Film Censorship: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) - Pg1


 

 

 

 

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

aka Pasolini's 120 Days of Sodom

aka Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini / 1975 / Italy / IMDb

Pier Paolo Pasolini's SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM is Australian censorship's most controversial title.

It was first banned in 1976, and has since been R-rated, re-banned, and currently R-rated again. Puritanical Christians challenged this all the way to the Federal Court, only to have their application dismissed in August 2011.

 

 

1976: Banned by Censorship Board and Review Board

In March 1976, a 3154:00-meter (114:58) print of SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM was banned because of ‘indecency’.

An appeal to the Films Board of Review in April 1976 ended in failure.

In both cases, the film was submitted under the title PASOLINI’S 120 DAYS OF SODOM.

 

 

1992: Banned by Classification Board

In December 1992 (as SALÒ O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA), Premium Films had a 116m 35mm print banned by the OFLC.

Here is how the Censorship Board described the reasons for the ban in their 1992 to 1993 Annual Report. Note that a minority thought that it deserved an R18+.

 

Pasolini's 120 Days of Sodom, also known as Salo, uses the narrative structure of the Marquis De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, to present a portrait of human degradation which serves as a metaphor for fascism. It was first considered by the Board during 1976 when the film was refused by a narrow majority, a decision subsequently upheld by the then Films Board of Review.

In 1992 the Board was again divided , with a majority of seven of the eleven member Board voting to refuse the film while four recommended a Restricted classification. The majority considered a combination of visual and conceptual elements to be indecent. It thought that the reasonable adult person would find the film's intellectual thesis neither clear nor compelling and would therefore, be more inclined to perceive the general character of this version of the film in pornographic, voyeuristic and exploitative terms. The minority considered the film neither exploitative nor voyeuristic, but warranted a Restricted classification as it was likely to be offensive to some sections of the adult community.

 

 

1993: R18+ by the Review Board

Following the December 1992 ban, Premium Films appealed to the Film Board of Review. In January 1993, they overturned the ban and awarded it an R18+ (Disturbing adult concepts and high level violence and sex) rating.

 

SALO: Films Board of Review report

The Board of Review considered an appeal by Premium films against the decision of the Film Censorship Board to refuse registration to the film Salo O le 120 Giornate di Sodoma / Pasolini's 120 Days of Sodom (hereinafter referred to as Salo.

The film was completed by Pier Palo Pasolini shortly before his death in 1975. It depicts the sexual degradation and torture by four high-ranking functionaries of a group of young prisoners, teenagers of both sexes, who have been rounded up by the Fascist authorities during the closing stages of the war. The film has had a long history of scrutiny by censorship bodies in many countries, and has several times been rejected, in different versions and formats, for screening in Australia. The present appeal was in respect of the original Italian-language version, subtitled in English for cinema exhibition only.

The film is generally considered to be a metaphor for fascism and oppression and a critique of capitalist exploitation. According to Mr John Cerrone, representing the appellants, Premium Films, it has been approved for showing in 16 countries, including France (where it was first shown), Britain and the United States. The Board of Review considered a detailed response by Mr Cerrone to the report of the Film Censorship Board on its most recent decision. In a brief presentation to the Board, Mr Cerrone contended that Salo, if approved for restricted exhibition, would be seen, in the main, only by serious and generally older film goers and film enthusiasts in arthouse cinemas, and would be exhibited with any appropriate warning or advisory message which the Board might require.

Members of the Board of Review, while endeavoring to assess the film solely by references to its intrinsic character and without regard to its provenance or the notoriety of its director, were nevertheless mindful of the fact that Pasolini was among the leading filmmakers of his time, and that Salo is considered by many to be one of his most powerful and important works.

Notwithstanding the extreme character of much of its imagery, and intense feeling of horror and revulsion it might arouse in some audiences, it seemed to the Board appropriate that decisions taken as long as seventeen years ago on a film of undisputed importance should be looked at afresh, in an atmosphere unclouded by indignation and controversy attending the film's initial screenings abroad. Salo presents us with the most stringent test to date of the basic principle that adults in a free society should be at liberty to see what they wish. That principle, endorsed as part of the comprehensive revised guidelines by Commonwealth, State and Territory Censorship Ministers in 1979, we have taken to be fundamental.

Approaching Salo from this standpoint, we agreed that its depictions, while frequently shocking, were integral to the filmmaker's purposes, and therefore not gratuitous; nor were they in any way erotic or titillating. We noted the assurance of the distributor that the film, if approved with an 'R' classification would be exhibited by them only in smaller, selected cinemas and advertised with appropriate discretion. We noted finally the comments of the minority of the Film Censorship Board, who concluded that the film:

"Whilst certainly challenging from a classification standpoint, could nonetheless be accommodated in the Restricted category, defined as this is to encompass material considered possibly offensive to some sections of the adult community. The minority argued that although the film deals with indecent or obscene phenomena, it does so in a manner which is neither indecent nor obscene in itself when viewed in the context of a film of merit where even the most problematic of elements clearly serve the director's metaphorical purpose. For the minority the film is neither exploitative nor voyeuristic, but a powerfully realised political statement on the violation of innocence and freedom"

With this opinion the Board of Review, after much careful consideration, concurred and accordingly determined that Salo should be registered and classified 'R' ( for restricted exhibition), subject to the condition that the advertising material prepared for the film by Premium Films be submitted to the Review Board for approval.

We directed that the following consumer advice apply to the film:' Disturbing adult concepts and high level violence and sex'.

13 January 1993"

 

 

July 1993: Australian theatrical release

With SALO now awarded an R18+ rating, Premium Films went on to give it a theatrical release. It opened in Sydney and Melbourne in July 1993.

The rating was awarded on the understanding that no video release would follow.

 

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom - Premium Films [au] Poster

 

 

August 1993: Christians begin campaign to ban SALO

Following the July 1993 opening of the R18+ rated SALO; Christian groups began their campaign to have the film banned. In August, they presented a petition to the Queensland Legislative Assembly.

 

Queensland Legislative Assembly
3717
24 August 1993
TUESDAY, 24 AUGUST 1993

PETITIONS The Clerk announced the receipt of the following petitions—

Movie, Salo From Mr Szczerbanik (143 signatories) praying for urgent action to ban the movie Salo from Queensland

 

 

August to September 1993: Julian McGauran's three SALO petitions

In 1993, Julian McGauran became involved in the fight to have SALO banned. It would become something of a crusade for the National's Senator. In August and September, he presented three petitions to the Senate opposing SALO.

 

Petition: Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman
Date 31 August, 1993
Database Senate Hansard
Presenter MCGAURAN
Page 658
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Petition

Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman

Senator McGAURAN (Victoria) —by leave—I present to the Senate the following petitions, similar in wording, from 16 and 20 citizens, which are not in conformity with the standing orders as they are not in the correct form:

To the Honourable the Chairman and members of the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

THE PETITION OF THE UNDERSIGNED SHOWS:

We the undersigned citizens respectfully request the Committee, in its capacity as overseer of the Film Review Board, to replace the Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Evan Williams, on the grounds that he has lost touch with community standards, with a more responsible community representative.

To the Honourable the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The petition of the undersigned shows that the signatories request you to exercise your authority to replace the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Mr. Evan Williams, with a more responsible and representative member of the community, on the grounds that he has lost touch with community standards, as evidenced by his support for the release of the film `Salo'.

Senator Robert Ray—Mr President, I raise a point of order. We seem to be getting back to a stage of reading out petitions in this place when people send them in incorrectly, which gives them an advantage over those who send them in correctly. I wonder whether you might look at that and take it up with the Procedure Committee.

The PRESIDENT—I must admit that on one of the advices I received there were some extra words added today. I will look at that.

 

Petition: Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman
Date 02 September, 1993
Database Senate Hansard
Presenter MCGAURAN
Page 886
Proof No Source Senate
Type Petition

Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman Senator McGAURAN (Victoria) —by leave—I present to the Senate the following petition, from 137 citizens, which is not in conformity with the Standing Orders as it is not in the correct form:

To the Honourable the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The petition of the undersigned shows that the signatories request you to exercise your authority to replace the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Mr. Evan Williams, with a more responsible and representative member of the community, on the grounds that he has lost touch with community standards, as evidenced by his support for the release of the film `Salo'.

 

Petition: Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman|
Date 02 September, 1993
Database Senate Hansard
Presenter MCGAURAN
Page 886
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Petition

Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman Senator

McGAURAN (Victoria) —by leave—I present to the Senate the following petition, from 83 citizens, which is not in conformity with the Standing Orders as it is not in the correct form:

To the Honourable Attorney-General.

The petition of certain citizens of Australia, draws to the attention of the House of the release of the previously banned film `Salo', allowing it for public viewing.

Your petitioners request the House to exercise your Authority to replace the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Mr. Evan Williams on the grounds that he has lost touch with Community Standards.

 

 

September 1993: Julian McGauran speaks in the Senate

ADJOURNMENT: Salo
Date 06 September, 1993
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker McGauran Sen J.J.J. (NP, VIC, Opposition)
Page 982
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Speech
Context Adjournment

Senator McGAURAN (Victoria) (10.30 p.m.) —This evening I wish to relate my comments to the decision of the Film and Literature Board of Review to release the movie Salo. The movie Salo is presently showing in major capital cities of Australia and represents a watershed in censorship laws in this country. My concern is as much against the clear breach of the censorship laws and the unequivocal instructions of the Commonwealth, state and territory censorship ministers for tighter application of those guidelines as it is against the movie itself.

The movie Salo, made in 1976, banned in this country for some 17 years, has been released in mainstream theatres with no more than a lowly R rating and therefore there is no barrier to its release on home video. The story-line begins with the kidnap of 16 adolescents in an Italian village, eight of each sex. For the remainder of the film they are subjected to every form of violent sexual humiliation and torture before being mass slaughtered in a bizarre fashion.

I make reference to the hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies in Sydney on Thursday, 5 August 1993 to try to encapsulate the depths and darkness of the movie Salo. The committee transcript reads that the movie:

Contains constant nudity, masturbation, forced sodomy, forced urolagnia, coprophagous, humiliation and degradation, anilingus, suicide, candlewax burns to breasts and male genitalia, a man's tongue cut off, an eye explicitly gouged out with a knife, a woman partially scalped, a boy's nipples branded with a hot iron, being forced to eat excreta, torture and killing during the "Cycle of Blood" canto. Naked male and female youths forced to behave as animals going on all fours to beg for food—eventually betraying their fellows in an attempt to survive, hanging, whipping, accompanied by raconteurs' stories based on offensive, fetishes and paedophilia, a woman's verbal accounts of sex experiences as a child and of matricide, live rat forced into a girl's vagina, whilst various adults engage in sexual acts.

The movie Salo has been condemned outright by every film critic of any note. The most notable critiques came from Neil Jillet of the Age on 8 July 1993—he described the film as `vile' and a `treat for sadists and psychopaths'—and Marion Groves from the Sun-Herald who asked why the film and literature review board was so determined to provide suitable entertainment for Mr Baldy, Mr Stinky and Mr Cruel, Melbourne's notorious child molesters and murderers.

Moreover, the Victorian police headed by the office of the deputy commissioner, the head of the spectrum task force overseeing the investigations into Mr Cruel, the head of the rape squad, the head of the gaming and vice squad and the department's chief serial crime expert were instructed to see the movie and to report on the movie to the highest command. In my casual conversation with some of those who attended the movie, they told me that, following the movie, these men of the police force who had experienced many hardened situations had to take a walk down by the Yarra just to get their breath.

In a statement to the community standards committee, the conclusions of the police were affirmed by Mr Reaburn from the Attorney-General's Department when he said:

One has to doubt how it will affect the community in the long run. How many of the young men trooping in to see the film at various Twin Cinemas in our capital cities are aware of the allegorical considerations?

The community has also protested against the movie by way of letters, petitions and phone calls—the volume of which has been exceptionally large. At a meeting of the Senate select committee on community standards in Canberra on Friday, 20 August, Mr Reaburn from the Attorney-General's Department confirmed that a great many members of the community had protested directly to the Attorney-General's Department.

It is then legitimate to ask: according to whom, and on what criteria, was the movie Salo released into Australian society? The Film and Literature Board of Review, the body that is the final arbitrator of the film's classification and release, is responsible. Its chairman, Mr Evan Williams, is therefore the responsible person. Mr Williams has publicly and before the Senate community standards committee vigorously defended his decision and claims that the release of the movie can be justified on four grounds.

Those grounds are, firstly, that the movie is of artistic merit. According to Mr Williams, `It is the task of the artist, at least occasionally, to shock the old and complacent'. The second ground is that the movie would be shown only in art-house theatres, a proviso which cannot be enforced and is not mentioned in the guidelines as a relevant criteria. The third ground is that adults in a free society ought to be allowed to see whatever they like. Mr Williams confirmed his view in a letter to the Age on 15 November saying that:

. . . to deny their right to do so, I believe, is to champion a view of censorship now largely discredited in Australia.

The fourth ground for Mr Williams releasing this movie Salo may be found in his article in the Australian on 21 May 1993 when he said, `Quite simply, we thought it was a good film'.

It is my view that the position of Mr Williams as Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review is no longer tenable, and he should be dismissed. I take this view on four counts: firstly, there has been a clear breach of the guidelines for the classification of films and videotapes which he was obliged in law to apply. Under the refused classification section of the guidelines, subsection (b) has been breached. It reads:

. . . any film which includes unduly detailed and/or relished acts of extreme violence or cruelty; explicit or unjustifiable depictions of sexual violence against non-consenting persons, will be refused classification.

Mr Williams himself has stated that the adolescents suffer `sexual torment and sadistic humiliation of an extreme kind'. Secondly, Mr Williams was in breach of the principle found in the preamble of the classification guidelines which reads:

. . . community has the right to ban material considered likely to endanger public health or safety; or to offend accepted standards of public decency.

Thirdly, he was in breach of the clear direction from the June 1988 Commonwealth, state and territory censorship ministers meeting in Darwin requesting that the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review apply tighter restrictions to sexually violent films in the M and R categories. Fourthly, in my own State of Victoria, section 8(2)(c) of the Classification of Films and Publications Act 1990 provides:

. . . that a censor must refuse to classify a film that depicts a child (whether engaged in sexual activity or otherwise) who is, or who is apparently, under the age of 16 years in a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult person.

Not only do I believe that Mr Williams' position is no longer tenable because of the flagrant breaches of the above but also I question his competence to be a judge of community standards. This belief was confirmed by the incredible assertion by Mr Williams that he could see no evidence to link a level of sexually violent crime to sexually violent movies. His opinion clearly shows poor judgment and it could be supported only by a very small minority of people in society.

It is clear from the committee hearings that community views were never a touchstone in the film and literature review board's decision making process; rather, the artistic value of the movie and the freedom of expression of the director overrode community standards. Mr Williams is employed to apply the law, not to make it up. These boards are made up of appointed officials; they are not elected. For this reason they cannot be allowed to roam free, interpreting the guidelines as they might, inventing new criteria and then being unaccountable to the community and protected from criticism by government departments.

As public representatives, we are here to represent the standards of the community as well as the public sentiment towards issues that arise from time to time. As a public servant, Mr Williams is obliged in law to follow the guidelines which are laid down by the parliament. He and other members of the board are not at liberty to substitute their own philosophical judgments, as they have done. I therefore put it to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, and the other senators present in the chamber, to join me in calling for the dismissal of Mr Evan Williams, since the only appropriate signal we can make to the community is that we will not tolerate breaches of the guidelines which place the safety of our citizens in peril. This will no doubt send a clear signal to a worried community that any member or chairperson of the film and literature review board is accountable for his or her actions. I agree with Mr Williams on one point, when he said:

Salo presents us with the most stringent test to date.

I say clearly that the release of Salo was a deliberate challenge to the community standards and, therefore, a watershed in this country's censorship laws. To leave the matter undisputed would signal a collapse of Australia's censorship laws. I finish by quoting the last paragraph in today's Age editorial, Monday 6 September, which I believe clearly relates to the release of the movie Salo:

The unacceptable alternative is simply to wish our children luck as they ride the pendulum of censorship towards the outer limits.

 

 

September 1993: Julian McGauran presents SALO Petition #4

Petition: Film and Literature Board of Review

Date 07 September, 1993
Database Senate Hansard
Presenter MCGAURAN
Page 1008
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Petition

Film and Literature Board of Review

Senator McGAURAN (Victoria) —by leave—I present to the Senate the following petition, from 13 citizens, which is not in conformity with the standing orders as it is not in the correct form:

To the Honourable the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The petition of the undersigned shows that the signatories request you to exercise your authority to replace the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Mr Evan Williams, with a more responsible and representative member of the community, on the grounds that he has lost touch with community standards, as evidenced by his support for the release of the film `Salo'.

 

 

September 1993: Fred Nile joins the campaign

In September 1993, Fred Nile spoke out against SALO in the NSW Legislative Assembly.

 

NSW Legislative Council
7th September 1993
"Salo" Film Classification
Speakers - Nile Reverend The Hon Fred
Business - Adjournment

"SALO" FILM CLASSIFICATION

Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [5.8]: The matter I wish to bring to the attention of the House concerns a controversial decision made by the Commonwealth Film and Literature Board of Review in regard to a film called "Salo". Like many members in this House and those in other parliaments of Australia, we were shocked when the film was passed for screening in Australia after its prohibition for 17 years. It was correctly banned by the Commonwealth Film and Literature Classification Board, which is not known for its rigid decisions. That ban should have been upheld. However, the Commonwealth Film and Literature Board of Review overruled its decision. The film is now being shown in various theatres around Australia, including one in Paddington.

Call to Australia believes the original decision of the Commonwealth Film and Literature Classification Board was correct. "Salo" has been described as a film involving a great deal of violence and degradation, particularly of teenage girls. Even Mr Evan Williams, Chairman of the Commonwealth Film and Literature Board of Review, which overthrew the decision of the classification board, is quoted in the Australian of 21st May as saying that "Salo" contains "scenes of concentrated foulness, sexual torment and sadistic humiliation of an extreme kind" - in relation mainly to the degradation of teenage girls. The film promotes, by implication, child pornography because the press articles show naked "Salo" actors, arguably under the age of sixteen years. We believe that this film, by its contents, through the display of such violence is but another step in the desensitisation process that will entice many who view the film to become involved in sexual violence themselves.

The producer of "Salo" - apparently a sexually perverse person - finally killed himself. Why should the perversion of a sick mind be allowed to be fed into the minds of Australian adults and children if this film is eventually allowed to be screened, even in an edited version on television? We believe the film was produced as a deliberate attack on attempts to censor such pornographic films. Other comments about the film include those by Neil Gillet, the film reviewer of the Melbourne Age, who described "Salo" as:

. . . a vile film. It is a treat for sadists and other psychopaths . . . The shock of watching this film numbs the mind to anything but the violence, Pasolini's apparent relish in presenting it and conjecture about how he persuaded, or coerced, the cast - especially the younger actors - into following the director's orders.

Those younger actors, mainly teenage girls, were degraded in the production of the film, which will have similar impact on viewers. Mr Keith Connolly, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Review that released the film, considered "Salo" to be "an utterly appalling chronicle of human depravity". Nevertheless, he voted to release it for exhibition with an R rating, and later revealed that the vote by the review board was unanimous. That revelation makes me wonder whether the review board should not be sacked and other persons appointed, given that its members can make such statements yet be unanimous in overthrowing the decision of the classification board that the film should not have been shown. "Salo" can now be seen by anyone over 17 years of age. The whole point is that the review board was stating what is described as a classic liberal position - of philosophy, not of politics - that anyone over the age of 17 should be perfectly free to witness any film he or she wishes and - presumably, one might add - free to read any book or to undergo any experience.

 

 

October 1993: Senate Community Standards Report

Along with unclassified games, and pay-TV content, SALO was caught up in the 1993 Senate Community Standards Report.

 

COMMITTEES: Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies Committee: Report
Date 28 October, 1993
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Reynolds Sen The Hon M. (ALP, QLD, Government)
Page 2772
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage Report
Type Speech
Context Committee

Senator REYNOLDS (Queensland) (4.01 p.m.) —I present a report of the Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies on video and computer games and classification issues.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator REYNOLDS —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate my tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows—

SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY STANDARDS RELEVANT TO THE SUPPLY OF SERVICES UTILISING ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGIES

REPORT ON VIDEO AND COMPUTER GAMES AND CLASSIFICATION ISSUES OCTOBER 1993

TABLING STATEMENT BY COMMITTEE CHAIRPERSON, SENATOR MARGARET REYNOLDS

In the report tabled today, the Committee has examined two issues: the availability of unclassified video and computer games and the system for the classification of films and videos.

In relation to video and computer games, the Committee's concerns are directed at the proliferation in Australia of games with unacceptable levels of violence or sexual activities as their themes. The Committee's concerns are shared by the Standing Committee of Censorship Ministers, the meeting of Federal, State and Territory ministers with censorship responsibility. At their meeting in June 1993 the Ministers announced that they had agreed to bring video and computer games under the control of the national censorship system, and requested the Chief Censor and State and Territory officials to formulate a scheme for regulation to be presented at the Minister's next meeting, to be held on 4 and 5 November. The Committee has expedited its inquiry in order to bring down this interim report for the consideration of the Censorship Ministers at that meeting.

The Committee's recommendations envisage a scheme of regulation of the content of video and computer games with the classification set by the Office of Film and Literature Classification. The Committee concluded that the absence of classification of such games, and reliance only on industry self-regulation, threatens to undermine the community's efforts to regulate the availability of graphically violent and sexual material in games to minors.

The Committee will monitor the decisions of the meeting of Censorship Ministers, and will continue to take evidence in relation to video and computer games, and will be in a position to report to the Senate on progress.

The Committee's concern about the system of classification of films and videos was prompted by the decision in January 1993 of the Film and Literature Board of Review to release the film Salo with an `R' rating, overturning a decision of the Film Censorship Board to maintain a ban on the film's release of 17 years standing. The Committee's terms of reference include a requirement that it consider whether material which would be classified in the `R' and `X' categories should be permitted on pay TV. The Committee was able to use the consideration of Salo by the classification authorities as a "window" into the operations of the system which has the potential to eventually permit `R' or `X' material onto pay TV.

The Committee's inquiry highlighted a number of systemic flaws in the classification system and its report has recommended the implementation of a number of important remedial measures, particularly in relation to the restructuring of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, which is the umbrella Commonwealth agency housing the Film Censorship Board and the Film and Literature Board of Review. The Committee recognises that the adjudication of community standards will always fall to certain individuals tasked with that role and that there will inevitably be differences of opinion about decisions which arise from such a system. The Committee was concerned, however, about the idiosyncratic nature of the current system, which gives little certainty to the community about what material will or will not be released. The Committee's recommendations are directed at ensuring that the classification system, as far as possible, meets prevailing community standards.

The Standing Committee of Censorship Ministers is scheduled to discuss these issues at its forthcoming meeting in November, when it will examine in detail the proposals of the Law Reform Commission for greater uniformity in film and literature classification as contained in its September 1991 report Censorship Procedure. As with its recommendations in relation to the regulation of video and computer games, the Committee urges the Ministers to agree to the early implementation of the Committee's proposals for reforms in the film and video classification system.

 

 

December 1993: Julian McGauran presents SALO Petition #5

Petition: Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman
Date 14 December, 1993
Database Senate Hansard
Presenter MCGAURAN
Page 4512
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Petition

Film and Literature Board of Review: Chairman

Senator McGAURAN (Victoria) —by leave—I present to the Senate the following petition, which is not in conformity with the standing orders, from 12 citizens requesting that the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Mr Evan Williams, be replaced with a more responsible and representative member of the community on the grounds that he has lost touch with community standards:

To the Honourable the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The petition of the undersigned shows that the signatories request you to exercise your authority to replace the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Mr Evan Williams, with a more responsible and representative member of the community, on the grounds that he has lost touch with community standards, as evidenced by his support for the release of the film `Salo'.

Petitions and petitioning letters received.

 

 

February 1994: SALO debated in SA Legislative Council Part 1

The South Australian Attorney-General, Trevor Griffin, banned SALO in 1994. Griffin would later be appointed to the Classification Review Board, and in May 2010, was one of the five members who reviewed and confirmed the R18+ rating.

Questions were asked about SALO in the SA Legislative Council in February 1994.

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES (HANSARD)
First Session of the Forty-Eighth Parliament (1994)
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Thursday 10 February 1994

SALO

The Hon. ANNE LEVY: I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for the Arts about advisory committees.

Leave granted.

The Hon. ANNE LEVY: The Hon. Mr Griffin has already begun the process of returning South Australia to the 1950s and 1960s by his banning of the film Salo. This is despite the recommendation from the Commonwealth Film and Literature Board of Review that the previous ban be lifted and the film receive an R classification so that it could be viewed by adults if they chose to see it. I would like to remind members that this film can now be viewed by adults in 16 different countries, including Britain, France and the United States of America. It certainly makes us look ridiculous that our new Government is adopting a ‘big daddy’ approach and limiting our access to a serious if revolting film, so separating us from the rest of Western culture by puritanical and bigoted censorship.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. ANNE LEVY: Just as our Festival of Arts is to begin, where we hope to impress other nations as to the depth and value of our cultural pursuits.

The Hon. Diana Laidlaw interjecting:

The Hon. ANNE LEVY: As to arrests on footpaths, I apologised publicly for that, I remind the Minister. I do not want to see the film Salo; I have not seen it and, when it is finally released in Adelaide, as I am sure it will be, I do not intend to pay good money to go and see it. But I express my strongest indignation that the Hon. Trevor Griffin is sitting in judgment about what I and other adult South Australians can view. I do not want him as my moral guardian and I do not want him making aesthetic judgments for me. I would maintain that he is not qualified for either role.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. ANNE LEVY: Mr President, I would like to quote—

The Hon. Diana Laidlaw: I’m not sure what this has to do with advisory committees.

The Hon. ANNE LEVY: If you listen to my explanation, you will find out. I should like to quote from an article written by the Chair of the Commonwealth Film and Literature Review Board as to why the 17-year-old ban on Salo has been lifted for the rest of Australia. Evan Williams states:

Salo contains scenes of concentrated foulness such as few of us might have imagined, and I doubt if anything would persuade us to watch it again. Yet we reached our decision with surprising ease and a reassuring unanimity.

He further states:

I believe, as I am sure do my colleagues on the board, that the paramount function of censorship is to protect innocent and impressionable young minds from corrupting influence, and that artistic freedom is only one element—though probably the most important—amongst those we are asked to weigh.

I believe there are many films that would be better not made and many more that would be better not seen. I deplore Hollywood’s obsession with violence and depravity, which seems to be getting worse, and was amongst the first to advocate the newly adopted MA (Mature Adult) film classification. . . But I can see no valid reason for preventing adults from seeing Salo.

Further in his article he states:

The Times critic in 1977 called it a ‘forbidding desperate work of art’, whose chief purpose was to produce a powerful cathartic shock, in which the sexuality, the scatology and the horror were in no respect titillating in the manner of pornography, but deliberately painful. He further states: Perhaps our strongest reason for lifting the ban was the conviction that adults, after 17 years, should be allowed to judge the film for themselves.

He says:

Most of us could recall films with scenes of comparable violence and horror. . . (for example) Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover—

This film was shown for many weeks in Adelaide. Evan William then says:

We had another reason for allowing Salo. Quite simply we thought it a good film.

Elsewhere he said:

Yes, I think adults should be allowed to see it. It was for just such films that the R certificate was introduced more than 20 years ago. . . No-one is likely to be inflamed or titillated by it. Audiences are more likely to be numbed or saddened. Or as Pasolini might have hoped, steeled with disgust and indignation against the horrors of the world.

That is the considered and careful view of those who are charged with considering censorship in this country and who know something about the matter. We all know that this is not the first time that the Hon. Trevor Griffin has dutifully sat through a film and, because he did not like it, has made sure that no-one else could make their own choices as to whether they would see it.

Perhaps it is salutary to remind South Australians that 10 years after the Hon. Trevor Griffin banned Sweet Sweetback Baadaassss Song as likely to deprave and corrupt the populace of South Australia, that same film was shown on television nationally, and I have certainly not noticed any discernible madness or depravity amongst those who chose to view it on national television. I have no doubt whatsoever that we will be able to see Salo at some time. We will catch up with the rest of the world eventually, after a few years of being a laughing stock and being quite unable to be considered seriously in cultural matters. I only hope the reputation of our Festival of Arts does not suffer in the meantime. As the Hon. Trevor Griffin is obviously taking his role as moral guardian and aesthetic critic to such ludicrous lengths, I ask the Minister for the Arts the following questions:

1. Will the Minister appoint the Hon. Trevor Griffin as a member of all advisory committees in the arts, particularly film, so that his approval and judgment can be obtained in all cultural development matters? This would at least ensure that his veto would be established before time, effort and resources are expended in developing artistic product which he might otherwise ban at a later stage?

2. Does the Minister still hold with the peer group assessment principle for artistic matters, despite its obvious rejection by her colleague the Hon. Trevor Griffin in his personal overriding of the judgment of the Commonwealth Film and Literature Review Board? Can the Minister reassure the arts community that peer group assessment will continue in this State? Will she attempt to convince her colleagues that the Hon. Trevor Griffin is not anyone’s artistic peer?

The PRESIDENT: Before the Minister replies to the question, can I point out that there was an awful lot of opinion in that question. It is not necessary; Standing Orders do not require it. I ask that the Hon. Anne Levy note that in regard to her future questions.

The Hon. DIANA LAIDLAW: The answer to the first question is, ‘No’. The Hon. Trevor Griffin is fortunately too busy and has a very—

The Hon. Anne Levy: Unfortunately he is too busy?

The Hon. DIANA LAIDLAW: Is fortunately very busy and he also has faith in the people that I would appoint to the peer advisory group in respect of the arts. Traditionally the arts have had an arm’s length principle involved in determining grants. It was a system that was established by the Hon. Murray Hill when I was working with him many years ago. That system is less credible in some respects in recent years, but it will be a system that will continue with integrity in the future.

 

 

February 1994: SALO debated in SA Legislative Council Part 2

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES (HANSARD)
First Session of the Forty-Eighth Parliament (1994)
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Thursday 10 February 1994

SALO

The Hon. CAROLINE SCHAEFER: I seek leave to ask the Attorney-General a question about his decision that the film Salo not be shown?

Leave granted.

The Hon. CAROLINE SCHAEFER: Further to the question asked by the Hon. Anne Levy, are you in fact as bigoted as she suggests or do you have valid reasons for your decisions?

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: I can assure the Hon. Anne Levy that I certainly do not have the time to be on any of the advisory boards and committees that the Minister for the Arts has responsibility for. But I can say that she acts very responsibly in the interests of the whole community in the appointments she is recommending. I have no hesitation in supporting those appointments and in fact I do support some of the artistic activities that occur under her patronage. The Hon. Anne Levy has really opened a hornet’s nest— or one might even suggest Pandora’s Box—about this film Salo because it is not as clear cut as she makes it out to be. She was suggesting that it was an issue of whether there should or should not be censorship. That is not the argument. The argument is not about censorship; it is about what ought to be the cut-off point at which the censorship laws—

The Hon. C.J. Sumner: The argument is about who should do it.

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: It is not. The Hon. Anne Levy made the point that she should be able to hear and see what she wishes as an adult.

The Hon. Anne Levy: No, I said do what the Commonwealth—

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: It is not clear-cut at the Commonwealth level either. What happened was that the Film Censorship Board made a decision, by a majority, not to classify it. That was subsequently overturned by the Film and Literature Board of Review. The Film Censorship Board in making its assessment said:

However, the majority of the board was of the opinion that, in combination, the visual and conceptual strength of the depictions of the forcing of sadistic sexual acts upon captive teenagers, [mostly naked] the brutal violence, plus the disturbing acts of depravity, go beyond what is acceptable in terms of current community standards. For the majority, these depictions exceeded any legitimacy as metaphor or allegory that could be claimed on their behalf; the majority deemed these visuals of degeneracy which are presented for their own sake to be indecent.

The Film Censorship Board identifies a whole range of strong depictions, which I suppose one could briefly encapsulate in the following descriptions: explicit rape scenes; branding and burning of breasts and male genitalia; people being forced to eat excreta; scalping; the cutting of a person’s tongue; and the gouging of an eyeball.

The Hon. T.G. Roberts: Sounds like a Liberal Party meeting.

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: With respect, I think that is what happened in the Labor Party Legislative Council Party Room recently, because there have been some dramatic changes on that side of the House, so let us not talk about who is doing the gouging and who is cutting the tongues. There was community concern about the film from a wide range of people. Subsequent to the decision I can say that there were members on both sides of the Parliament who expressed appreciation to me for the decision that was taken. I do not intend to set myself up to view every film and every play, or whatever. This was a film of particular interest and concern to a wide range of people. It was highly controversial. Because the responsibility was given to the Attorney- General in the Act I did not turn my back on it. I decided that if I had the responsibility I should act upon it. I did not relish the sort of criticism that the Peter Goers, the Peter Wards and other people heaped upon me. No-one in politics wants that. But I decided in the circumstances, without of course knowing what was going to happen—but probably would still have done it anyway—that one ought to set the level at a different level from that which the Film and Literature Board of Review set.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: Mr President, it is not a signal that—

The Hon. Anne Levy interjecting:

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: It is not a signal that at the Fringe, the Festival, or film events I, as Attorney-General, will get heavily involved with the blue pencil.

 

 

February 1994: SA Liberal Stewart Leggett supports SALO ban

South Australia
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Tuesday 15 February 1994

Mr LEGGETT (Hanson) A minority group in our society declares that we should be able to read and see whatever we like. I suggest that not one of us is free to do as we like. As a family community—a fact from which there is no escape—we are responsible to one another. The old saying ‘to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves’ should be our goal in life and the basis of our legislation in Parliament.

For this reason I would offer my congratulations and support to the Attorney-General for his stand in banning the film Salo. His move had nothing to do with religious piety or preventing so-called liberty, but it is a necessary curtailment on the violated community standards that affect the quality of human relationships. I believe that we must return to some of the fundamentals of the past that form the basic foundation to life together as individual families and the wider family of the community.

 

 

February 1994: SA MLC J.C Irwin supports SALO ban

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES (HANSARD)
First Session of the Forty-Eighth Parliament (1994)
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Thursday 17 February 1994

The Hon. J.C. IRWIN: I want to reflect for a few minutes on the actions taken by my colleague the Attorney-General (Hon. Trevor Griffin) in banning the film Salo, an action enraging a predictable few. I do not have a problem with some aspects of censorship. I do have a problem with the notion that all people have the right to do and see what they please. Of course, I support some sort of discipline in our society; otherwise most of us would have no need at all to be sitting in this place legislating on everything. Some might be in this Parliament with the sole intention of defeating every law or change in law presented here.

I must say I have never had any evidence that that is so. It is fair to say that everyone in the Parliament today and throughout Parliaments of the world is passing laws which affect our lives in one way or another. In many ways and in many cases they restrict our lives. Again I question and plead: why will not certain people—many of whom have attacked the Hon. Trevor Griffin—who scream from the rooftops when a woman is raped or a child is molested and/or killed, which is happening more and more every day that passes, ask why this is happening and what we can do to stop it happening? They will most certainly not improve the situation by demanding that a film like Salo must be available for all of us to see. That will not improve the situation. The evidence is mounting against violent and pornographic films. How many more lives have to be lost, ended or ruined before we will take any action?

 

 

February 1994: Trevor Griffin on his SALO ban

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES (HANSARD)
First Session of the Forty-Eighth Parliament (1994)
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Thursday 24 February 1994

SALO

The Hon. C.J. SUMNER: My question is to the Attorney- General. Did the Classification of Publications Board agree to the banning of the film Salo?

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: I thought that I made clear at the time the decision was taken on Salo that I invited current members of the Classification of Publications Board to view the film with me. They had no statutory obligation to do so. They were prepared to do so. They viewed it with me and were therefore acting in an advisory capacity and I made the decision.

The Hon. C.J. SUMNER: As a supplementary question, did the members of the Classification of Publications Board who viewed the film Salo with the Attorney-General advise the Attorney-General to ban the film?

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: I am surprised that the former Attorney-General should be pursuing this issue because out in the community there is wide-ranging support for the decision taken. The former Attorney-General and those who support him are crying into the wind.

The Hon. C.J. Sumner: Answer the question.

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: I will not answer it. I am not going to tell you because I invited them in in an advisory capacity. They were not obliged legally or in any other way to attend or give advice. I told them when they viewed it with me, that being the basis on which they came in, that I would accept the public responsibility for the decision taken. If the former Attorney-General wants to keep raising the issue, I am happy to debate it at any time because out in the community—

The Hon. C.J. Sumner: Did they advise you—

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: I am not going to indicate that, for the reason that I gave you. I said to them when they were invited in that I welcomed them viewing the film with me and giving me their advice but, because by statute I had the responsibility, I would make the decision.

 

 

February 1994: Senate Estimates -Julian McGauran, SALO and the OFLC's new computer

ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S DEPARTMENT: Program 3--Community affairs: Subprogram 3.3--Office of Film and Literature Classification
Date 24 February, 1994
Committee name ESTIMATES COMMITTEE F
Department ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S DEPARTMENT Program
Program 3--Community affairs
Sub program Subprogram 3.3--Office of Film and Literature Classification
Page 34
Proof NO
Database Estimates Comm.
Source SENATE

Senator McGAURAN --Could you just explain the use of this new computer? What is it and what is it for?

Mr Reaburn --It is to replace the current system, Senator. The current system is old and starting to fall apart.

Senator McGAURAN --What does it do?

Mr Reaburn --It keeps the OFLC's records--its financial records, its accounting records, its classification records.

Senator McGAURAN --How would it help the decision-making of the Office of Film and Literary Classification--

Mr Reaburn --How would it help?

Senator McGAURAN --In making its classifications?

Senator Bolkus --Can you actually rule questions out for stupidity? I am sorry, you are talking about the Office of Film and Literary Classification.

Senator McGAURAN --That is correct.

Senator Bolkus --And as a unit it has a computer.

Senator McGAURAN --Yes.

Senator Bolkus --And a computer is part of the process. It actually helps run the office.

Senator McGAURAN --Yes, but there are also priorities in expenditure. I have supplementary questions once I establish why you sought that as a priority over obvious other priorities within the office, such as better decision-making in making its classifications.

Senator Bolkus --Mr Chairman, I just do not know that this actually goes to the specifics of the item before us--

Senator McGAURAN --Well, allow some questions to go by and we will see.

Senator VANSTONE --Minister, perhaps if I can help here.

Senator Bolkus --Yes, you might.

Senator VANSTONE --I just think the point that the senator is making is to say you have spent $18,000. The purpose of his question is not concerned with whether you have bought a bucket of carrots, peas or a computer. What he is asking is: what were the priorities that you were not able to proceed with, or that led you to decide that you had to have this rather than something else? All spending decisions have a priority and he simply is asking you: what are the ones just under this that would have missed out? That is all. Actually, there is an assumption there that you actually have some priorities.

CHAIRMAN --The officer is trying to give a response.

Mr Reaburn --The point about it is that the current computer system, which is used for all the sorts of things that you would use a computer system in an office for--particularly in terms of record-keeping and particularly in terms of keeping the classification database, which is the record of classification decisions--is wearing out.

We have been advised by the manufacturer of the equipment that within a certain specified time it will no longer be in a position to maintain that particular old equipment and it has to be replaced. It is a simple, straightforward exercise in replacing equipment within an office with new and updated equipment when it gets old and starts to wear out.

Senator McGAURAN --How will this computer help the board itself in making its decisions towards classification of film making?

Mr Reaburn --Because the computer contains the classification database, it will help the board maintain consistency in its approach to classification decisions.

Senator McGAURAN --And expenditure on the computer is a priority over and above other matters such as those reported in the Senate standing committee which I think were greater priorities in making decisions about classifications. If you are given expenditure, would it not have been better to have taken the priorities set in this Senate committee rather than go out and buy a new computer?

Mr Reaburn --Which priorities, Senator?

Senator McGAURAN --Such as exposing the board to greater community consultation. That costs money. It costs money to broaden your consultation and to make the board more community based. It costs money to expand the consultation process. I think that would have been a--

Mr Reaburn --The board and the other statutory officers are exposed to community consultation and they do it quite extensively, so we are spending money on that particular process--

Senator McGAURAN --Extra money, over and above?

Mr Reaburn --Already.

Senator McGAURAN --Why is it not reported here?

Senator Bolkus --We are talking about supplementary estimates, you dork.

Senator McGAURAN --I know.

Senator Bolkus --Maybe if you had had a computer in your operation back in Melbourne you might still have your hotels. We are talking about the administration of an office. It has been explained to you that it was felt that the computer needed upgrading. I do not really think we can take this much further. I withdraw the word `dork'.

Senator VANSTONE --Mr Chairman, before you make whatever ruling you choose to make, these estimates generally are conducted in a reasonably hospitable atmosphere. There are plenty of remarks made, sometimes quite properly, when people on this side of the table do not conduct themselves in a generally pleasant and courteous manner to people on your side of the table. The remark you just made with respect to the assistance that Senator McGauran and his family may have chosen to make of a computer really sits you with some whom you would normally criticise yourself. It just does not help the pleasant flow of each of us trying to do our work.

Senator McGAURAN --I seek a withdrawal on that, Mr Chairman.

CHAIRMAN --I will go back to 3.3.

Senator McGAURAN --Mr Chairman, in the matter of fairness, I would seek a withdrawal of the minister's comment.

CHAIRMAN --I must admit that I did not hear the minister's comment.

Senator McGAURAN --I would ask him to repeat it.

Senator Bolkus --Just to ensure the process continues, I withdraw. There was nothing unparliamentary in what I said, but in order to make Senator McGauran feel better and for the committee and in order that we can continue, I withdraw.

CHAIRMAN --We are back into pleasant mode. Is there anything further on 3.3?

Senator McGAURAN --Yes. Have I been ruled out of order?

CHAIRMAN --No, but I think you got your answer.

Senator McGAURAN --I would say this: from the Senate committee report, the Attorney-General's Department advised the committee that in relation to the movie Salo, where the biggest mistake has been made by this Office of Film and Literature Classification board, basically the board was unaware of its legal obligations--

Senator Bolkus --Mr Chairman, on a point of order, I think we are now very much outside the parameters of additional estimates. We are talking about a specific case, a Senate committee report--

CHAIRMAN --The questioning should really be, `Did the computer need to be replaced or did it not?'. I think you have got your answer.

Senator McGAURAN --Are you ruling me out of order, Mr Chairman?

CHAIRMAN --I am saying what the parameters of the question should be.

Senator McGAURAN --I guess I am just trying to set priorities. If you have got just a certain amount to spend, what should be your priority? A computer--

CHAIRMAN --I think the officers have answered that.

Senator McGAURAN --So I take it the computer was the priority over and above other serious matters within the office of the Film and Literature Board of Review classification where the same amount could be spent.

Mr Reaburn --I would not say that. The OFLC regards a lot of things as being of priority, and at this time the computer is one of them.

Senator McGAURAN --If you are given $18,000, it must be the one, because I see no other additional expenditures.

Mr Reaburn --The reason why there is $18,000 in the additional estimates is that the budget contained a sum of money for the replacement of the computer which had been arrived at as a consequence of negotiations with the Department of Finance in accordance with the normal rules about replacement of equipment like computers. Those negotiations, at the time of the finalisation of the budget, were not quite complete. This particular figure represents the final stage of the negotiations between the OFLC and the Department of Finance. It does not indicate that, in a sudden and surprising sense, the OFLC picked the computer as its only priority for this particular financial year. It reflects the particular workings out of the nature of discussions for the replacement of equipment.

Mr Rose --Perhaps it is fundamental to the way the appropriation process works that--

CHAIRMAN --I am not sure that we need to go into that detail.

 

 

March 1994: Julian McGauran presents SALO Petition #6

Petition: Film and Literature Board
Date 24 March, 1994
Database Senate Hansard
Presenter MCGAURAN
Page 2136
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Petition

Film and Literature Board Senator

McGAURAN (Victoria) —by leave—I present to the Senate the following petition, from 22 citizens, which is not in conformity with the standing orders as it is not in the correct form:

To the Honourable the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The petition of the undersigned shows that the signatories request you to exercise your authority to replace the Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Mr Evan Williams, with a more responsible and representative member of the community, on the grounds that he has lost touch with community standards, as evidenced by his support for the release of the film `Salo'.

 

 

April 1994: SALO in Queensland - Wayne Goss vs. Borbidge

Queensland Legislative Assembly
7523
THURSDAY, 14 APRIL 1994

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE Salo—120 Days of Sodom

Mr BORBIDGE: In directing a question to the Premier, I refer to the film Salo—120 Days of Sodom, which starts its Brisbane season today, and I ask: why has his Government permitted, in the Year of the Family, the screening of a film described by the Commonwealth Censor as "wallowing in depravity" and which includes the torture, sexual abuse and assault of children?

Mr W. K. GOSS: The State Government has not permitted the film to be shown, or more particularly to be given an R classification. The State Government agrees with the Commonwealth Censor, who has repeatedly refused to classify this appalling trash. We agree with the Commonwealth Censor that it should not have been classified. Unfortunately an appeal to the Commonwealth Film Board of Review was successful and the Commonwealth Film Board of Review granted this film an R classification. From the descriptions that I have heard of it, it is nothing more or less than appalling trash and we will be calling on the Commonwealth Attorney-General to look at the operation and the composition of the Commonwealth Film Board of Review. While Australia should have national standards when it comes to these matters, we do not want to see this kind of trash. The Leader of the Opposition is giving this film so much free publicity that he is likely to increase its audience substantially, and I appeal to him to stop giving the film free publicity and I urge Queenslanders to stay away in droves. Salo—120 Days of Sodom

Mr BORBIDGE: I direct a further question to the Premier. I refer to his decision to scrap the Queensland Films Board of Review, a body which would have allowed him to stop the screening of a film that the Victorian Crown Prosecutor warned could lead to copy-cat torture crimes of innocent children. I ask: will he now follow the lead of the Western Australian and South Australian Governments and introduce legislation that would allow his Government to ban this film? "Yes" or "No"?

Mr W. K. GOSS: As I said before, Australia should have national standards and the legislation that was passed by this Government back in 1990 or 1991 was designed to try to end the appalling and improper political misuse of that power by the previous Government.

 

 

April 1994: Trevor Griffin on Wayne Goss's comments

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES (HANSARD)
First Session of the Forty-Eighth Parliament (1994)
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Thursday 21 April 1994

SALO

The Hon. L.H. DAVIS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Attorney-General a question about Salo.

Leave granted.

The Hon. L.H. DAVIS: Some weeks ago there was criticism of the Liberal Government’s decision to ban the viewing of the film Salo. I have not seen the film, and I do not offer a comment on it. However, I was interested to see that the Australian of Friday 15 April carried a report of some strong remarks made about the film by none other than the Labor Premier of Queensland, Mr Wayne Goss, no doubt a close colleague of the shadow Attorney-General. Mr Goss has called on his Labor colleague, the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Lavarch, to investigate the operations and composition of the Federal Government’s Film and Literature Board of Review, which he said had failed in its duty by allowing the ‘appalling, grotesque trash’ film Salo—120 days of Sodom into Australian cinemas.

Mr Goss said that the Federal censor had repeatedly refused to classify this appalling trash but, unfortunately, an appeal to the Board of Review had been successful. Mr Goss took what I thought was the rather unusual step of appealing directly to Queenslanders not to see the film, which opened in Brisbane late last night. He said:

I don’t believe this sort of appalling trash should be shown. That’s why I think the Commonwealth’s Film Board of Review should get a good going over by the Attorney-General.

Mr Goss’s criticism of the board—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. L.H. DAVIS: Well, you should know what the position is in Queensland; you’re revealing your ignorance if you don’t; I’ll tell you later—was backed up by none other than the Queensland Labor Party’s Deputy Premier, Mr Tom Burns, a veteran Labor member (and obviously a close colleague of the Hon. Anne Levy; she is nodding her head). He said that urgent consideration should be given to appointing persons who reside in Queensland, South Australia, or Western Australia and criticised the gross geographic imbalance of the board.

The Queensland Opposition had also attacked the screening of Salo and it asked why the Government had permitted, in the Year of the Family, the screening of the film which was described by the Federal censor as, ‘wallowing in depravity’ and which included the torture, sexual abuse and assault of children. The Opposition pointed out something that I would have thought the Hon. Anne Levy, as a former Minister for the Arts would know, namely, the fact that the Goss Government ultimately had to accept responsibility for the screening of the film in public cinemas in Queensland, because that Labor Government had scrapped the Queensland Film Board of Review. So, there was no check and balance at that State level.

Does the Attorney-General have any comment on the Queensland Labor Premier’s remarks about Salo, particularly in view of the South Australian Labor Party’s criticism of the Government’s decision to ban the film?

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: I think my response to Salo was more measured than that of Mr Goss. At least I acknowledged that there were some people who believe the film may have had some artistic merit, particularly in terms of film archival interest. It was, as I recollect, the last film of Pasolini and, from that point of view, to film buffs may have held some special significance.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. K.T. GRIFFIN: I did. I was quite measured in my response. It is interesting to note that someone of Labor persuasion (or more than one in Queensland) was less temperate in his description of his reaction to the public exhibition of that film in Queensland. There are two points to note. First, in Queensland, as the Hon. Legh Davis has said, ultimately the responsibility has to be borne by the Goss Government because it abolished its Film Board of Review. The other interesting point that is drawn from the article is that there was a distinct bias in the membership of the Film Board of Review towards the two biggest eastern States, New South Wales and Victoria, with I think some token representation from Tasmania. All that will probably change with a significant restructuring at Federal level, which is being undertaken in consultation with the States.

That is the responsibility of the Federal Attorney-General, but there has been reasonable consultation on membership in relation to the structure being put in place at Federal level. Certainly, I take some comfort from the less temperate remarks of Mr Goss in relation to the way in which he has responded to the public exhibition of that film in that State.

 

 

September 1994: WA Liberal MP, P.A. Filing against SALO #1

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL 1994: Second Reading
Date 22 September, 1994
Database House Hansard
Speaker Filing Mr P.A. (MOORE, LP, Opposition)
Page 1395
Proof No
Source House
Stage Second Reading
Type Speech
Context Bill
Main Committee No

Mr FILING (Moore) (12.28 p.m.) —

SNIP

As a society, we have had enough experience by now to know where to draw the line regarding the issues of pornography and violence in relation to books and other hard publications. As far as films are concerned, there is a system in place which offers scrutiny and effective censorship in some areas in the public interest. Occasionally the censor gets it wrong, like in the situation regarding the film Salo, which was reclassified with an R rating on appeal after being refused classification on its release in 1984. This was a film of such depravity and debauchery that it is difficult to imagine the depiction of its litany of inhuman acts of violence and degradation. The film should have been completely banned in this country. The fact that such a film is available for viewing under any circumstances is a reflection of the inadequacies of the current classification system. But that is another matter entirely.

At least the film was the subject of some scrutiny and comment. It was a physical item which could be viewed by a group of people charged with protecting the community from that type of material.

 

 

November 1994: NSW Liberal Senator, John Tierney against SALO #1

ADJOURNMENT: Office of Film and Literature Classification
Date 30 November, 1994
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Tierney Sen J.W. (LP, NSW, Opposition)
Page 3609
Proof No Source Senate
Type Speech Context Adjournment

Senator TIERNEY (New South Wales) (7.37 p.m.) —I rise tonight to continue remarks on the censorship matters that I was speaking about earlier today. I mentioned earlier that we have an excellent classification system that has been in operation since the early 1970s and we have had recent moves to create a proper federal legislative framework. The whole aim of this system is to balance the rights of adults to see and hear what they wish and to protect children.

However, over the last 20 years, there has been growing concern about the way in which this system has been operated. There is a widespread feeling that some of the decisions of the OFLC and the film review board do not properly reflect the wishes of the community. I think this perhaps came out best in an example last year with the classification of the film Salo. Salo would have to be one of the most revolting films ever made. It has been banned in most countries of the world, and it was banned in Australia until last year. Seventeen years ago it was first submitted, and every time it has been submitted since the OFLC has banned it. Its recent decision last year to ban it was overturned by the film review board, and it was at that time that our committee on community standards became increasingly worried about why this sort of thing was happening.

One of the main reasons is that the people who are on the boards of these various censorship bodies are not, despite the claims of the Chief Censor, in any way representative of the community. The annual report that has just come out lists the people and their occupations. Let us see what people think about how representative this is.

The board consists of John Dickie, who was previously a journalist. The Deputy Chief Censor taught drama and media. The Senior Censor, Andree Wright, was a freelance writer. Peter Mackay worked with an adolescent support group—a little out of the mould of the others. Sarah Morton, however, was a freelance journalist. Sally Stockbridge was a senior tutor, lecturer in film and related studies. Douglas Stewart was a senior lecturer in media studies. Elizabeth Alexander was a public relations officer with the Film Finance Corporation. Jennifer Rae was a senior teacher in Intensive English College. Robert Hellmers was a specialist school counsellor, and Gareth Griffith was a lecturer in legal studies.

This is the body of so-called representative people that have been making decisions for the community in this matter. We have had the chief censor and his group claim before us on a number of occasions that their body is representative, but the annual report just laid down gives the lie to that. I raise this matter because the structure of the board has recently undergone review, and the number of members are to be increased from 10 to 20. That is most welcome. But given that the chief censor claimed that the board was previously representative, what will we get this time—more film critics? Basically, of the 11 people I read out, nine people were either lecturers in journalism or journalists of some particular description.

I submit that that is one of the reasons why some of the decisions of this board and the whole direction of censorship in this country have been out of kilter with community attitudes. It was, therefore, the right move by the community standards committee to suggest a reform of the process to get much better community input. We suggested at the time of our video games report that the whole organisation be restructured, that the chief censor become the chief executive officer of the organisation, that a more representative community board be appointed with membership of only three years, that the deputy chief censor be selected from that number and that there be a wide-ranging group representing the community to review the decisions of that board where there is conflict between the Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Film and Literature Board of Review. The government rejected those recommendations at that time.

In the committee's recent report on the classification bill, we have renewed such recommendations. I emphasise tonight the need for the government to do that because it is only through proper community representation that we will get the correct decisions made by this board. If we do not do that, we will continually find problems in the system. Our select committee was set up in 1991 for about three months to do a task and has now been running for four years. The problems are there because of the wrong structure. If we get the structure right, we will not have to keep setting up committees. I recommend very strongly to the Senate that we make such a change.

The other change that needs to be made, and this relates particularly to what will happen to this classification bill from this point on, is that there needs to be a lot more scrutiny of the whole process by the elected parliament. This report actually lists the guidelines under which the film review board and the Office of Film and Literature Classification work for the different censorship codes. Who makes up those guidelines? They come from the board. How is it scrutinised? It comes in the form of an appendix at the back of an annual report. There is no proper legislative scrutiny. There are no regulations to go through the regulations and ordinances committee.

We very strongly recommended to the minister in our report—we are not amending the legislation to do this—that, if there are any changes to the guidelines on the censorship matters, those changed guidelines lie on the table of the state and federal parliaments so that there is some scrutiny in the process. It is hoped in this way that the excellent system of scrutiny that we have in this country, the system that is set up under the Office of Film and Literature Classification which is taken worldwide to be a leader in the field, will be refined in the ways that I have indicated so that these matters properly reflect the true attitudes of the community and not just a vested interest group.

 

 

December 1994: WA Liberal MP, P.A. Filing against SALO #2

Question on Notice: Salo: 120 Days of Sodom
Date 06 December, 1994
Database House Hansard
Questioner Filing Mr P.A. (MOORE, LP, Opposition)
Responder Lavarch The Hon M.H. (MOORE, ALP)
Page 4073
Proof No
Question_no 1352
Source House
Type Question on Notice
Main Committee No

Salo: 120 Days of Sodom (Question No. 1352)

Mr Filing asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 23 August 1994:

Has his attention been drawn to the availability in Australia of an `R' rated film entitled Salo: 120 days of Sodom; if so, (a) does the film depict graphic images of sodomy, urolagnia, coprophagy, suicide, scalping, paedophilia and other acts of depravity,(b) did the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards (i) describe the film as a catalogue of horror, outrageous, disgusting and wallowing in depravity, horrific imagery and inhuman sadistic sexuality, and (ii) find sensational exploitative shocking perversion, strong impact of revulsion and disgust at the cruelty, inhumanity and hedonism in the film and (c) will he immediately ban the film in the interests of the community; if not, why not.

Mr Lavarch —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(a) I understand that, with the exception of paedophilia, the film contains depictions of the type described in the question. In relation to the issue of paedophilia, the past Chairman of the Film and Literature Board of Review adopted the position that the actors employed in the film were young adults and that, if child abuse or child pornography were depicted in the film, the Review Board would have `refused' the film.

(b) I am advised that the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards described the film in strongly disapproving terms.

(c) The Film Censorship Board refused registration to Salo on 18 December 1992 because it was considered indecent under Regulation 13(1)(a) of the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations. It was a majority decision with 7 voting for `refuse' and four for an `R' classification.

The Film and Literature Board of Review, on appeal on 13 January 1993, directed that Salo be registered for importation under the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations and that it be classified as `R'—for restricted exhibition subject to the condition that advertising matter prepared for the film by Premium Films, the applicant, be submitted to the Review Board for approval. The Review Board also directed that the consumer advice—`DISTURBING ADULT CONCEPTS AND HIGH LEVEL VIOLENCE AND SEX' appear in advertising for the film.

The Review Board said in its decision that:

The film is generally considered to be a metaphor for fascism and oppression and a critique of capitalist exploitation.

Salo presents us with the most stringent test to date of the basic principle that adults in a free society should be able to see what they wish.

. . . we agreed that its depictions, while frequently shocking, were integral to the filmmaker's purposes, and therefore not gratuitous; nor were they in anyway erotic or titillating.

The film has been classified `R'—for restricted exhibition which means that it may be exhibited to persons 18 years of age and over. It has not been classified for sale or hire.

While it is possible for some States Attorneys-General to intervene in the classification process and vary the classification of Salo for their jurisdiction, it is not, I am advised, possible for the Commonwealth Attorney-General to do the same.

This is because the Film and Literature Board of Review's decision to classify Salo as `R' (for restricted exhibition) is made under State legislation. The State law confers the power to classify, on appeal, to the Review Board and, in the cases of Western Australia and South Australia, the power to intervene, as has occurred, to the responsible State Minister.

Under the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations, the power to prevent importation, ceased to apply once the Review Board directed that the film be registered for importation and it was released from the control of Customs.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General cannot intervene in the Review Board's decision regarding `Salo'.

 

 

February 1995: NSW Liberal Senator, John Tierney against SALO #2

COMMITTEES: Community Standards Committee: Report
Date 09 February, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Tierney Sen J.W. (LP, NSW, Opposition)
Page 906
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage Report
Type Speech
Context Committee

Senator TIERNEY (New South Wales) (7.02 p.m.) —

To give an example of two films that showed the range of problems, there is a delightful movie that has an R classification called World According to Garp. It has an R classification but the reasons for the R are reasonably subtle and you would probably be reasonably comfortable with most teenagers and children watching it. On the other hand, the horrific movie Salo that has been banned around the world and has been banned in Australia for 17 years finally slipped through the Film Review Board and is now available with an R classification. Admittedly, it has some restrictions but we are finding increasingly that those restrictions are broken. I am reasonably confident that this material will end up on pay TV some day. What are people to make of it as they both have an R classification?

 

 

February 1995: Brian Harradine on the SALO R18+ rating #1

COMMITTEES: Community Standards Committee: Report
Date 09 February, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Harradine Sen B. (IND, TAS, Opposition)
Page 908
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage Report
Type Speech
Context Committee

Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania) (7.16 p.m.) —

Let me go to the question of violence. According to the OFLC, graphic, realistic and bloody violence is allowed, but not if it is brought upon to an extent that invites vicarious pleasure from the viewer. That, of course, is to be a subjective judgment by the OFLC. I saw the film Salo. Salo has an R classification. In the part of our report entitled Video and computer games and classification issues which dealt with classification issues, we indicated briefly what Salo was all about.

 

ADJOURNMENT: Report of Community Standards Committee
Date 09 February, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Harradine Sen B. (IND, TAS, Opposition)
Page 909
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Speech
Context Adjournment

Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania) (7.20 p.m.) —As I was saying, we described Salo as depicting sexual degradation and torture by four high-ranking functionaries of a group of young prisoners. They were teenagers of both sexes who were rounded up by the fascist authorities during the closing stages of the Second World War. The degrading and offensive acts range from perverted sexual practices, such as urolagnia and coprophilia, through to brutal violence and murder.

I saw that film in a theatre as part of my duties. I must say that I have seen numerous R and X classified films and videos. I looked at that film with one half of my mind on the actual classification guidelines and the other half on the screen. At the same time I was attempting to assess the technical merit of the film. In my view, that film clearly should not have received an R classification. To its credit, the OFLC did not give it an R classification, but the Film and Literature Board of Review did. Therefore, the themes and depictions contained in that film can be included in the R classification.

When we asked a representative of the Film and Literature Board of Review whether that film would get an R classification if were submitted as a video, the response was that it would probably not receive a classification. In other words, it would be refused classification. That is very interesting. Obviously, that presumably meant that the board saw a difference between an R category that could be shown in the cinemas and an R category that could go into the home environment. How this suggestion makes sense under existing laws is yet to be fully tested.

I have also seen other R-rated films, one of which did include sexual violence. To my mind, it was a serious treatment of the particular issue involved. To my mind, it was appropriately classified R. It appears that the word `extent' used by the OFLC to qualify the R category guidelines depends on the particular interpretation the censor places on it on a particular occasion.

What we are saying is that the classification presently encompasses too broad a range. We have said that the OFLC should undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the R classification to define, with greater precision, the criteria to be used in rating violent, sexually violent, realistic and degrading, demeaning or exploitative sexual material, taking into account its intensity and extensiveness, to ensure its appropriateness for viewing in the home environment—bearing in mind that children, as well as persons of disturbed or immature minds, are inevitably going to view the material.

I have referred to violent material and sexually violent material. We also refer to material that is realistic, degrading and demeaning or exploitative sexual material. There is some R classified material which is not physically violent but is demeaning and degrading. For example, a number of the R classified films have the same theme content and intent as the X classification, save only that they have been taken at a different angle.

Some of these films have themes of sexual harassment involving workplace sexual favours. In my view, they are demeaning and degrading. There are also films in the R category which, whilst not physically violent, could be termed `exploitative sexual material'. That material commodifies and objectifies women, mainly. Rather than treating them as free and responsible initiators of human activities, that sort of material, although non-violent, treats women as sexual commodities to arouse the sexual desires of its target audience. Group sex scenes depicting diverse sexual activities are a feature of much of that material.

 

 

March 1995: NSW Liberal Senator, John Tierney against SALO #3

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL 1994: Second Reading
Date 01 March, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Tierney Sen J.W. (LP, NSW, Opposition) Interjector Senator O'Chee
Page 1209
Proof No
Source Senate Stage
Second Reading
Type Speech
Context Bill

Senator TIERNEY (New South Wales) (6.02 p.m.) —I rise to indicate that the opposition will be supporting the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Bill 1994. The bill proposes to provide the classification of publications, films and computer games for the Australian Capital Territory. When this is through, it will form part of a national system for classification and enforcement of these classifications.

The bill's main purpose is to establish the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board to administer this particular act. Classification decisions are to be made in accordance with the national classification code which is set out in the bill and guidelines to help apply this code. The bill does give effect to community concern about X and R rated material on computer, video and film. Overall, this bill is a triumph, I think, for cooperative federalism on the regulation of material that can harm and disturb.

This country has, I believe, one of the best censorship systems in the world and I think it is regarded that way. It began in the early 1970s and very early on it was set up to balance what are perhaps two conflicting principles; that is, the rights of adults to see material they want to see and obviously the right of children to be protected. The conflict between these principles I believe overall has been resolved in a reasonably satisfactory way in regard to the public exhibition of material, particularly in cinemas, particularly with the application of the R classification.

We have considerable concern about the way in which this material is in the video stores; the way in which that, in turn, has got into the hands of minors, and there is widespread evidence of that; the way it has affected the Aboriginal communities, particularly in the Northern Territory, in very unfortunate ways, and we have had evidence before the community standards committee of that; and the way in which paedophiles have used the material for seduction and the unfortunate effects of that on society. But we now have a national approach and we have seen evidence, particularly over the last two years, of a considerable amount of cooperation between state and federal Attorneys-General in the way in which this act or the whole area of censorship is to be administered in this country.

We have, as a committee on community standards, made a number of recommendations to the government on additional reforms apart from what is here at the moment. I think it is very unfortunate that the government has not taken up those particular reforms and the committee has once again urged that the reforms initially put forward in the computer games area a little over a year ago and now restated in our latest report on film classification be adopted.

Before I outline what those reforms are, I will just give an example of why such reform is needed. A few years ago a film called Salo came into this country. It is a horrific film. It has been banned in most countries; it was banned in Australia 17 years ago. But when it came before the OFLC it was initially, by majority decision, decided not to classify it as R, but the Film Review Board overturned that decision. I think this points to the nub of what is still the problem in the censorship area.

What we have done is set up a system that is not really representative of what the community feels is needed in this area, and we have also taken out some degree of parliamentary scrutiny of the process. In the report of the community standards committee we did recommend that these two things again be put into the legislation initially and, as the government has not done that, we would urge the government to review that decision.

When I first read this bill I was very disappointed to see that the current structure of censorship pretty much stayed the same. What the committee had recommended was that we have a chief censor and a deputy chief censor who are drawn from the community. The person who is currently the chief censor would become the chief executive officer and he would perform a role something like the head of other statutory authorities in terms of administering that particular area but that the actual final decisions as in a chief censor and a deputy chief censor be drawn from a board that is far more widely representative than the one we have currently.

On the record in a number of committee hearings I did ask about the representative nature of the present board. It is a great disappointment to me that public servants involved tried to hide the real situation on a number of occasions. We have a board that is highly unrepresentative. If you look at the occupations of the 10 people involved up until the latest change from 20, they include journalists, film critics, teachers, lecturers in media studies, public servants, school counsellors and a fitter. If you want someone perhaps representative of the community, the fitter was probably the closest you will get out of that group. Unfortunately, when the board was reformed and it was to go to 20 people—

Senator Harradine interjecting—

Senator TIERNEY —I am just about to make that point—when the board was to be made up to 20 people the fitter went but there are still not 20 names. We went through the latest report and the board was only up to 11. Again, it was still the same sort of group. I am sure these people are very learned in these matters relating to film but the question is: do they really reflect community standards? When we asked the Attorneys-General offices and the OFLC questions on this from time to time, they claimed that these people, by their own community interaction, form a group that is reflecting community standards. I think that is drawing a pretty long bow.

What we need to do is set up a wider group, and the committee welcomes the fact that it has gone from 10 to 20. But again, the way in which these people are selected and the types of people who are selected need to be very carefully analysed. They are all very highly academically qualified, but if you had a truly representative cross-section of the community, you would not be using academic qualifications as your first and, I suspect in some ways, only criteria for selection. So we urge that that aspect of the board's work and structure certainly be changed.

The other thing that we have recommended twice in committee reports—which is still being ignored—is that there should be a community group to review what happens with decisions of this reconstituted board. We recommended that any decisions of the board to do with classification at a particular level which were not unanimous be reviewed by this wider community group. The other part of this was that, when there is disagreement between the OFLC and the film review board, this wider community group review the decision of the board.

I think that will put in a mechanism which will solve a lot of the problems that we tend to have in this area. Suddenly, in an area that is fairly dynamic and rapidly changing, something happens—such as the Salo case—and the community gets outraged that this has happened. If these structures had been set up in the first place, those sorts of problems would not have happened. Part of the art of government is getting your structures right so you do not have to constantly set up committees and have inquiries and reviews. If you get the structure right in the first place, you stop that sort of thing.

 

 

March 1995: Liberal Senator, H.G.P Chapman against SALO

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL 1994: Second Reading
Date 01 March, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Chapman Sen H.G.P. (LP, SA, Opposition)
Interjector Senator O'Chee
Page 1212
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage Second Reading
Type Speech
Context Bill

Senator CHAPMAN (South Australia) (6.20 p.m.) —The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Bill, which sets up a national classification code, is a timely reminder of the need for greater public scrutiny of what is considered suitable in the areas of publications, films and computer games which are now available in Australia. A commitment by the government to ensuring that community standards and family values are not usurped by the ever increasing flood of pornography and unacceptable material which appears to be creeping into every facet of life in our society does provide a glimmer of hope for many Australian families.

Recently, we saw the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) declare the need for a family based television channel which would reduce the amount of violence, horror and sex which invades our daily television broadcasts. This same Prime Minister, who in this way wants to be seen to be taking the high moral ground, ironically has allowed his government to ignore the increasingly unacceptable level of violence, sex and horror on the ABC and the SBS.

Senator O'Chee —Hear, hear!

Senator CHAPMAN —I welcome Senator O'Chee's concurrence in that claim. In spite of these problems, a cooperative approach between the states and the Commonwealth on the need for uniform legislation in Australia with regard to the classification of publications, films and computer games has developed. But this conformity seems to be publicly driven.

Last year, this government—in particular, the Attorney-General (Mr Lavarch)—gave carte blanche for the controversial film, Salo, to be shown in Australia. I note that my colleague Senator Tierney a few moments ago also referred to the issue of this film.

On 5 August 1994 I wrote to the federal Attorney-General, following the public outcry and distress about Salo being shown in South Australia after it had received an R(18+) classification by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board on 18 December 1992. Peter Duncan MP, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General, replied by letter dated 22 September stating:

That decision was appealed to the Film and Literature Board of Review which, on 13 January 1993, upheld the appeal and directed the Censorship Board to register the film with a `For Restricted Exhibition' (R18) classification and the consumer advice `Disturbing Adult Concepts and High Level Violence and Sex'.

That was it. That was how concerned the federal Attorney-General was about the content of this film and the process used to give it an R classification.

In July 1994 a constituent of mine in South Australia raised the issue of the disturbing content contained in the film, Salo. What I understand to be an accurate description of degrading forms of behaviour and acts perpetrated in various scenes in this film which he detailed in his letter are too filthy and too abhorrent to repeat in this place. But there can be absolutely no doubt that such presentations should be banned completely.

When this Labor government allowed this film to be shown in my home state of South Australia, Mr Richard Read, a Victorian crown prosecutor for 14 years who has prosecuted many violent sex criminals, had this to say about it:

Salo is, without exception, the most horrific sexually violent film I have ever seen. Two of the people I was with when I saw it (at the request of the Herald-Sun newspaper) were police officers and both of them had to leave the room as they felt ill. It escapes me how Salo meets any of the statutory guidelines and I agree that we must await the copy-cat torture crimes of innocent children.

That is what Mr Richard Read said about a decision for which this government is responsible. Yet we have the Prime Minister strutting the stage saying that he wants a family television channel. What absolute hypocrisy from this government; what hypocrisy from this foul-mouthed Prime Minister!

Should this legislation be passed, and I hope it will be, I will be among the first to call for this film, Salo, to be banned in Australia under the government's new RC—refused classification—category. The government's proposed RC classification deals directly with publications which:

. . . describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards or morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or

described or depicted in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a minor who is, or who appears to be, under 16 (whether the minor is engaged in sexual activity or not); or

promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence—

a very accurate description of the film, Salo. In South Australia we saw the former state Labor government—in this case, Attorney-General Chris Sumner—coming out publicly and actually defending this film, Salo, on the pretext that it served a useful purpose in our community as a measure of protecting our civil liberties. What a joke! I struggle to fathom the former South Australian Labor Attorney-General's thinking in his defence of the film, Salo, and in allowing it to be shown. I was very glad that the new Liberal Attorney-General, Trevor Griffin, overturned that decision when the film was attempted to be shown again later.

This bill will establish the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board. The government in its second reading speech has also indicated that the Law Reform Commission recommendation for community consultation will be adopted. Given the Salo controversy, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the existing board has become desensitised to the increasing levels of violence and pornography in our society. Consequently, this proposed community input is indeed welcome.

The arguments for regular reviews of the boards' membership and tenure are obvious. One must query the ability of any censorship board member to judge acceptable community standards, when desensitisation over time must be an inevitable consequence attached to this role. This was one of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies. Recommendation 11 of that committee stated that the length of tenure of censorship board members needed review.

Clause 51 of the bill, which sets out the terms and conditions of appointment to the Classification Board, provides that a member, other than a temporary member, may be appointed for up to five years and may be reappointed; a member's total period of appointment may not exceed seven years. Clause 76 of the bill similarly sets out the terms and conditions of appointment to the review board, also with a maximum term of seven years.

The Minister for Family Services, Senator Crowley, in presenting the government's response to the community standards committee recommendation 11, stated that the Law Reform Commission's recommendations regarding tenure have largely been adopted. The existing tenure periods are three years, with a further three years, and a maximum appointment period not exceeding six years.

It seems to me that the tenure period has actually been increased with a term of five years, with a provision for reappointment and a maximum not exceeding seven years. This should be contrasted with evidence given to the committee during its public hearings where community groups requested a tenure period of two years. We have a situation where we currently have a maximum tenure period of six years, the community wants a tenure period of two years—and the government has extended it to seven, thereby increasing the capacity for members of this board to be desensitised and make false judgments about what ought and ought not to be available on television and other communications media. In that respect this bill does nothing to improve the situation; in fact, it worsens the situation.

This bill will have little effect in cleaning up the mess we are in if changes are not made on the censorship board which reflect a more appropriate degree of suitability of films, publications and computer games. If the government does not examine board membership and further review the tenure of board members, this bill will be nothing more than Clayton's legislation, paying lip service to the issue with little else on offer than the politically expedient portrayal of the Labor government's touted concern for families and protection of our children. That is the real concern about this legislation: that it is about creating a perception and an image and denying the reality that this government is doing nothing about the pornography, unacceptable films and other programs that are becoming more and more evident on television and other means of media communication.

On the one hand, the Prime Minister wants to give the impression that he is concerned about family standards and values; on the other hand, his government—the government for which he as Prime Minister must take primary responsibility—appoints people to the Office of Film and Literature Classification Board who refuse to stand up and be counted when it comes to maintaining decency. The Attorney-General and the government should move to ban the film Salo. It recently refused to do this despite public condemnation. Only if it does this will it prove its commitment to the stated aims of this legislation.

The other point which I want to make concerns the amendment to this bill which excludes from the definition of `computer game' material on computer bulletin boards. The omission of paragraph (a) and thus the exclusion, it is stated, will enable the classification board to classify computer games on computer bulletin boards if there is some requirement to do so under other Commonwealth, state or territory legislation. Attorney-General Lavarch, in reply to a question on 12 October 1994, said that part of the reason for this exclusion was that:

The Government clearly—and no doubt the Opposition—is not interested in having any laws which would unreasonably intrude upon the privacy of the telephone system.

The Attorney-General went on to say that, because of both cost and intrusion upon the sanctity of the telephone system, he considered unrealistic the recommendation of the task force that a censorship regime be applied to bulletin board traffic.

SNIP

I simply conclude by saying that I hope this legislation will have some beneficial effect on restricting the expansion of opportunities for pornography to be viewed through our various media. If the government really wants to convince the community that it is fair dinkum in its approach to families and children on this issue and it is not, as I said earlier, merely trying to create the perception that it cares about families, and is thereby trying to match the undoubted and recognised commitment of the Liberal and National parties to family values and family standards, then it needs to go further than is provided in this legislation—much, much further. In particular, in a practical way in terms of decisions that have to be made immediately, that film Salo needs to be banned. More importantly, the government needs to deal with this issue of bulletin boards.

 

 

March 1995: Brian Harradine on the SALO R18+ rating #2

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL 1994: Second Reading
Date 02 March, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Harradine Sen B. (IND, TAS, Opposition)
Interjector Senator Boswell
Page 1234
Proof No
Source Senate Stage
Second Reading
Type Speech
Context Bill

Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania) (9.49 a.m.) —

My view is that it is the themes, as much as the explicit depictions, that are of concern. It is the themes that tend to engender a callous and manipulative orientation towards other human beings. That is one of the major problems. It is those themes that are included in much of the R material. A lot of the R material is exactly the same in content, intent, theme and title as the X equivalent. That is a matter that the Senate also needs to be aware of.

Much has been said about the film Salo. I went to the theatre and saw that film. I do not see how the producer of that film, Salo, could see that as an appropriate way to express oneself. I admit that you have to have a balance between the rights of persons to freedom of expression and the rights of others in the community. Normally speaking I would go down heavily on the side of the rights to freedom of expression, but this material acts the same way as racial vilification does. It vilifies a whole section of the community and portrays that section of the community as highly promiscuous and available. That is the message that comes across.

As to Salo, yes, I did see it. I viewed the film with part of my mind on the guidelines and the other part on the film itself, and I tried to work out how this film could possibly fit within the current R guidelines. I came to the conclusion that it could not. The description of the material is, I think, in our report; certainly, it is in Hansard, so I will not describe it now. It was a maniacal film—I suppose that is the only description that one can use.

In any event, under the existing provisions of the law, the Film Censorship Board can do something about it now. Its two years is up. I hope the board takes that under consideration because I will be asking the question in the committee stage. Perhaps the board should go back to the books and look at the timing. However, they are really digressions. That is not what I wanted to talk about. I was answering as to the matters that have come before the board, and I have only two minutes now to talk about this measure.

The measure before us consists of three elements: the provision for determining the standards against which publications, films and computer games are to be classified; the provision for an organisation to classify them; and the provision for laws that regulate the distribution and possession of publications. It relies on three elements: the first element is the national classification code; the second element is the creation of a body to apply the classification criteria; and the third element is to be carried out by the states and territories—that is, in regard to the question of distribution and possession or otherwise. In the committee stage, I will be asking questions about those matters. Because I had to answer some of the other matters, the committee stage might go on a little longer.

 

 

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL 1994: In Committee
Date 02 March, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Harradine Sen B. (IND, TAS, Opposition)
Page 1251
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage In Committee
Type Speech
Context Bill

Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania) (11.34 a.m.) —

We had a very strong discussion and debate about the film Salo being given an R classification. It must be said that it was not given an R classification by the Film Censorship Board, because the Film Censorship Board refused to classify that film and, therefore, it was not available for public exhibition. It then went to the Film Board of Review, and the Film Board of Review overturned the decision that was taken by the Film Censorship Board, and it did so in a rather strange way.

At one particular stage we had Mr Williams, the Chairman of the Film Board of Review, before us. He came to give an explanation, and I understood the erudite nature of his explanation. There was some intellectual sense in it, and one could appreciate that. I am not trying to denigrate Mr Williams because he would be far more intelligent and far more of a film buff than I am—although I very much like going to films and have seen some very good ones over the last six months, and some which have been not all that crash hot.

But I do say this: yes, this is a problem though. Here we have a situation whereby decisions like this on criteria that we are establishing do not properly reflect what the public itself would consider to be a proper application of those criteria. That is the problem. The public itself does not even have standing when it comes to appealing a decision made by the Film Censorship Board. That is another question.

In this particular case of Salo, the Film Censorship Board refused it a classification. The importers—I think it was the importers, I may be wrong here; certainly persons with `an interest', and in this case a monetary interest—had standing to appeal to the Film Board of Review. That is how the film got there.

The whole point about this is that, if the Film Censorship Board, for example, had placed this film into the R category and the public itself became appalled at that, the public under the previous legislation did not even have standing to appeal that decision; and under this legislation, the public itself still does not have standing, as I understand it—and correct me if I am wrong; I would like you to answer that—to appeal a decision of the Film Censorship Board. That is of some considerable concern.

I know the arguments that might be used as to the general issue of standing in respect of administrative decisions. But what we as a committee were concerned about was this very question of how the public, the ordinary people living in suburban or rural Australia, would consider that the criteria should be applied in respect of a particular film or video. That is why we have vindicated here these propositions in 2, 5, 6 and 7. They are, I suppose, the community recommendations which we as a committee suggested ought to be part and parcel of this whole package of legislation which includes this bill in the federal sphere and other legislation in the state sphere.

 

 

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL 1994: In Committee
Date 02 March, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Harradine Sen B. (IND, TAS, Opposition)
Interjector Senator Schacht
Page 1263
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage In Committee
Type Speech
Context Bill

Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania) (12.31 p.m.) —

One big thing that I would like to see is the turnover of the board to save the problem of desensitisation. There is no risk about desensitisation. I look at films now—for example, Salo—and I suppose I was desensitised, because I did not walk out feeling sick and I wondered afterwards why the heck I did not. The reason was that I had one half of my mind on the actual screen—the depictions and so forth—while the other half was thinking, `How could it possibly fit into the R category,' et cetera. It does depend very much on who is involved in the decision making. That goes for the Attorney-General, each of the state ministers, the Film Censorship Board and the boards that are established under this legislation.

 

 

March 1995: Labor Senator, B.C Cooney supports John Dickie

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL 1994: Second Reading
Date 02 March, 1995
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Cooney Sen B.C. (ALP, VIC, Government)
Interjector Senator O'Chee; Senator Faulkner; Senator Harradine
Page 1239
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage Second Reading
Type Speech
Context Bill

Size 15Kb

Senator COONEY (Victoria) (10.17 a.m.) —

I have heard some films mentioned in this chamber. Senator Harradine mentioned Salo. I have not seen it; perhaps I should. I am willing to concede for the purpose of argument that it is a very nasty film. I am willing to concede for the purpose of this argument that it should not have been released.

In fact I noticed that the Film Censorship Board did not release Salo. It was released on appeal. I am willing to admit that the Film and Literature Board of Review members should not have released it. I then say: so what? What do you conclude from that? Do you conclude that they made a mistake? And they very well may have made a mistake. One film or even six films hardly show a course of conduct that ought to be brought against the people who fill these boards to show that they should be driven, as it were, into eternal darkness.

I would suggest that everybody who has had anything to do with Mr Dickie, for example, who is our chief censor, would regard him as having done outstanding work in this area. I notice there is nobody presently in the chamber who would disagree with that—Senator Harradine, Senator O'Chee, Senator Ian Macdonald and Senator Herron. Ms Wright has nobly done the task we set her and so has Peter Mackay and so on. I think Senator Harradine no doubt would agree with me that to err is human and that is the condition we are all in.

Senator Faulkner —Very rarely in your case, senator.

Senator COONEY —Very rarely but even members of this chamber can make the odd mistake. Given the fact—

Senator Harradine —They were on different sides on the Salo issue—the chief censor and Ms Wright.

Senator COONEY —That is what I am saying. I am willing to concede for the purpose of this argument that the people who let Salo in were wrong.

Senator Harradine —One of whom was not Mr Dickie.

Senator COONEY —I know. As I said before, Mr Dickie did not want to let it in. I think he is probably anti-Italian but, leaving that aside, he did not want to let it in. All I am saying is, even if there are one or two instances where films were let in, so what? All that says is that mistakes can be made. I was reading from the Bible and Shakespeare to show that you cannot condemn a particular group or a particular person on the basis of even a dozen errors. They do not say that in those terms but that is the thrust of it. You have to look at the course of conduct.

When you get into this area, which is a very emotional area, and so it should be because it is a very emotional subject, there is a tendency for people who make the decisions to oftentimes most unfairly be in the firing line. I am sorry for hitting the microphone with a piece of paper and making a terrible noise. That is a mistake I have made, but I should not be thrown out of the Senate for making that mistake.

Senator Faulkner —That is the first one you've made this sitting.

Senator COONEY —And I should not be thrown out of the Senate because I made it. We should remember the situation in which we put people who have to censor these things. I want to put on the record that it is my belief that the Film Censorship Board, so ably led by Mr Dickie, has performed an outstanding function over the years and I think it needs praise. The Film and Literature Board of Review—

Senator Harradine —Did you say they needed prayer?

Senator COONEY —No, needed praise. We all need prayer. I went to the ceremonies yesterday—I hope you went to the ceremonies yesterday, Senator Harradine; I did not notice any ashes on your forehead this morning. The Film Censorship Board needs praise and so does the Film and Literature Board of Review. Poor Mr Dickie. I have known him for many years now. He has suffered with the stress of having to make these decisions. I just want to say that Mr Dickie has done a good job. I see Mr Reaburn in the advisers' area, too. He has done an excellent job in the Attorney-General's Department.

I see the Minister representing the Attorney-General (Senator Bolkus) is in the chamber, and I want to know why we are letting so much of the work which was formerly done by the Attorney-General's Department go out to private practitioners. But I think that is straying from the topic, so I will conclude on that point.

 

 

November 1995: Director of OFLC on Community Standards and SALO

SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY STANDARDS RELEVANT TO THE SUPPLY OF SERVICES UTILISING ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGIES: Classification guidelines for films and videotapes: Discussion
Date 27 November, 1995
Committee SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY STANDARDS RELEVANT TO THE SUPPLY OF SERVICES UTILISING ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGIES
Reference Classification guidelines for films and videotapes
Place CANBERRA
Questioner Senator HARRADINE;
CHAIR; Senator TIERNEY
Responder Mr Reaburn; Mr Dickie
Page 5
Proof YES
Database Senate Committees
Source Senate

CHAIR —We have always found that we have had some difficulty with the scale of films being included in the R category. I think on one occasion--and I do not have it with me--you provided a list of hard, soft and medium in the R category. That was always very fundamental to our recommendation relating to pay TV--the breadth of R, and when an R is of no particular concern and when it is a Salo. Under these new guidelines, how is that conundrum about when it is a hard R or a soft R addressed?

Mr Dickie —Under the new guidelines, Salo would be refused. Under the old guidelines, in my view, Salo should have been refused. I can speak for my board when I say that it does not matter what guidelines you put down, it is always open to an appeal body to reach a different decision. The ones that we have discussed are ones that we gave a high level consumer advice to, which would have included films such as Pulp Fiction. I cannot remember the list but that was the basis on which we submitted the list of films. There are some which just get into R. Disclosure was one which was given an R classification on a 6 to 5 vote of the board.

Senator TIERNEY —As opposed to MA.

Mr Dickie —Yes. I think that that was a good borderline case. For all sorts of different reasons it just scraped into R. Another one on at the moment, Seven, is, in our view, clearly within R and clearly a film to be viewed by people aged 18 and over.

Senator TIERNEY —It absolutely terrified my 19-year old daughter. I have not yet seen it but, on that basis, you have made me curious so I might go and see it.

Mr Dickie —Yes. It has been compared to Silence of the Lambs but I do not think it is quite as powerful a film as Silence of the Lambs. A lot of people are going to see it and we have not had any complaints about that. There are a couple of gruesome scenes in it but it is essentially a thriller and detective story. I think something like that should be seen by people 18 and over. Disclosure is a softer film but, in our view, that also should be seen by people aged 18 and over. We would not have made it an R otherwise. That is the sort of dilemma you have. Seven would be in the medium to top of the R range, Disclosure would be at the bottom and Basic Instinct would be medium to high, I suppose--closer to medium.

CHAIR —You said that Salo would be refused classification. What about the provision for film festivals and serious study? Would that preclude Salo being shown at a film festival?

Mr Dickie —If it were my decision, I would say yes, because in my view Salo is a refused category film under any circumstances.

CHAIR —Under any circumstances?

Mr Dickie —Under any circumstances, yes. We had a situation earlier this year in regard to a festival, with a film called Tiras Cristal. This was being shown by the gay and lesbian film festival. We called that in and knocked it back. That was a film that we said contained child sexual abuse. In my view, festivals get maximum licence, but there are still some films where we have to draw the line, and Tiras Cristal was one.

Mr Reaburn —And withstood legal challenge.

Mr Dickie —It finished up in the Federal Court.

CHAIR —And it was--

Mr Reaburn —There was a legal challenge to that decision, Senator.

CHAIR —And it was upheld.

Mr Reaburn —Yes.

CHAIR —What else apart from Salo would be refused classification?

Mr Dickie —It is strange that you should ask. On Friday afternoon, there was a mainstream one. I did not see it on Friday afternoon, but our board knocked it back because of sexual violence. What they will do with that, I do not know. They will probably edit it and bring it back. It was called Dead Man. That is the first time that a mainstream film has been knocked back for yonks.

CHAIR —In what direction do you think Australia has moved? The David Haines view is that Australia is going backwards. It is facing up to more rigorous censorship, even though we have to call the classification these days. Is this not a worldwide trend because of some of the absolute extremes that the filmmakers have taken us and hence there has been this reaction? I always quote Clinton, who told Hollywood to clean up its act. Is this happening elsewhere? Is there a mood of `enough is enough'? I am talking only about violence and sexual violence.

Mr Dickie —The David Haines view represents David Haines. I do not think it has terribly much validity out there. I think there are two things. Firstly, there have been a couple of trends in the last nine or 10 years. I think some of them are worldwide; I think some of them might be just confined to us. I think the community here has become less tolerant of the mixture of sex and violence and of sexual violence. Where that is involved, I think the community has authorised us to become a bit tighter and I think the revised guidelines indicate that.

Secondly, where there is a context and a justification for it, I think people are more tolerant of sex and nudity scenes in films; they make their own mind up about it. There was a lot of hype about Showgirls before the film arrived. It was going to be the most shocking thing that had ever arrived in Australia. However, people said what a terrific pleasure it was to work with Verhoeven and Eszterhas and that it was almost a morality play. For anybody who has seen Showgirls, `morality play' might be something you would use to describe it, but most people would not. I thought the most interesting thing about Showgirls, which we classified R and which was, in our view, squarely an R, was that people just did not go and see it. It was a crook film and people made up their own minds not to go and see it. It just sank without trace. So in those matters where there is not a context for it, and things like that, people just give it the flick. I think that those two trends have been active in Australia.

In terms of the Hollywood stuff, the trend there--and we noted this in our reports over the last two or three years--has been away from violent films such as Terminator II and things like that to films such as Forrest Gump, Mrs Doubtfire and The Lion King. All the big money films have been films which are more orientated to family viewing. They are the ones that have really made the money. Although you still get films such as Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers and Seven--there is always an audience for those and a lot of young people go and see those films--they do not make anything like the money that Forrest Gump made, for instance. They certainly will not make anything like the amount of money that Babe will make when it is released here--do not miss it.

 

 

November 1995: SA Liberal, Dorothy Kotz on SALO

South Australia
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Wednesday 29 November 1995
CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) BILL
Mrs KOTZ (Newland):

I also recall the debate on the film Salo which depicted child sexual abuse, child pornography and bestiality, and presented it as an art form. It was classified for restricted public viewing by the Commonwealth Censor, even though it had been banned in most countries for over 17 years. State action by the Attorney-General relegated that film offering of pornographic depravity back into its can and out of our State, hopefully never to be revived again.

I raise the recollection of the film Salo to question the powers being retained by the State in accepting national uniform legislation. Salo was classified in the past by the Commonwealth Censor, which meant that the film could be publicly shown, albeit with restriction, in our State. The public outcry against the showing of the film was quelled by the Attorney-General’s invoking State powers. The question was, ‘Have we retained those powers?’ Again, I am pleased to note that the South Australian Classification Council will operate as a board of review in the same manner as the previous board operated. Clause 17 provides:

The council or the Minister may classify a publication, film or computer game despite the fact that it is classified under the Commonwealth Act.

The State will have the right to review the classification if considered necessary, the Minister has the right to review the classification of a film, and the board may review the classification of a film, video or a publication.

 

 

May 1996: Labor's Senator Chris Schacht on SALO

FILM AND VIDEO GUIDELINES: Motion
Date 09 May, 1996
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Schacht, Sen Chris (ALP, SA, Opposition)
Interjector FERGUSON; McGAURAN; O'CHEE
Page 598
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Speech
Context Miscellaneous

Senator McGauran —What about Salo ?

Senator SCHACHT —Salo I would restrict, as the film censor has, to R-rated, limited to cinema and not to be shown on television. I think there is a different case there. I overwhelmingly support the film Chief Censor Mr Dickie and his staff and the members of the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Generally they have done a good job in balancing the interests of the various groups in our community, with their various views. To let Salo be shown as an R-rated movie under certain restrictions in a cinema was a reasonable decision, rationally taken. The classification for Schindler's List is a reasonable classification. I may disagree with them in that allowing some of what I call the Rambo movies to be shown on television is not exactly my view. But then my view is only one.

Senator Harradine and I have a difference about this, but I think Mr Dickie and his board and his committee have done a very good job for Australia. I would hope that Mr Dickie, after discussions with the film stations about the episode last week where they took off the programs, can indicate that there is going to be some tightening up for television. If you classify a Rambo style movie as an R-rated movie to be shown only in a cinema, where it is much easier to control who goes to see it, that is different from putting it on television, even at a later hour of the night when clearly people do have some ability to see the movie and under-age people cannot be completely stopped from seeing it, and it is harder to control.

 

 

June 1996: Liberal MP, Trish Draper on SALO

GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH: Address-in-Reply
Date 20 June, 1996
Database House Hansard
Speaker Draper, Trish, MP (Makin, LP, Government)
Page 2414
Proof No
Source House
Type Speech
Context Address in Reply
Main Committee No

Mrs DRAPER (Makin) (1.15 p.m.) —

With a young family to raise in a society where there is much peer pressure, I am concerned about the amount of pornography that is readily available. I recently raised an issue with the Office of Literature and Film Classification. In a sports magazine that young children purchase to read about their basketball heroes were four photos taken from editions of American Playboy. As the magazine concerned is a sports magazine, it is not required to pass through the classification process. Many parents raised their concerns that a magazine promoting sport should be allowed to print pornography, regardless that some people regard the photographs as `soft porn'.

Some may recall the film Salo and the controversy that arose around that film. I actively opposed the screening of that film in Adelaide. What message do we convey to our young people when we allow such pornographic films portraying the brutalisation and the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children to be screened? We have seen and heard much about sexually abused children in recent times and yet we do little to limit the number of pornographic films and the amount of pornographic literature available.

I also believe that the time has come to take a firm stance on violence in films, on television, videos and in electronic games. To that end, I commend the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, for setting up the ministerial committee to look at the portrayal of violence in the various forms of electronic media. I look forward to any recommendations that committee makes stemming the availability of violence being portrayed by the electronic media.

 

 

June 1997: Review Board Judgment is R18+

By 1997, SALO had exhausted its theatrical run, and because the rating did not allow for a video release, it was slowly forgotten.

However, conservative forces still considered the R18+ to be a step too far. After lobbying the Queensland Attorney General, they persuaded him to use his powers to call for another screening before the Review Board.

The review failed, and on June 15, 1997 a 113m (35mm) print of SALO O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA / PASOLINI'S 120 DAYS OF SODOM was again rated R18+. Only the consumer advice was changed, from 'Disturbing adult concepts and high level violence and sex' to 'Adult themes of high intensity, Strong depictions of violence, Strong sexual references'.

 

 

September 1997: Liberal MP, Trish Draper on SALO

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS : Paedophilia
Date 22 September, 1997
Database House Hansard
Speaker Draper, Trish, MP (Makin, LP, Government)
Page 7991
Proof No
Source House
Type Speech
Context Statements by Members
Main Committee No

Mrs DRAPER (Makin) —

Paedophilia and sexual abuse of children has, in the past, not been a popular cause to fight against or highlight. Since 1992, with the screening of the film SALO, I have endeavoured to highlight the plight of children sexually abused by paedophiles in my home state of South Australia. Since being elected in March 1996, it has been a difficult battle to continue, but I am pleased to note that others in this place are now beginning to take on this issue.

 

 

October 1997 Nationals Senator, Julian McGauran fights on

ADJOURNMENT: Film Censorship
Date 28 October, 1997
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker McGauran, Sen Julian (NP, VIC, Government)
Page 8268
Proof No
Source Senate
Type Speech
Context Adjournment

Senator McGAURAN (Victoria)(7.26 p.m.) —Anyone who picked up today's Sydney Morning Herald to read the grim news that in the past 11 months six young women and teenage girls have been kidnapped or murdered or have disappeared along the New South Wales coastal highway would feel grief for the families and grave concern for society. There have been other like tragedies over the years and of late—for example, the missing 11-year-old boy from Western Australia—that make us think just how unsafe society has become.

Our concern is not just restricted to Australia. Who can forget the pictures that ricocheted around the world of the Belgium `house of horrors' where a paedophile ring was involved in the kidnapping, torture and murder of children as young as eight years old? At each tragedy a family suffers and a society is damaged. At each tragedy society fundamentally changes for the worse as once enjoyed freedoms are taken away, none less than life itself.

Therefore, if we were asked, `Is there something society can do to help rectify these seemingly irreversible changes?' we would answer yes. If we were told that there was a movie currently showing that graphically displays a story of kidnap, sexual abuse, torture and murder of adolescents in the style of the above incidents I have mentioned—indeed, a movie described as a handbook for the Mr Cruels of this world—would you believe that it should be banned? The answer from society would be yes.

I therefore bring to the Senate's attention the movie Salo, which is currently under review by the Film and Literature Board of Review. The review has been prompted by an application by the Queensland government to re-ban the movie. The movie Salo was made in 1976 and banned in this country for some 17 years but was released into the mainstream theatres in 1993. The storyline begins with the kidnap of 16 adolescents in an Italian village, eight of each sex. For the remainder of the film, they are subjected to every form of violence, sexual humiliation and torture before being mass slaughtered in a most bizarre fashion. The movie has been condemned outright by every film critic of any note, being described as vile and a treat for sadists and psychopaths.

I make reference to the hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies in Sydney on Thursday, 5 August 1993 to try to encapsulate the depths and darkness of the movie Salo. The committee transcript reads that the movie:

Contains constant nudity, masturbation, forced sodomy, forced urolagnia, coprophagous, humiliation and degradation, anilingus, suicide, candlewax burns to breasts and male genitalia, a man's tongue cut off, an eye explicitly gouged out with a knife, a woman partially scalped, a boy's nipples branded with a hot iron, being forced to eat excreta, torture and killing during the "Cycle of Blood" canto. Naked male and female youths forced to behave as animals going on all fours to beg for food—eventually betraying their fellows in an attempt to survive, hanging, whipping, accompanied by raconteurs' stories based on offensive, fetishes and paedophilia, a woman's verbal accounts of sex experiences as a child and of matricide . . .

And there is much, much worse. Other descriptions are so graphic that I am prevented from citing them to the Senate. It is legitimate then to ask: according to whom and under what criteria was the movie Salo released into Australian society? In essence, the movie was released in 1993. The words of the Chairman of the then Film and Literature Review Board were that `adults in a free society ought to be allowed to see whatever they like'. He also said the movie has artistic merit even though the same chairman stated that the adolescents suffer sexual torment and sadistic humiliation of the extreme kind.

Thankfully it is a very different Film and Literature Review Board in 1997 from what it was in 1993 when the ban was lifted on the movie. In fact, the board is in transition, with three new members soon to be appointed. The pending decision before the new review board will be to either redraw the line in the sand on censorship or continue to ride the pendulum of censorship towards the outer limits. I am sure that if the board were to use the community as their touchstone on this issue the movie would surely be re-banned.

The time has come to say the censorship decisions in this country should not be underpinned by the motto `adults should be free to see whatever they like without regard to the cost to society'. For that matter, the time has come to bury that other reason the movie was released—artistic merit. This so often used catch phrase to release movies like Salo is an indulgent, sectional and narcissistic view and hurts the general good of society. Both tenets of faith are now discredited, particularly given the belief and evidence that a diet of violent and sexually abusive videos and movies will trigger the disturbed mind. Both tenets can no longer underpin our censorship philosophy to the exclusion of protecting a decent and accepted social standard. Therefore, each member of the Film and Literature Board of Review should vote to re-ban Salo.

 

 

February 1998: SALO banned again

The conservatives were not going to give up, and in early 1998, the Queensland Attorney-General again asked the Review Board to look at SALO.

This time they got what they were looking for, and SALO O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA was re-banned in February 1998.

The R18+ rating had been awarded on January 13, 1993, so the Australian public had the freedom to view it for less than five years.

 

Here is what the Review Board had to say on re-banning the film.

 

"5 Finding on material questions of fact.

The plot

5.1 Four powerful Fascists in World War 2 Italy make a pact to explore the theme "all things are good when carried to excess". They select and abduct a group of 16 young teenagers to pursue this end.

The content

5.2 As indicated by the consumer advice lines assigned to the film by the Classification Board, the film contains a number of depictions of strong violence, strong sexual references and adult themes of high intensity.

In a majority view of the Classification Board:

a these themes and depictions occur in the context of a film which is unambiguously anti-violence and makes a strong statement about the abuse of power;

b the film's treatment of sex, violence and power is not exploitative but requires an adult's perspective;

c the film's depictions of violence are not gratuitous as they are justified in the context of a defensible story line, a film of considerable artistic merit;

d the film's depictions of violence are not excessive as they do not exceed reasonable limits in terms of detail, duration or frequency; and,

e the actors who play the victims do not appear to be under 16 years of age.

5.3 The Classification Review Board considered the scenes and themes cited by the Classification Board as being appropriately accommodated by assigning an 'R' classification to the film.

A majority of the Review Board differed from the majority of the Classification Board in that, in its view, many scenes in the film not only depicted violence or sexual violence, but additionally depicted cruelty and portrayed persons in a demeaning manner.

Violence is usually defined as physical force inflicted with the intent to seriously hurt or kill, or the outcome of such. Cruelty on the other hand involves delight in the infliction of, or indifference to another's pain. In the Review Boards view the following scenes depicted cruelty. Further, the Review Board found these scenes were of high impact (i.e. had a very strong effect on the viewer), and were offensive (i.e. likely to cause outrage or extreme disgust to most people).

Scenes of offensive cruelty with high impact

31mins: prolonged scenes of a boy being whipped

32 mins: girl eats cake with nails in, screams, and blood runs from mouth

63 mins: girl forced to crawl across floor and eat faeces

71-73 mins: all the dining room are forced to eat faeces as a meal

102 mins; girls tied up in a vat of filth (faeces and urine)

105-111 mins:

> boy has penis burned with a candle

> girl has nipple burned with a candle

> boy has tongue tip cut off

>girl endures forced anal sex and is hanged

> boy has eye gouged out

> girl endures forced anal sex

> girl is scalped

> girl and others are whipped

> boy is branded with a branding iron

5.4 The age of the young people

A majority of the Review Board believed that the apparent youth of some of the abducted teenagers was a matter for concern. Some of the young people who were sexually abused throughout the film could have been under the age of 16 years. Further, there were many scenes in the film in which they were dressed as school children, and gave this emphasis to their youth.

However, in the view of a majority of the Review Board, the age factor by itself was not considered to be of sufficiently certainty to cause the film to be refused classification, as would have been required if any of the abused young people had "looked like they were under the age of 16 years" (National Classification Code). The youthfulness of the abused was nevertheless seen by the majority to be an important factor, and one that should be taken into account when considering the issue of "offensiveness".

5.5 Further, the Review Board found the film to contain a number of scenes of sexual violence which were offensive (in the sense of likely to cause outrage or extreme disgust to most people), and of sexual activity accompanied by fetishes which were offensive.

The scenes of sexual violence, sexual activity accompanied by offensive fetishes included:

29 mins: a girl forced to urinate on the face of a male aggressor

49-52 mins: girl forced, with screams, on all fours, for extended (with some scene cutting) anal intercourse with a soldier

62 mins: girl cries, is stripped under extreme duress, with dialogue "the little slut's howling is the most exciting thing in my life"

77mins: girl forced to urinate on face and into mouth

5.6 A majority of the Review Board found that the film contained many offensive depictions of cruelty with high impact, sexual violence, and sexual acts with offensive fetishes.

A majority of the Review Board also found many of the scenes of cruelty and sexual violence to be demeaning to the young persons portrayed (i.e. were depictions directly or indirectly sexual in nature, which debase, or appear to debase the persons or character depicted). Such scenes included the young persons being forced to act like dogs, being forced to eat faeces, being forced to urinate on the faces of their oppressors, having faces smeared faeces, being forced to line up naked and on all fours so that the best "arse" could be chosen.

 

6. Reasons for the Decision

6.1 The Review Board based its decision to set aside the Classification Board's decision to classify Salo o le Giornate do Sodoam 'R' on the content and findings as described in 5.3 to 5.6 above.

6.2 A majority of the Review Board found the film to contain depictions of cruelty (defined as delight in inflicting pain or indifference to another's pain) which had a high impact, and which would be offensive (i.e cause outrage or extreme disgust) to most people. Such depictions included the forced eating of faeces by young people for sexual gratification of their captors, and the extended sequence of torture of young people from 105 to 111 mins.

Further, the film contains a large number of offensive depictions of both sexual violence and of sexual activity with offensive fetishes, the offensive of which was increased by the involvement of young people who, if not clearly under 16 years, nevertheless looked like persons under the age of 18. The film would not therefore fall into the 'R' category.

6.3 The Review Board was mindful of the requirements of Section 2 of the Act, to take into account, in classification, the literary, artistic or educational merit of a film. The Review Board recognised that the film was Pasolini's last and as such has importance in the study of his work

The film is said to have been intended as a serious work of art, aimed at making a metaphorical statement about fascism and the corruption engendered by absolute power. It has been argued that the film's depictions of sexual violence inflicted on young persons, and the portrayal of young persons in a demeaning manner, are justified in the context.

The majority of the Review Board considered that this metaphor was not clearly established (for example, the connections of the acts with fascism alone, rather then generalised corruption, were tenuous). As a consequence, this intention cannot be used as a justification for the inclusion of scenes which do not meet aspects of the Code or Guidelines. In the view of the majority, such an intention could also have been achieved without the degree or density of cruelty and sexual violence, and without overall depth of offensiveness, to which the Guidelines clearly refer.

The majority of the Review Board considered that, while the film could be said to have artistic merit, it was not such as to outweigh the clear prohibitions in the Guidelines against offensive and high impact depictions of cruelty, against offensive depictions of sexual violence, and against offensive depictions of sexual activity accompanied by fetishes which are, and which are often offensive, and of which there were a number.

Further, the majority of the Review Board took the view, based on scenes described in 5.6, that there were a number of portrayals of persons which were demeaning. The preamble of the National Classification Code requires consideration, not only of the principle that adults should be able to see, hear and read what they want, but also of community concerns about depictions that portray persons in a demeaning manner.

In the view of a majority of the Review Board, the film deals with matters of sex, cruelty, and abhorrent phenomena in such a way that it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified. It is therefore classified 'RC'.

 

7. Summary

7.1 The Review Board's majority decision is to classify the film Salo 'RC' (Refused Classification).

The decision is taken after full consideration of the applicant's submission, and after assessing the film as a whole against the relevant legislative criteria, including those contained in the Code, and in the current Classification Guidelines for Films and Videotapes determined under Section 12 of the Act. A minority of the Review Board do not agree with the majority. The minority's report follows.

Minority Report

A minority of the Review Board had the view that Salo should be classified 'R18+' Restricted accompanied by appropriate consumer advice.

The minority had regard to principles in the Code that "adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want", and to that classification decisions should take account of community concerns about "depictions that condone or incite violence particularly sexual violence; and the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner." In the minority view the film condemns violence and its portrayals do not "demean" the victims, rather their Fascist oppressors do. At no time does the filmmaker allow any possibility of identification on the spectator's part with the Fascists or their activities.

Another possible ground for refusing the film classification is on the ground that it contains exploitative or offensive depictions involving a person who is or who looks like a child under 16. In the minority view, whilst young people are certainly involved, the filmmaker does not intend those people to be under 16 years of age and their appearance would not entitle a reasonable viewer to conclude that any person is or looks like a child under 16.

The other relevant grounds for refusing the film classification are that it contains depictions of a sexual or violent nature proscribed by the Code and which are "gratuitous, exploitative or offensive" as these terms are defined in the Code.

In assessing the application of these definitions to Salo, the context of the film is significant:

> Is director, Pasolini, is one of the most important filmmakers of post war Italy.

> The film is based on de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom updated to 1944 when Italy had fallen to the Allies. Its theme is terminal Fascism. It has been generally accepted by major critics to be a metaphor for the oppression of Fascism and the corrupting effects of absolute power.

> It has been analysed and discussed both in its own right and in the context of Pasolini's work and the development of post-war Italian cinema by respected critics and film historians in many publications dealing with the art or history of cinema.

> It has been permitted public screening in many countries with which Australia have an affinity, including Britain, US, France, Japan and many others. In recent years it has been screened with an "R" certificate in Australia.

Turning to the definitions in the Code, in the view of the minority:

> The relevant depictions were not gratuitous in that they were not excessively prolonged nor detailed within the context of the storyline.

> The film is not exploitative in that it does not lack moral, artistic or other values.

> The film is not offensive in that whilst the material would cause outrage or extreme disgust to many people, it would not do so " to most" people who elect to see it bearing in mind the storyline, theme and artistic seriousness of the film.

Accordingly, the minority agreed with the findings of a previous Board of Review that the film "whilst certainly challenging from a classification stand point, could not nonetheless be accommodated in the Restricted Category, defined as this is to encompass material considered possibly offensive to some sections of the adult community....although the film deals with indecent or obscene phenomenon, it does so in a manner which is neither indecent nor obscene in itself when viewed in the context of a film of merit where even the most problematic of elements clearly serve the director's metaphorical purpose. For the minority, the film is neither exploitative nor voyeuristic, but a powerfully realised political statement on the violation of innocence and freedom"

13, 14, and 17 February 1998

 

 

July 1998: Liberal Senator, John Herron on SALO

COMMITTEES: Community Standards Committee: Report: Government Response
Date 02 July, 1998
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker Herron, Sen John (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, LP, QLD, Government)
Page 4766
Proof No Source Senate
Stage Report: Government Response
Type Speech
Context Committees

(c) that the Attorney-General be required to make a determination on any decision of the Review Board to release a film or video at a lower classification than approved by the unanimous decision of the Board, and be required to take into account the community committee's recommendations.

In its October 1993 Report on Video and Computer Games and Classification Issues and its November 1994 Report on the Consideration of the Provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Bill 1994 the Committee recommended the establishment of a community committee, which it saw `as a means of assuring the general community that the voting system on both Boards did not lead to the oppression of a sizeable minority by a slim majority'.

I note this recommendation was rejected by the previous Government with the support of State and Territory Censorship Ministers.

I am informed that one of the factors that led to the Committee first recommending a `community committee' was the decision taken by the then Film and Literature Board of Review to release the film Salo on appeal from the then Censorship Board's decision to retain the longstanding ban on its release. This decision was, however, taken in 1992 and much has changed since then. The fact that concern is expressed by some about one particular decision among the many thousands that have been made both before and since does not, in my view, lead to the conclusion that the system under which classification decisions are made is flawed.

In its latest report the Committee calls `for a restructuring of the OFLC to make it more reflective of community standards'. It also considers that establishment of a community committee, in conjunction with a review of the composition of the two Boards and the continuation of the OFLC's program of research into community standards `should lead to more appropriate classification decisions'.

The assertion that the Boards are delivering `inappropriate' classification decisions is not supported by the evidence provided by research, by analysis of complaints received by the OFLC, or submissions received from members of the public during the recent review of the guidelines for the classification of films and videotapes.

 

 

December 1998: Liberal MP, Trish Draper on SALO

GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH: Address-in-Reply
Date 09 December, 1998
Database House Hansard
Speaker Draper, Trish, MP (Makin, LP, Government)
Page 1800
Proof No
Source House
Type Speech
Context Address in Reply
Main Committee Yes

GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH Address-in-Reply Speech Mrs DRAPER (Makin) (12.27 p.m.)—

But, of all the achievements of the Howard government's first term in office, perhaps the area in which I take the greatest personal pride is the work that has been done to create a safer environment for our children. Prior to entering parliament, I had taken an active role in opposing the screening of a film in Adelaide called Salo, in which were depicted various acts of sadomasochism and sexual abuse of children.

Since that time, the government has taken significant steps to strengthen Australia's approach to the fight against child exploitation. We played a substantial role in the declaration and agenda for action against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, in Stockholm in August 1996. Our own law and justice amendment legislation in that year tightened the criteria for classifying certain advertisements which may contain child pornography. The same legislation also made it harder for sensitive material to be hidden in sophisticated computer games and `click on' access films.

 

 

March 2000: Julian McGauran's SALO obsession

CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) CHARGES BILL 1998; CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) AMENDMENT BILL 1998: Second Reading
Date 09 March, 2000
Database Senate Hansard
Speaker McGauran, Sen Julian (NP, Victoria, Government)
Interjector Forshaw, Sen Michael; Lightfoot, Ross (The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT)
Page 12484
Proof No
Source Senate
Stage Second Reading
Type Speech
Context Bills

Senator McGAURAN (Victoria) (11.05 a.m.)—I wish to speak for a very short time and thank the minister for giving me this time to respond to Senator Schacht's address to the Senate in which he raised the whole issue of censorship. It is a broad issue and a grey area, because views range from one end of the spectrum to the other. It should be noted that since this government came into power in 1996 there have been many changes to our censorship laws. I suppose on any analysis they have been made more conservative and certainly more understandable than they were prior to us coming into government. We believe that those changes have been, on any analysis, community based, and in fact, community accepted, if not community demanded.

A great deal of those changes were prompted by the movie Salo, which was the movie that explicitly showed minors being exploited. That was the line in the sand and since then there have been many reviews of our censorship board and censorship laws. For example—and what could be wrong with this?—the censorship board has been changed so that it is far more community based. More people are being appointed to the board from the community than previously. Previously the board was far more representative of the arts community and critics. The board did not have community based people and it lacked a number of women. That has also changed. There are now more women on the censorship board and the review board. What can be wrong with that?

Further to that, the government has looked at the classifications. I am not so sure that they have been as much tightened up as better defined, more crystal clear. More commonsense has been brought to the censorship debate. Senator Schacht thinks that is a trend, that we have gone too far. We would object to his analysis and say it is far more community based and responsive to the community. We believe the community wants a line drawn in the sand. We do not win them all. Senator Harradine does not win them all. Recently, the movie Romance was released to our screens. There was an outcry in relation to that movie, that it is more explicit than we have ever seen, but it falls under the threshold, I would say, of Salo, which was exploitation of minors.

Interjection Senator Forshaw—That wasn't the outcry at all; the outcry was because the movie was banned.

Interjection The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot)—Order!

Continue Senator McGAURAN—I am being properly and rightly advised to ignore that. But my point is we do not have draconian censorship laws in the community at all. Of late there has been in the press information or news that the coalition is reassessing its classification of X to NVE. We have simply pulled that legislation out to reassess it, to discuss it, to get a greater community response. If there is any doubt on it we will look at it again. We are simply re-studying it. The National Party are unashamed—always have been; I do not know why you think we would change or why you would want us to change—social conservatives. There are all types in this parliament. There are the Senator Schachts and then there is the National Party, and the two will never meet. It is as simple as that.

I would not get too excited about the re-examination of the classification, because we simply want to make the labelling far more commonsense, far more understandable, so when you pull it off the shelf in the ACT or the Northern Territory you know what you are getting. That is community based, that is community responsive and it is commonsense. As for Senator Schacht's attack on the whole of the Catholic Church, I would say that is utterly irrelevant to this debate and says more about the man than the issue.

 

 

June 2001: Planned Melbourne Underground Film Festival Screening

In 2001, the Melbourne Underground Film Festival planned to show SALO at RMIT following a debate about censorship. It is unclear if SALO was indeed screened.

Banned films to screen at festival
heraldsun.com.au, June 27, 2001

Eliza Anderson, of RMIT University Corporate Affairs, said the Melbourne Underground Film Festival had been asked to give assurances it would not show banned films Salo and Cannibal Holocaust.

However, late yesterday festival organisers and RMIT appeared to be locked in a stalemate over the issue.

In a statement voicing disapproval about screening the banned films, Anderson said yesterday: "All individuals and organisations that hire RMIT University venues are required to use them in line with all relevant laws and regulations."

Later Mr Wolstencroft said: "We knew we were probably going to run into trouble, but we are going to do our best to fight this, and bring public attention to censorship issues."

"It's a David and Goliath situation," Mr Wolstencroft said yesterday. "And the truth is Goliath always squashes David -- and we are David."

"In this day and age, I find it totally hard to believe that the Melbourne Underground Film festival, or a representative thereof, would be jailed for playing Pasolini's final masterpiece."

 

 

2002: Customs confiscate two SALO DVDs

Two reports from 2002 of the UK Bfi DVD being seized by Australian customs. In one case the reason given was:

"1x DVD titled "salo o le 120 giornate di sodoma" containing offensive depictions of cruelty, and sexual activity accompanied by practices which are offensive.

The above items are prohibited and subject to regulation 4A(1A)(A) of the customs (Prohibited Imports) regulations 1956"

 

 

June 2002: Katie Hodson-Thomas on the 1993 SALO ban in WA

Parliament of Western Australia
House: Legislative Assembly- Second Reading
Date: Thursday, 13 June 2002
Member: Hodson-Thomas, Ms Katie
Subject: CENSORSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2002
Page: 11419b - 11422a / 1

CENSORSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Second Reading

Resumed from 20 February. MS HODSON-THOMAS (Carine) [4.07 pm]:

In terms of it being more liberal, I shall use the following exposé. I understand that the film Salo, which was classified and released in 1993, caused much angst in the community. I understand that the critics claimed it was a vile and degrading film and that it contained acts I cannot begin to describe fully. I am sure the member for Kingsley, when she has an opportunity to make her comments, will add to the detail in this debate. Some notes that I received from the National Viewers and Listeners Association state -

The content of this film was described by the Senate Committee of Community Standards thus:

Contains constant nudity, masturbation, forced sodomy, forced urolagnia, -

I cannot pronounce the next word.

coprophagous, humiliation and degradation, anilingus, suicide, candlewax burns to breasts and male genitalia, a man’s tongue cut off, an eye explicitly gouged out with a knife, a woman partially scalped, a boy’s nipple branded with a hot iron, being forced to eat excreta, torture and killing during the ‘Cycle or Blood’ canto. Naked male and female youths forced to behave as animals going on all fours to beg for food - eventually betraying their fellows in an attempt to survive, hanging, whipping, accompanied by raconteur’s stories based on offensive, fetishes and paedophilia, a woman’s verbal accounts of sex experiences as a child and of matricide, live rat forced into a girl’s vagina, whilst various adults engage in sexual acts.

Mr McGowan: What was that movie?

Ms HODSON-THOMAS: That was a description by the Senate committee of the movie Salo in 1993.

Mr McGowan: Was that banned by the federal committee?

Ms HODSON-THOMAS: I am getting to that. This was claimed to be a violent-grade film. The minister responsible for censorship at the time was the member for Kingsley. She was certainly aware of the community unrest and was able to have the film banned, given her powers, which will be taken away as a result of this legislation. She subsequently overturned the Commonwealth’s decision to release the film for viewing in this State. I also understand that South Australia followed our lead. This is a perfect example of how the current regime responded to public outcry, and rightfully so. I would not like to think that a film such as that was available to the general community, or to anybody in the community. Others may have a different view.

On the other hand, in Queensland where the Queensland Film Board of Review had been abolished, there were no state provisions to prevent the film being shown in that State, despite the community’s opposition. The Queensland Premier at the time, Wayne Goss, called on the federal Attorney-General to examine the operation of the Queensland Film Board of Review and, after a significant and lengthy time, the matter was resolved, but much later, because they did not have the same powers as Western Australia. That clearly shows that a central body does not respond to community concern in the same prompt way. That is the point I am trying to make.

Mr McGowan: I might have missed the point. That movie sounded fairly awful. Did the commonwealth censorship committee not permit the movie to be shown?

Ms HODSON-THOMAS: No, it did permit the movie to be shown. The minister at the time, the member for Kingsley, used her powers and prevented it from being shown in this State.

Mr McGowan: So it was shown in other States where they did not have a state law?

Ms HODSON-THOMAS: That is the point I am trying to make.

 

 

June 2002: Cheryl Edwardes on the 1993 SALO ban in WA

House: Legislative Assembly- Second Reading
Date: Wednesday, 19 June 2002
Member: Edwardes, Mrs Cheryl
Subject: CENSORSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2002
Page: 11677b - 11680a / 1

CENSORSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2002

Second Reading

Resumed from 13 June. MRS EDWARDES (Kingsley) [3.31 pm]:

In 1993, I banned a movie called Salo. I was able to do that because of the powers of veto that the Western Australian minister had. Subsequently, the Commonwealth also banned that film. Western Australia has provided the lead in this area in Australia for a long time. This legislation proposes to ensure that this State will become a follower rather than a leader in the area of censorship.

It is argued that the abolition of the censorship office will save $27 500 a year. However, that is not as important as protecting our children. For $27 500, I would prefer the power of censorship to be kept here in Western Australia to ensure that children are protected and that mums and dads are able to have their concerns addressed quickly. That is not a significant cost to retain the community’s confidence in the censorship laws of Western Australia. It is a small price to pay for retaining our independence and to retain our position as a leader in this area as against being a follower in the future. The Attorney General basically indicated in quite a cavalier manner what he thought that teenagers should be able to do to enjoy themselves. I am not so sure that he would be so cavalier today and make comments similar to those he made during the early days of his portfolio responsibilities.

 

 

March 2003: SALO banned again!

The OFLC Annual Report 2002-2003 showed that some brave distributor attempted to have SALO re-classified in March 2003. Note that this was not listed in the OFLC database.

In March 2003, the Board received an application for classification of the film Salo – 120 Days of Sodo made under the Classification Act. The Board consequently declined to classify the submitted version of the film.

 

 

May 2005: Julian McGauran still obsessed

Date: 24 May, 2005
Department: attorney-general's portfolio
Database: Estimates Comm.
Committee name: LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Program: Office of Film and Literature Classification
Proof: Yes
Page: 103
Source: Senate

Senator McGAURAN—Good. Stop trying to spread it so thin across the whole movie. It is a paramount part of the movie. But moving on, Madam Chair, many years ago I was involved in a movie called Salo, which was eventually banned.

Senator LUDWIG—Did you appear in it?

Senator McGAURAN—Pardon?

Senator LUDWIG—You said you were involved in it.

Senator McGAURAN—I was involved in getting it banned.

Senator LUDWIG—I see.

Senator McGAURAN—There was a scene of a 16-year-old girl or under raped and the movie was banned. What has changed so that Irreversible, which has I think under any viewing a worse scene, is allowed?

Mr Clark—I was not involved in the decision regarding that film, Senator, and I do not have access to the board report on that film at the moment. As you have described it, a 16-year-old girl would heighten the impact of a scene such as that. I cannot give you a detailed answer, but certainly that would be part of the consideration by the board.

Senator McGAURAN—So the 16-year-old girl’s scene is a worse scene—

Mr Clark—A child, under the age of 18, yes.

Senator McGAURAN—than what is depicted in Irreversible—a mature woman?

Mr Clark—The detail of the scene in Irreversible is not high; it is not a detailed scene. Yes, it is long, but it is not detailed. As I do not have knowledge of the other scene, I am unable to make a judgment on it.

Senator Ellison—I point out that if you had a depiction of a sexual act in that situation with a person under 18, it could well infringe the child pornography laws that we have enacted. I can get back to Senator McGauran on that if he is interested, but I think our new laws could catch a situation of that sort where a child is being abused in that fashion.

Senator McGAURAN—That is exactly why the movie was banned. Whatever laws exist now regarding the classification scheme also existed then.

Senator Ellison—I raise that to point out the current status—

Senator McGAURAN—You have told me what has changed since the banning of that one—that the difference regarding the rape scenes relates to the age of the person. Under those circumstances, the Report on the review of the operation of the 2003 guidelines for the classification of films and computer games—I forget who undertook that review—

Mr Jordana—The report was undertaken by a consultant named Kate Aisbett.

Senator McGAURAN—One of the key findings of the report was:

There is no discernible shift in the nature of permissible material within particular classification categories ...

So from the old category to the new category there has been no discernible shift.

Mr Clark—From the old classification guidelines to the new guidelines, the 2003 guidelines, her finding was that there has been no shift in the standards contained within the guidelines.

Senator McGAURAN—And you agree with that?

Mr Clark—Yes, Senator, I do.

 

 

July 2005: Des Clark on the censorship history of SALO

The following is part of a speech that the Director of the OFLC, Des Clark, made that touched on the censorship history of SALO.

 

Speech by Des Clark, Director, Office of Film & Literature
Does Art Censorship Create a More Decent Society?
Melbourne Workers Theatre, 23 July 2005

 

Artistic Merit

• Under Section 11 of the Act, artistic merit is one of the many considerations that must be taken into account when making classification decisions.

• Some people believe that artistic merit is given too much weight and is used to justify R decisions for films such as Gasper Noe’s Irreversible and more recently Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs.

• Such assertions are incorrect - a film is always considered in its entirety.

• Artistic merit is a long standing and legitimate consideration which is important for ensuring fair and appropriate decisions.

• Of course there have been films, arguably of artistic merit and by critically acclaimed directors, which have been refused classification – such as Tras El Cristal, Baise Moi and, as you all know, Salo.

1 Does not include decisions made in relation to enforcement applications

2 Does not include decisions made in relation to enforcement applications

• As I understand it, these films were not considered to be of such artistic merit as to otherwise override the other requirements of the Code and Guidelines.

• Despite recent criticisms there is no intention to remove the concept of artistic merit as a consideration in classification.

 

History of the classification of Salo

• Released in Australia in March 1976, Salo was first screened at film festivals.

• When it was originally submitted for classification by United Artists, the English dubbed film was refused registration under the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations and classified RC under State and Territory legislation.

• An English subtitled version of the film was submitted for classification in 1992 by Premium Films but the ban continued. Premium Films applied for a review of this decision.

• On 13 January 1993, after a 17 year ban in Australia, the Film and Literature Board of Review classified the film R with the consumer advice “Disturbing adult concepts and high level violence and sex”.

• In a unanimous decision the Board of Review argued that while the film was shocking, it was not erotic, titillating or gratuitous.

• It was during this period that Salo was brought to the attention of the Senate Committee on Community Standards.

• The Committee, which was officially conducting an inquiry into R-rated material on Pay TV, was critical of the Boards’ handling of Salo alleging that members lacked accountability and were out of step with community values.

• Senator Julian McGauran (NPA Victoria) used Salo as an example of the type of R-rated material that could potentially be made available through Pay TV.

• In 1995 new legislation was introduced which established the fully cooperative National Classification Scheme.

• Amongst other things, the legislation required that “In appointing members regard is to be had to the desirability of ensuring that the membership of the Board is broadly representative of the Australian community”.

• The objective was to influence, in particular, the composition of the Classification Review Board. On my Board, I am the only arty farty and there is only one on the Classification Review Board.

• In 1997, Queensland Attorney General, Denver Beanland, requested the Commonwealth Attorney General seek a reclassification of the film. Reclassification is a statutory process that requires calls for and analysis of public submissions.

• Following the receipt of a number of submissions, the Classification Board rated the film R with the consumer advice “Adult themes of high intensity, strong depictions of violence, strong sexual references”.

• In 1998, the Queensland Attorney General sought a review of the film’s R classification. The Review Board classified the film RC - the ban continues today.

 

Community Standards

• Although it has not been formally tested, in my view, community standards appear to be fairly rigid around sexual violence and sex more broadly due to increasing concerns over the sexual abuse of children.

 

Conclusion

• The history of Salo in this country is a reflection of an evolving classification system, community standards which shift over time (not necessarily in a linear fashion) and the dynamic nature of the Boards which make decisions on behalf of the community.

 

 

September 2007: Trish Draper proud of SALO ban

HEALTH INSURANCE AMENDMENT (MEDICARE DENTAL SERVICES) BILL 2007: Second Reading
Date 18 September, 2007
Database House Hansard
Speaker Draper, Trish, MP (Makin, LP, Government)
Page 38
Proof No
Source House
Stage Second Reading
Type Speech
Context Bills
Main Committee No

As I look back over the years, I cannot help but recall how my political journey began. Two catalysts got me involved in politics: firstly, the student campaign I was involved in to save Salisbury Campus after the announced closure by the then Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Simon Crean, and, secondly, the reversal of the longstanding ban against the film Salo. My very public stance against Salo led to my interest in classification issues, which I have continued to work on in my career in politics. Over the years, I have spoken up for my community, which continues to raise concerns about the content of films, television shows and video games. It has been a great honour to have been elected and to have served as chair of the coalition classification issues group during the last few years, and I thank my colleagues for their support.

I strongly believe the community faces new concerns with the growth of reality television, and I hope that community standards are able to be most vigorously defended. Music video clips, incorrectly classified TV shows and movies and the continued exploitation of young women and men are exposing our children to inappropriate behaviour, which is then replicated in our schools.

 

 

July 2008: SALO banned on DVD

In July 2008, the Classification Board banned a DVD of SALO. Shock was the applicant.

Decisions
Films
RC (Refused Classification)
Annual Report 2008-2009

A modified version of the film Salo O Le 120 Giornate Di Sodoma (also known as Pasolini's 120 Days of Sodom or Salo) was classified RC . In the Classification Board's view, while the film purports to have some degree of artistic merit and justifiable context (taking into consideration the notoriety of the director, the narrative structure of the Marquis De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom and the portrait of human degradation which serves as an apparent metaphor for fascism), the context does not sufficiently justify the content of the film to the extent that it can be accommodated at the R 18+ classification.

The film also dealt with matters such as violence with a very high degree of impact which is excessively prolonged frequent and detailed, child sexual abuse, offensive and exploitative depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be under the age of 18 years, fetishes which are offensive and abhorrent and cruelty which are expressly prohibited under the Classification Guidelines.

 

 

Sadistic sex movie ban 'attacks art expression'
brisbanetimes.com.au, July 20, 2008

"The film is classified RC because it deals with issues in such a way that they exceed the R18+ classification category and offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults," said the board's Claire Bowdler. "The board is of the opinion that the film contains gratuitous, exploitative and offensive depictions of sexual activity accompanied by abhorrent practices."

Made by the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salo, or 120 Days in Sodom, was viewed by 13 board members who voted 7-6 in favour of the ban, with the minority stating that the film could warrant an R18+ rating.

"The minority felt that the age of the film and the careful construction of the narrative serve to mitigate against a higher impact," Ms Bowdler said.

Watch on Censorship committee member and respected film critic Margaret Pomeranz decried the ban as yet another attack on artistic expression, coming after the controversy over Bill Henson's photographs and the July edition of Art Review Monthly which had a naked six-year-old girl on the cover.

"Salo is a film by a significant filmmaker but there are some confronting scenes in it," she said. "It's the same old argument: adult Australians have the right to make up their own minds.

"Really what they need to do is be informed about the content in a film which is likely to offend them so they can decide for themselves."

Ms Pomeranz said it was unprecedented for a film to be banned three times in Australia. "I can't stand the idea of this nanny state, which says, 'We're not going to let you see something, it's too revolting.' This is outrageous."

 

 

July 2008: Reaction to the latest SALO ban

Paul Syvret wrote this piece that appeared in the print version of the Courier-Mail. It is reproduced below with permission.

 

NOTORIETY can be a killer
couriermail.com.au, July 19, 2008

And so it is with Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, one of the singularly most powerful and deeply disturbing films ever made. And one of the most censored.

After the distributors withdrew the DVD from circulation in 1998 because of copyright issues, it became one of the most sought after discs in the world, with genuine copies selling for upwards of US$500 on eBay.

The film, however (unless you want to risk running the gauntlet of Australian Customs), is deemed by the moral guardians at the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification far too extreme for Australian sensibilities - even though it was produced more than three decades ago.

Salo is Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini's controversial masterpiece, and his final film (he was murdered in mysterious circumstances shortly after completing it in 1975). And a decade-long Australian ban on the film - which is to be re-released internationally on DVD by Criterion later this year - has just been re-affirmed by the OFLC, which has awarded it ''Refused Classification'' status.

Salo is Pasolini's intense and confronting metaphor for the excesses of Italian fascism during World War 2.

It adapts the Marquis de Sade's 18th century novel to tell the story of four senior Fascists who, over the course of 120 days, systematically torture, debase and vilolate a group of adolescent boys and girls.

Their intent is to explore the theory that ''all things are good when carried to excess''. Yes, it is very strong stuff, and not a film for a quiet night in with a cup of tea. But in terms of potent metaphors about the human condition and the corruption of power, it is one of the most towering achievements ever committed to celluloid.

And before you ask, yes, I have seen it (just don't ask how, and no-one gets into trouble ok?).

For a few brief years of enlightenment in the mid-nineties, Australian audiences were allowed to view Salo after the censors lifted their ban in 1993.

Then in 1998, at the request of then Borbidge government Attorney-General Denver Beanland - who appealed the rating on the grounds that it should never have recieved an 'R' classification in the first place - the OFLC again reviewed its decision. Beanland and the moral minority (most of whom I sincerely doubt would have actually viewed the material they were frothing at their mouths about) succeeded, and the forces of artistic darkness triumphed.

Few films, perhaps with the possible exception of so-called' ''video nasties'' such as Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave or Last House on the Left, have ever caused our censors so much bother.

The irony here is that those three particular films could all be classed as exploitation, and all in recent years have now been passed, uncut, with 'R' certification. No-one of sound mind, however, would possibly watch Salo for any prurient reasons, or in the hope of some schlock thrills. It is not grindhouse material for the raincoat brigade, or cheap thrills for the gore hounds.

Beyond the likes of child pornography (which Salo is not), animal cruelty and snuff films, it beggars belief in the age of the Internet that we even bother banning films in the first place. Any manner of potentially objectionable material is available on the web.

Key this film's title into Google and within seconds you can be watching excerpts - or if you are one of those thieving grubs who indulge in piracy - be downloading the entire movie.

Classify film by all means, and advise viewers of content, but then let free-thinking adults make up their own minds.

 

 

August 2008: Donald McDonald on the SALO ban

Thanks to Mick for sending in this letter from Donald McDonald, the Director of the Classification Board.

Here he explains the reasons for the July 2008 SALO ban.

 

Australian Government
Classification Board
Donald McDonald AC
Director

I refer to your enquiry of 20 July 2008 regarding the classification of the film Salo 0 le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (also known as Pasolini's 120 Days of Sodom) (Salo).

The Classification Board (the Board) classifies films (including videos and DVDs), computer games and certain publications using the tools of the National Classification Scheme, a cooperative scheme involving the Australian Government and State and Territory Governments.

When making decisions, the Board applies the Classification (Publications. Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines. Australian Government and State and Territory Government Ministers with censorship responsibilities agree to the Code and the classification guidelines. The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (the Guidelines) are available at www.classification.gov.au.

As you may already be aware, Salo has had a complex and controversial classification history in Australia and a number of different versions of the film have been submitted for classification over a long period of time.

The most recent classification decision regarding Salo was made on 9 July 2008, when the Board classified a modified version of the film RC (Refused Classification).

Films classified RC cannot be legally sold, hired, advertised or demonstrated in Australia.

In the Board's view this film warrants an 'RC' classification in accordance with items 1(a) and (b) of the films table of the Code whereby:

"1. Films that (a) depict. express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified;" will be Refused Classification,

and "1. Films that:
(b) describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity . or not);" will be Refused Classification.

Also, pursuant to the Guidelines, films will be Refused Classification if they contain:

"Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive depictions involving a person who is, or who appears to be, a child under 18 years,"

In addition, the Guidelines states under the 'RC' section - Films and computer games will be refused classification if they include or contain any of the following:

["Crime or Violence"] "Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of; (i) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed; (ii) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact; (iii) sexual violence,

In addition under "Sex" - "Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of: (i) sexual activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent [will be refused classification] ,

In the Board's view, while the film purports to have some degree of artistic merit and justifiable context (taking into consideration the notoriety of the director, the narrative structure of the Marquis De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom and the portrait of human degradation which serves as an apparent metaphor for fascism), the context does not sufficiently justify the content of the film to the extent that it can be accommodated at the R 18+ classification. The film also deals with matters such as high impact violence, child sexual abuse and cruelty which are expressly refused classification under the Guidelines.

It is the opinion of the Board that the film deals with the issues described above in such a way that they exceed high in impact and offend against the standards of morality t decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults. Owing to the widely differing views held in our community it is not always possible to make decisions which satisfy everyone. I assure you that the Board takes its responsibilities seriously and reflects current community standards when making decisions.

I hope this information assists you.

Donald McDonald
Director
20 August 2008


 

 

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