relevant constitutional issues, and
5. any other related matter.
1.4 In referring the review to the ALRC, the Attorney-General had regard to:
the rapid pace of technological change in media available to, and consumed by, the Australian community
the needs of the community in this evolving technological environment
the need to improve classification information available to the community and enhance public understanding of the content that is regulated
the desirability of a strong content and distribution industry in Australia, and minimising the regulatory burden
the impact of media on children and the increased exposure of children to a wider variety of media including television, music and advertising as well as films and computer games
the size of the industries that generate potentially classifiable content and potential for growth …
1.5 The Terms of Reference also noted that this is the first comprehensive review of censorship and classification in Australia since 1991. The Classification Act and complementary state and territory enforcement legislation (referred to in this Discussion Paper as the ‘classification cooperative scheme’) were enacted following recommendations made by the ALRC in its 1991 report, Censorship Procedure (ALRC Report 55). That report recommended establishing a legislative framework that would enable the Commonwealth, states and territories to take a national approach to classification.