RC—Relevance to this review and overview of the concept


10.3 When the Commonwealth, state and territory Attorneys-General and the Commonwealth Minister for Home Affairs agreed to refer the National Classification Scheme Review to the ALRC, they specifically agreed that the review would include the content of the RC category for films, computer games and publications.[1]

10.4 Further, the Australian Government’s proposed mandatory ISP filtering scheme is based on the concept of an ‘RC content list’.[2] Given the centrality of the RC category to any form of ISP filtering, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the Hon Senator Stephen Conroy, announced that ‘the legal obligation to commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review [of the RC classification] is completed’.[3]

The RC classification

10.5 The RC classification category is the highest classification that can be given to publications, films and computer games in Australia[4]—that is, to content the subject of the classification cooperative scheme described in Chapter 2. The classification applies to content regarded as extreme on a number of levels. It is important to distinguish between the classification category RC (the classification) and the proscription of certain activity for content that has been classified RC (the consequence). Under the classification cooperative scheme, state and territory enforcement legislation proscribes certain dealings with content that has been classified RC—such as selling, publicly exhibiting or possessing with an intention to sell.

10.6 The RC classification reflects the censorship end of the classification spectrum, as material so classified ‘is effectively banned’.[5] However, a significant proportion of this material is not actually ‘banned’ as it is not illegal to possess a considerable amount of RC material in all parts of Australia except in Western Australia and in prescribed areas of the Northern Territory. In its 1991 report, Censorship Procedure (ALRC Report 55) the ALRC remarked that:

Classification is done for the purpose of controlling dissemination. It is not done for the purpose of controlling what a person is able to have in his or her own home. Accordingly, an RC classification does not of itself mean a person cannot possess that material. It does mean that he or she cannot disseminate it. If the possession of material is to be banned, it should be to achieve some specific policy objective, not just because it has been declared unsuitable for commercial distribution.[6]

10.7 The RC category is also used outside the classification cooperative scheme—either expressly, as in the case of the definitions of ‘prohibited content’ or ‘potential prohibited content’ under schs 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth); or impliedly, as in the case of certain objectionable goods under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (Cth) and the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 (Cth). Certain consequences under other laws may therefore flow from the classification of certain content as RC.

[1] Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, Communiqué 10 December 2010, 2.

[2] See Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Outcome of Public Consultation on Measures to Increase Accountability and Transparency for Refused Classification Material (2010); Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Mandatory Internet Service Provider (ISP) Filtering: Measures to Increase Accountability and Transparency for Refused Classification Material–Consultation Paper (2009).

[3] S Conroy (Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy), ‘Outcome of Consultations on Transparency and Accountability for ISP Filtering of RC Content’ (Press Release, 9 July 2010).

[4]Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) s 7.

[5] D Hume and G Williams, ‘Australian Censorship Policy and the Advocacy of Terrorism’ (2009) 31 Sydney Law Review 381, 384–385.

[6] Australian Law Reform Commission, Censorship Procedure, ALRC Report 55 (1991), [5.16].