Monday, 8 February 2016
Statements by Members
Late last year the Australian Communications and Media Authority ruled free-to-air television stations be permitted to screen MA15+ programs half an hour earlier at 8:30 pm instead of 9 pm and M programs at 7:30 pm, a full hour earlier than had been the case. These changes came as a complete surprise to me and most other parliamentarians as well. A hasty meeting was organised between ACMA, the industry and concerned members of parliament where ACMA's independence was discussed. We were told that extensive survey work had been done and that no significant backlash was anticipated. That does not assure me in any way and, as I said at the time, it is not that hard to draw the lines between early and easier access to more violent and explicit television, the violence in our communities and the way many women are treated in relationships. The Australian Psychological Society has no doubt at all about the effects of violent and explicit material being viewed by children. Their website has copious amounts of advice on how parents can protect their children in this area.
The industry argues that children can access all kinds of material on myriad other platforms. While this is true, it does not make it right. By comparison, we will not make illegal drugs available at the convenience store just because we cannot control the trade. The industry maintains that the ability to play M and MA+ programs earlier does not mean they will. That begs the question though: why would you change the rules if they have no intention of changing the programming? Minister Fifield has asked ACMA to report back to him in 12 months. That is too long a time, in my opinion, but it is better than nothing.