Film Censorship: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) - Pg2


 

 

 

 

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini / 1975 / Italy / IMDb

 

April 2010: SALO DVD rated R18+

In April 2010, a DVD of SALO was rated R18+ (Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity) by the Classification Board.

 

Classification Board classifies a modified version of Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma R 18+ (Restricted)
Australian Government
Classification Board
14 April 2010
Media Release

The Classification Board has classified the modified version of Salo O Le 120 Giornate Di Sodoma (Salo) in DVD format R 18+ (Restricted) with the consumer advice 'Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity'.

Films classified R 18+ are legally restricted to adults. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to some sections of the adult community. Consumer advice is additional information which is intended to help consumers decide if they want to view this type of material.

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 Director of the Classification Board, Donald McDonald, has advised that this version of Salo could be accommodated within the R 18+ classification due to the inclusion of 176 minutes of additional material which provided a context to the feature film, mitigating its impact.

Mr McDonald wishes to draw attention to the fact that the film is classified R 18+, a classification category that is legally restricted to adults. "This is a film that is unsuitable for a minor to see."

The Classification Board wishes to emphasise that this film is classified R 18+ based on the fact that it contains additional material. Screening this film in a cinema without the additional material would constitute a breach of classification laws.

Consumers can check the classification and consumer advice for every film and game classified in Australia by searching the classification website.

 

 

April 2010:  Brendan O'Connor calls for review

Three days after it was classified, the Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor called for the SALO R-rating to be examined by the Review Board.

 

MINISTER REQUESTS REVIEW OF SALO CLASSIFICATION
Home Affairs Minister
The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
16 April 2010

Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, has applied to the Classification Review Board for a review of the most recent classification of the film Salo.

The Classification Board classified a DVD version of Salo O Le 120 Giornate Di Sodoma Salo, with extra material R 18+ (Restricted) on 13 April.

The decision included the consumer advice ‘scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity.’

The previous version of the film Salo was classified ‘RC’ Refused Classification in July 2008.

“I have asked for a review of the reclassification because I believe a review is in the public interest,” Mr O'Connor said.

“There are likely to be sections of the community who will have different views on the content of this film so it is appropriate to have an independent review.

“This film has a controversial classification history in Australia and even on this occasion the Classification Board was not unanimous in its decision.”

The Classification Board concluded that the impact of the version classified R18+ this month was reduced by its age and the inclusion of 176 minutes of additional material of behind-the-scenes footage which served to give the film context and reinforce its fictional nature.

A minority of the Board was of the opinion that the film should be classified ‘RC’.

Screening this film in a cinema without the additional material would constitute a breach of State and Territory classification laws.

 

 

April 2010: McGauran calls for Donald McDonald's head

CLASSIFICATION BOARD FAILS COMMUNITY STANDARDS TEST
Senator Julian McGauran
Liberal Senator for Victoria
Friday, 16 April 2010

A call was made today for the Chairman of the Classification Board, Mr Donald McDonald to resign or be sacked from the Board following its decision to re-release the formerly banned movie Salo onto DVD.

Victorian Liberal Senator, Julian McGauran and long time campaigner against the movie said today Salo was first banned in Australia in 1975 but cleared for showing in 1993 and again banned in 1998. The movie depicts every form of sexual fetish against minors (children under 16 years). It shows graphic scenes of sexual torture, rape and murder.

“This movie is a paedophiles treat. It is a hand book for deviants and could trigger crazed minds,” Senator McGauran said.

“Our chief censors have just made the job of vice squads around the country harder.

“The lifting of the ban of Salo by the Classification Board is divorced from community standards and leaves no line in the sand in regard to our censorship laws.

“The Board can no longer be trusted to defend public standards.

Mr McDonald must take responsibility as Chairman of the Board for the re-release of Salo. Any decent Chairman could not accept the release of this movie under any criteria.

“If Mr McDonald was in the minority on the Board who disapproved of Salo’s release then he ought to have courage of his convictions and resign in protest. It is a defining movie in regard to the boundaries of censorship in Australia”.

“Salo is not another pornographic movie with consenting adults but a movie that depicts children.

“The movie is an open and shut case of paedophilia and breaches every classification code”, Senator McGauran concluded.

 

 

Minister seeks review of sadistic film's release
theaustralian.com.au, April 17, 2010

Liberal senator Julian McGauran requested a review through the Attorney-General's office. He has also called for the resignation of Classification Board director and Howard government appointee Donald McDonald, if he opposed the majority decision.

"If he didn't support this decision, he should step down in protest," Senator McGauran said. "This film meets absolutely no community standard. This is the most open and shut case ever. There is no context for pedophilia."

 

 

April 2010: SALO review date set

Classification review announced for the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo)
Australian Government
Classification Review Board
19 April 2010

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) has received an application to review the classification of the recently submitted, modified version of the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo).

This modified version of Salo was classified R 18 + by the Classification Board on 14 April 2010.

The review is in response to an application received from the Minister for Home Affairs. Under the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the Minister for Home Affairs may make an application for a review at any time.

The Review Board will meet on 4 and 5 May 2010 to consider the application. The decision and reasons will be published on www.classification.gov.au once finalised.

If an individual or organisation wishes to apply for standing as an interested party to this review, please write to the Convenor of the Review Board.

The closing date to lodge your application for standing as an interested party and any submissions is 29 April 2010. Please note that the Review Board can only consider submissions about the film Salo itself and not any other matters relating to film classification policy or issues generally.

Submissions should be emailed to crb@classification.gov.au or sent to:

The Convenor
Classification Review Board
Locked Bag 3
HAYMARKET NSW 1240

The Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

 

 

April 2010: Homophobic Christian group lobbies against SALO

Salo movie re-release sparks protest
Australian Family Association
Family Update Vol.25 No.2 2010

The Classification Board has decided to re-release the formerly banned movie Salo DVD, sparking protests from family groups and Federal Senator Julian McGauran, who dubbed the film “a paedophiles treat”.

“This is not just another movie - it is a defining moment in regard to the boundaries of censorship in Australia,”said Senator McGauran.

“The movie depicts every form of sexual fetish against minors (children under 16 years). It shows graphic scenes of sexual torture, rape and murder. Even the minority report of the Classification Board states the reason for opposing the release is due to it ‘involving minors throughout’.

Page 13 of the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games states that media must be RC – Refused Classification – when it includes the following content: “Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years.”

“The lifting of the ban is detached from community standards and leaves no line in the sand – sending our censorship laws into outer space,” Senator McGauran said.

An application by The Minister for Home Affairs, Hon. Brendan O’Connor MP, has prompted the Classification Review Board to further consider the R 18+ classification of Salo. The Review Board will meet on May 4 and 5.

Write a letter protesting the re-release of Salo and its degrading content. Explain that by allowing its release this will open the door to other films which sexually exploit children.

Address letters to:

1) Victoria Rubensohn Convenor Classification Review Board Locked Bag 3 Haymarket, New South Wales NSW 1240
Email: enquiries@classification.gov.au

2) The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP Minister for Home Affairs PO Box 6022 House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
Email: Brendan.O’ Connor.MP@aph.gov.au

 

 

April 2010: McGauran attacks Donald McDonald

Classification Chair Called to Break His Silence
Senator Julian McGauran
Liberal Senator for Victoria
Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A call was made today for the Chairman of the Classification Board, Mr Donald McDonald to break his silence and make a full public explanation as to why the Board saw fit to release the controversial movie Salo.

Victorian Liberal Senator, Julian McGauran who previously called on Mr McDonald to resign or be sacked following the release of the movie in Australia onto DVD said Mr McDonald’s silence is an insult and an evasion of his public responsibilities.

Mr McDonald must know the consequences and controversy that surrounds the release of this movie – yet he hides in his office,” Senator McGauran said.

“This is yet another senior figure in a government authority refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

Mr McDonald cannot run from his responsibilities and must make a full explanation on the Salo release. It is not sufficient for the Chair to rely on a flimsy two-page report. The weight of this decision deserves an open and honest discussion with the public. Mr McDonald needs to give further explanation given the gravity and public concern for the movie.

“This is not just another movie - it is a defining moment in regard to the boundaries of censorship in Australia.

“This movie breaks every guideline concerning the use of minors in films. Page 13 of the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games states media must be RC – Refused Classification when it includes the following content:

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

“The movie depicts every form of sexual fetish against minors (children under 16 years). It shows graphic scenes of sexual torture, rape and murder. Even the minority report of the Classification Board states the reason for opposing the release is due to it ‘involving minors throughout’.

“Salo is supporting the paedophile and deviant culture.

“The lifting of the ban is detached from community standards and leaves no line in the sand – sending our censorship laws into outer space,” Senator McGauran said.

 

 

May 2010: Review Board confirms SALO R18+

In May 2010, the R18+ (Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity) rating was confirmed by the Review Board.

Salo classified R 18+ upon review
Australian Government
Classification Review Board
5 May 2010

A five-member panel of the Classification Review Board (the Review Board) has in a majority decision determined that the film Salo is classified R 18+ (Restricted) with the consumer advice 'Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity'.

In the Review Board's majority opinion Salo warrants this classification because the inclusion of additional material on the DVD facilitates wider consideration of the context of the film which results in the impact being no more than high.

The minority were of the view that the film should be Refused Classification.

The Review Board strongly advises consumers to consider whether this is a film they wish to see as it contains scenes of torture, degradation, cruelty and sexual violence that may offend some sections of the community.

Films classified R 18+ are legally restricted to adults. Persons aged under 18 years cannot be admitted to films classified R 18+. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community. Consumer advice is additional information which is intended to help consumers decide if they want to view this type of material.

The Review Board convened today in response to an application from the Minister for Home Affairs to review the decision made by the Classification Board to classify Salo R 18+ with the consumer advice 'Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity'.

In reviewing the classification, the Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games. This is the same framework used by the Classification Board.

The Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board. The Review Board's reasons for this decision will appear on the Classification website when finalised.

Note: Screening this film in a cinema without the additional material would constitute a breach of classification laws.

 

 

May 2010: SALO Full Review Board Report

Australian Government
Classification Review Board
4 and 5 May 2010
23-33 MARY STREET
SURRY HILLS, NSW

MEMBERS:
Ms Victoria Rubensohn AM (Convenor)
The Hon Trevor Griffin (Deputy Convenor)
Ms Ann Stark
Dr Melissa de Zwart
Mr Alan Wu

APPLICANT
The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP, Minister for Home Affairs

INTERESTED
PARTIES
Shock Records (the original applicant for classification)
Australian Family Association (AFA)
Family Voice Australia (FAVA)
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSW CCL), and
Flinders University Film Animation Comics and Television Society (Flinders FACTS)
BUSINESS To review the Classification Board's decision to classify the modified version of the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo) in DVD format R 18+ with the consumer advice 'Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity'.

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

 

1. Decision

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board), by a majority, classified the modified version of the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo) in DVD format, along with accompanying material, R 18+ with the consumer advice 'Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity'.

 

2. Legislative provisions

The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 provides that films are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Classification Guidelines.

Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 5 of the Table under the heading 'Films' provides that:

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; or

(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); or

(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence, are to be classified 'RC', and

Films (except RC films and X 18+ films) that are unsuitable for a minor to see are to be
classified R 18+.

The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible.

Section 11 of the Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a film include:

(a) the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and

(b) the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the film; and

(c) the general character of the film, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005 (the Guidelines), determined under s 12 of the Act:

- the importance of context
- the assessment of impact, and
- the six classifiable elements - themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

 

3. Procedure

The Review Board received an application for review from the Minister for Home Affairs on 15 April 2010. On 19 April, the Review Board determined that this application was valid.

The Minister for Home Affairs advised that he would not be making written or oral submissions on the application for review.

Prior to the Review Board's meeting, the Convenor granted 'interested party' status to the NSW CCL, the AFA, FAVA and Flinders FACTS. The original applicant (Shock Records), FAVA and Flinders FACTS provided written submissions to the Review Board prior to their meeting.

On 4 May, five members of the Review Board viewed the 292 minute DVD including the film and additional material described below.

On 5 May, the Review Board heard oral submissions from two persons representing the NSW CCL, and one person representing both the AFA and FAVA.

The Review Board then considered the matter.

 

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:

(i) The Minister's application for review

(ii) The written submissions from Shock Records, Flinders FACTS and FAVA

(iii) The oral submissions from the two persons representing the NSW CCL and one person representing the AFA and FAVA

(iv) the relevant provisions in the Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and

(v) the Classification Board's report

 

5. Synopsis

Set in the Italian village of Salo (a seat of Fascist Government) during
World War II, this film follows four sadistic fascist males (representing the four pillars of the Italian establishment: the Church, Politics, the Nobility and the Judiciary) who detain 16 young males and females and subject them to torture, degradation and sexual violence before executing some of them. A group of young 'black shirts' accompanies the captors. The film follows the narrative structure of the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom and is divided into chapters including Anteinferno, Circle of Manias, Circle of Shit and Circle of Blood.

This two-disc DVD release contains substantial additional material including the Italian trailer for the film, a music film clip entitled 'Ostia - The Death of Pasolini' by Coil and documentary features entitled 'Open Your Eyes!', 'Ai Passi con Pasolini…Walking with Pasolini', 'Salo: Fade to Black,' 'Whoever Says the Truth Shall Die' and 'Ostia' (with director's commentary).

 

6. Findings on material questions of fact

The Review Board found that the film contains aspects or scenes of importance under various classifiable elements:

(a) Themes - The R 18+ classification contains virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes. The film is intended as a political allegory, critiquing both the corruption of fascist Italy and the consumerist commodification of Italy in the 1970s. The film is intended as a serious study of the corruption which accompanies the exercise of absolute power. Within this broader context, the highly stylised film follows a narrative of four fascist pillars of society (a bishop, nobleman, judge and politician) who detain 16 young males and females during World War II, and subject them to acts of degradation, torture and sexual violence.

(b) Violence - The film contains both mental and physical violence that is high in viewing impact and implied sexual violence that is high in impact but justified by context.

Examples include but are not limited to:

At approximately 32 minutes a nude female servant is tripped in a banquet hall containing the characters of the film. One of the young male 'black shirts' is depicted unzipping his fly and approaching her. He then has implied anal intercourse with her, although his actions are obscured by the banquet table. A close-up of the servant's face shows her screaming.

At approximately 40 minutes there is a mock wedding scene involving one young male as the groom and a young female as the bride. The couple are then undressed by their captors and commanded to caress each other. Two of their captors then rape them and a third captor has anal sex with one of the captors. These sex acts are filmed at a long distance and without close-up shots or shots of genitalia.

At approximately 51 minutes a large group of young males and females are shown naked, leashed and on all fours. They pant and bark like dogs and are forced to compete for food that the captors throw onto the ground or provide in dog bowls.

At approximately 53 minutes a young female is forced to eat pastry containing nails and blood runs from her mouth as she screams.

At approximately 63 minutes one of the captors, obscured by a banquet table, squats and impliedly defecates. A shot of what appears to be faeces on the floor follows. A nude young female is given a spoon and repeatedly commanded by the captor in a screaming tone to 'eat'. In long shot, the young female is shown placing the brown substance in her mouth, then retching and crying. She is shown in close-up eating another spoonful of the substance. Two scenes involving urolagnia also occur in the film.

At approximately 83 minutes the captors arrange a contest for the best behind of the young males and females, announcing the prize to be instant death. The four captors inspect with a torch the bare buttocks of young males and females arranged in a circle. However, the detail of the buttocks is obscured by editing and various camera angles. A gun is placed at the temple of the young male winner and the trigger pulled, but the gun is not loaded.

From approximately 107-115 minutes the captors take turns sitting at a window in a high building, looking through binoculars as those young males and females who have transgressed the 'rules of the house' are subjected to implied sexual violence, torture and in some cases, execution, in a courtyard below. The captors listen to classical music, laugh, quote poetry and one captor appears sexually gratified by the activities in the courtyard. The impact of the violence is muted and mitigated by it being viewed mostly at a considerable distance and elevation, in extreme long shot through binoculars and the soundtrack consists of the classical music only. There are no lingering close-ups of the violence and torture. The impact of the violence and torture is further mitigated by the age and relative lack of technological sophistication of the visual effects.

The courtyard sequence includes the implied anal rape of a young female followed by her hanging (no detail of the rape is shown) at approximately 108 minutes. At approximately 110 minutes, a young male's penis is burned with a candle and a young female's nipple is burned with a candle. The tongue of another young male is sliced and the eye of another young male is gouged with a short knife. At approximately 113 minutes, a young female is shown being scalped, with blood and tissue depicted. A young male is branded with a branding iron and others are whipped. Some of these courtyard depictions are also shown in the accompanying documentary features, in the context of an exploration of the director Pasolini's intentions and use of cinematic technique.

(c) Language - Language in the film can be readily accommodated within the R 18+ category, as there are virtually no language restrictions in that category.

(d) Sex - The film contains sex that can be readily accommodated within the R 18+ classification as sexual activity is implied.

(e) Drug Use - There is no drug use in the film.

(f) Nudity - The film contains nudity that is of high viewing impact. Full frontal nudity occurs throughout the film in the context of scenes of torture, degradation and implied sexual violence.

National Classification Code and Guidelines

The National Classification Code states, inter alia (in Item 1, sub-paragraph (b)), that films that:

(a) 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)

should be refused classification.

The Review Board notes that in two submissions to its review there are differing claims which relate to this issue. The submission of Family Voice Australia claims that one of the actors playing a young male was under the age of 18 at the time the film was made, citing a website as a source. However, the submission of the film's distributors, Shock Records, states that the actors are over the age of 18. Further information has not been available to the Review Board on this matter. In terms of whether the actors playing young males and females 'appear' to be under 18, the Review Board observes that this is a subjective judgement and notes that all the relevant actors are clearly sexually mature. The Review Board does not consider that the latter part of this provision requires that the actors appear to be mature adults, rather, it requires that they neither be under 18 nor appear to be under 18. The Review Board is of the view that the potential for community offence caused by either the description ( in stories related during the film) or depiction of such a 'person' is mitigated by the context, purpose and the stylised, detached cinematic techniques of this modified version of the film.

The Guidelines for Refused Classification also state that a film is to be refused classification if it contains, among other things:

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

In respect of these Guidelines, the Review Board reiterates its comments above relating to the relevant section of the National Classification Code, as to whether an actor is 18 or 'appears' to be under 18. It is the view of the Review Board that the film does not contain descriptions (in stories related during the film) or depictions of child sexual abuse which are exploitative or offensive, or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving such a 'person' given the context, purpose and cinematic techniques of this modified version of Salo in DVD format referred to below in these reasons.

 

7. Reasons for the decision

The Review Board notes that the original film incorporated in this modified version of Salo in DVD format has experienced a varied and lengthy classification history in Australia, a previous version of the film having most recently been refused classification in July 2008. From 1993-1998, the film was classified and shown in Australian cinemas.

It is the opinion of the Review Board that the inclusion of additional documentary features in this modified DVD format version of Salo facilitates wider consideration of the historical, political and cultural context of the film, and this would mitigate the level of potential community offence and the impact of classifiable elements to the extent that the film can be accommodated within the R 18+ classification.

According to the Classification Guidelines:

'Context is crucial in determining whether a classifiable element is justified
by the story-line or themes. In particular, the way in which important social issues are dealt with may require a mature or adult perspective. This means that material that falls into a particular classification category in one context may fall outside it in another.'

Salo, made in 1975, applies the structure and events of Marquis de Sade's 18th century novel 120 Days of Sodom to Fascist Italy during World War II. The additional material in this modified DVD version explores exhaustively the film's historical, political and cultural context, the thematic foci of the film and the director's intentions and cinematic techniques. These extra DVD features provide the viewer with salient interpretations of the film's narrative, as well as additional context and elaboration of the purpose of the film. For example, in the documentary 'Salo: Fade to Black', the director, Pasolini, explains the film as 'a metaphor for what power does to the human body', and describes the film as exploring consumerism and fascism's attempts to reduce the human body to a 'saleable commodity'. The film is intended to deliberately shock its audience in order to powerfully illustrate its themes of the evils of fascism and the corruption inherent in the exercise of absolute power.

The Review Board also considers that the impact of Salo, now 35 years old, is reduced by its age, its dated and sometimes technically unconvincing visual effects and construction of the film's narrative through mostly obscured long or extreme long shot visuals and editing techniques. The extensive, discordant usage of classical music, ornate costumes and highly stylised mise-en-scène gives the film a surrealist quality. The film employs a detached style, which is totally devoid of any sense of titillation. Overall, the characterisation and tone of the film encourages viewer distance rather than engagement.

The additional material included on the DVD, especially of extensive behind-the-scenes footage revealing the director's approach to filming and his attention to detail in his camera shot-making, supports this view. During the documentary feature 'Open Your Eyes!' Pasolini is shown on set carefully selecting camera angles and staging scenes in a meticulous manner. The extensive footage also reinforces the fictional and highly stylised nature of the film.

Salo is high in viewing impact and 'may be offensive to sections of the adult community'. It therefore warrants an R 18+ classification.

 

8. Minority view

A minority of members of the Classification Review Board is of the view that the DVD should be classified RC (Refused Classification).

There are two principal grounds on which the minority reached that view.

The first ground relates to the National Classification Code, Item 1, sub-paragraph (b) under the section relating to films. That provides:

'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):

are to be classified RC'.

This provision is also referred to under 'Crime or violence" in the Guidelines for Refused Classification. A film is to be refused classification if it contains, among other things,

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

The second ground relates to the classifiable element of sexual violence, the Guidelines for R 18+ under 'Violence' providing that 'sexual violence may be implied if justified by context'.

In respect of the first ground, the youthful appearances of the victims - no facial hair on the young males' faces; at approximately 11 minutes the boy victims, being lined up, have trousers pulled down and shirts up, displaying youthful genitalia; repeated references to the victims as 'boys and girls 'and addressing them as such; reference at approximately 16 minutes to a young female victim as a girl taken from a convent school; young naked female victims consistently showing pink nipples as opposed to the darker, developed nipples of a mature woman are some of the features which, in the opinion of the minority, involve depictions of a person who is or appears to be under the age of 18 years . In addition, from approximately 24 minutes, an older woman prostitute speaking to the 'boys and girls' (Senora Maggi) relates the story of her mother offering her as a seven year old virgin to an adult male, which heightens the sense that the young victims are children under 18. (The story telling would, of itself, offend against the provisions of the Code and Guidelines.) Thus, in the opinion of the minority, Salo, and excerpts from the film such as the theatrical trailer on the second disc, contain exploitative and offensive descriptions and depictions of child sexual abuse not justified by context, irrespective of the age of the actors playing the young people.

With respect to the second ground, the minority is of the view that, while much of the sexual activity would fall within the description of implied sexual activity, when taken as a whole and when combined with the violence which accompanied that activity, the cumulative impact is very powerful and very high and therefore the DVD must be Refused Classification as the impact of material classified R 18+ should not exceed high.

The minority is also of the view that the additional material on the DVD following the film does not mitigate the impact of the classifiable elements of the film to the extent that it can be accommodated at the R 18+ classification.

 

9. Summary

The modified version of Salo in DVD format is classified R 18+ with the consumer advice of 'Scenes of torture, degradation, sexual violence and nudity'.

 

 

May 2010: Christian Nuts #1

Family Voice Australia (aka The Festival of Light) was one of the Christian groups given standing as an interested party to the SALO review. Here is what they had to say following the confirmation of the R18+ rating.

 

Salo decision goes so low
Family Voice Australia
Thursday, May 6, 2010

“Yesterday’s confirmation of the R18+ rating for the DVD of Salo – Pasolini’s film revelling in teen torture and sex abuse – hits a new low in Australian classification decisions,” FamilyVoice national policy officer Richard Egan said today.

FamilyVoice Australia was the only community group to make a submission and personally present a case to the Classification Review Board that the ban – first applied in Australia in 1994 – should remain.

“Salo appears to clearly breach the classification guidelines, which say that films must be refused classification if they contain:

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

gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of: …

*cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact;
*sexual violence,” Richard Egan said.

“The young captives in Salo who were sexually abused, raped, tortured and forced to eat excrement were portrayed as being under the age of 18. One of the actors was only 17 when the film was made.”

The Classification Review Board decision to overturn the ban, like the Classification Board decision last month, was not unanimous. Both boards claimed that the new Salo DVD’s inclusion of additional material explaining the film’s background would mitigate the impact on the viewer.

“This claim doesn’t make sense,” Richard Egan said. “Even Salo supporters concede that additional material on a DVD usually goes unwatched – so it would not affect the extreme impact on the viewer of certain scenes in the film.”

The Review Board suggested that the consumer advice on the film – that it contains “scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity” – would prevent viewers from seeing the DVD if they are likely to be offended by it.

“Offensiveness is not the issue,” Richard Egan said. “This consumer advice could act as an inducement to paedophiles or others who take pleasure in viewing the extreme degradation of others. Yesterday’s Review Board ruling has set a very dangerous precedent.”

 

 

May 2010: McGauran attacks O'Connor

Minister Must Override Movie Release
Senator Julian McGauran
Liberal Senator for Victoria
Thursday, 6 May 2010

A call was made today for the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Brendan O’Connor to override a decision by the Classification Review Board to release the formerly banned movie Salo onto DVD.

Minister O’Connor is responsible for both the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board. The Minister had initially appealed against the decision of the Classification Board to release the controversial movie Salo. Yesterday the Review Board rejected the Minister’s case and upheld the decision to release the movie.

Victorian Liberal Senator Julian McGauran, a long time campaigner against the movie said the Minister must now step in and have the courage of his convictions. If he believed the movie was worth appealing he must believe the movie is worth stopping. The Minister has power with the State Attorneys to block the release of this vile movie.

“If the Minister does not act then his objection to the movie was a political stunt”, Senator McGauran said.

“The Minister will lack integrity if he does not act. He cannot have it both ways, object to the movie but allow it to be released.

“The release of the movie since its last rejection in 2008 clearly reflects the change in the majority of Board appointments in 2009, appointments made by Minister O’Connor and cleared by the Labor Cabinet.

“If Minister O’Connor sits on his hands and allows its release to go ahead then it can only be taken that this was his intention in the first place. Not to act will allow his Board appointments to be free to continue releasing movies that clearly depict paedophile activity and the worst cases of sexual violence.

“This movie is a paedophile’s treat. It is a hand book for deviants and could trigger crazed minds. The movie depicts every form of sexual fetish against minors (children under 16 years). It shows graphic scenes of sexual torture, rape and murder. Salo was first banned in Australia in 1975 but cleared for showing in 1993 and again banned in 1998.

“Our chief censors have trashed community standards. The release of Salo has removed any line in the sand for censorship in this country, it breaches every classification law.

“Unless the Minister makes a tough stand, our children are in for a roller coaster ride into the outer limits of morality”, Senator McGauran concluded.

 

 

May 2010: Christian Nuts #2

Film degrading minors sparks call for review of classification system
Australian Christian Lobby
Media Release
May 7, 2010

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has called on the Federal Government to conduct an urgent review of the classification system following a review board’s decision to clear for release the controversial Salo film.

“In rebuffing the Minister, who clearly had concerns with the initial decision, the board has thrown out its own rules which prohibit the sexual degradation of minors,” ACL National Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said today.

“How can any Australian have confidence in the national classification guidelines anymore?

“The Government in conjunction with the States should either rewrite the guidelines or it should act to ensure that the boards it appoints follow the rules.”

Mr Shelton said the Classification Review Board’s decision to clear for DVD release a sadistic and graphic film about the sexual abuse and degradation of teenagers makes a mockery of Australia’s classification system.

“The decision to classify the DVD of the film Salo as R18+ clearly breaches Australia’s classification guidelines and is completely out of touch with community standards.

“Even fans of this film say it is sadistic and full of unspeakable misery and sexual depravity. But far worse than that, this depravity and abuse is inflicted on captive teenagers who are apparently depicted as being under the age of 18,” Mr Shelton said.

“At a time when child sexual abuse is reaching alarming levels, what kind of justifiable reason can there be for permitting a film about young people being raped and tortured to go legally on sale in Australia? Adding three hours of additional ‘context’ material people can easily skip through is a ridiculously inadequate excuse.”

Mr Shelton said the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board have a responsibility to protect the community from this kind of abhorrent material.

“The classification guidelines are weak enough, but for the Classification Board and its review body to both disregard the guidelines in approving this film is reprehensible and shows how ineffectual the classification system has become.”

 

 

May 2010: McGauran again attacks O'Connor

Minister O'Connor Fails To Defend Community Standards
Senator Julian McGauran
Liberal Senator for Victoria
Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A claim was made today that the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor’s failure to take action against the release of the movie Salo to DVD shows his placid acceptance of its release into the community.

Victorian Liberal Senator Julian McGauran said the Minister has failed to protect the most basic of community standards by not stopping this movie. The movie delves into explicit and degrading sexual behaviour against minors (under 16).

First banned in Australia in 1975, Salo has been denied classification on six occasions due to disturbingly strong depictions of torture, degradation, sexual violence and nudity including masturbation, forced sodomy and urolagnia, coprophagous, suicide, flesh mutilation including partial scalping and branding as well as paedophilia and bestiality.

“The release of the movie will redefine the definition and acceptance of paedophilia”, Senator McGauran said

“Salo is not another pornographic movie with consenting adults but a movie that depicts children. The movie is an open and shut case of paedophilia and breaches every classification code.

“The Minister is allowing a complete override of community standards and the trashing of the censorship laws of this country.

“It is no argument to say that he cannot act. The Minister has authority over the Classification and Review Boards and the classification standards. In essence he is the chief censor.

“The Minister must draw on the power of his office and Government along with rallying the State Attorney - Generals to stop the movies’ release”, Senator McGauran said.

“The release of the movie since its last rejection in 2008 clearly reflects the change in the majority of Board appointments in 2009, appointments made by Minister O’Connor and cleared by the Labor Cabinet. Not to act will allow his Board appointments to be free to continue releasing movies that clearly depict paedophilia activity and the worst cases of sexual violence.

“If the Minister does not act to ban the movie then he is placing our children on a roller coaster ride into the outer limits of morality”, Senator McGauran concluded.

 

 

May 2010: Senate Estimates - McGauran and Barnett vs. The Censors

SALO was discussed in the May 2010 Senate Estimates.

The speakers were:

Classification Board
Mr. Donald McDonald AC, Director

Classification Review Board
The Hon Trevor Griffin, Acting Convenor

Senator Guy Barnett - Liberal Party
Senator Julian McGuaran - Liberal Party
Senator Penny Wong - Labor Party

 

Title LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
24/05/2010
Database Estimates Committees
Date 24-05-2010
Source Senate
Department Attorney-General’s Department
Program Classification Board

Mr D McDonald - One recent classification decision of the board that I know has attracted the attention of some senators is the R18+classification for a modified 292 minute DVD version of the film Salo O Le 120 Giornate Di Sodoma Salo. The film, in a number of different versions, has been variously classified R18+ and RC—that is to say, refused classification.

Before making that decision, the board most recently classified a version of the stand alone feature Salo as RC in July 2008. This latest version is a two-disk release, which contains additional documentary material, a trailer and a music clip. The Classification Board, in a majority decision, classified the film R18+, with the consumer advice ‘scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’.

At the request of the Minister for Home Affairs, that decision has since been reviewed by the Classification Review Board, which also classified the modified version of the film R18+ and left the consumer advice unchanged. The board readily acknowledges that this is an extremely controversial film with a difficult classification history. Beyond that, the decision of the board speaks for itself and, in any case, has been superseded by the decision of the review board. I can provide a copy of that decision, should senators require it.

CHAIR —Senator McGauran, do you have questions for the Classification Board?

Senator McGAURAN —It is in regard to the movie Salo. My colleague Guy Barnett will also follow up with questions. In your introduction you rightly made the point that it is a controversial movie. I give this as background to a question: it is a vile movie and the act of releasing it is a vile act. It was first banned in 1975 and as late as 2008 the ban was upheld. I quite understand the debate about censorship. It has a very wide spectrum between belief and interpretation, but there are two factors. This is my question: Do you agree that there are two factors which are agreed upon as a bedrock community standard? The first is that there is a line in the sand that we do have some form of censorship in this country and it is reflected in the Classification Code? That is the first point. The second point is that paedophilia is out. They are two bedrock community standards. Do you agree with that, Mr D McDonald?

CHAIR —They are in fact against the law.

Mr D McDonald —They seem to be two statements. Could you clarify what you are asking me?

Senator McGAURAN—I am asking you about the premise which the board itself would work off. Is it a bedrock community standard that first of all there is censorship in this country—there is a line to be drawn—and that it is reflected in the Classification Code? Secondly, that paedophilia in films or moves is out; there is no interpretation of it?

Senator Wong —Sorry, I do not understand what the question is. Is the question whether paedophilia is illegal? Yes.

Senator McGAURAN —I want to know what premise the board works off.

Senator Wong —What is the statutory basis of the board?

Senator McGAURAN —No.

Senator Wong —I am genuinely trying to assist here. I do not think Mr McDonald understands what is being asked, and I certainly do not.

Senator McGAURAN —I will try again; I will rephrase it. Is paedophilia on film refused classification?

Mr D McDonald—Paedophilia is a serious social issue that can be dealt with in a film. What cannot be tolerated in a film is actual paedophilia. That is the bedrock. There is a range from actual paedophilia to dealing with a social issue.

Senator BARNETT —What about simulated paedophilia?

Mr D McDonald —Simulated paedophilia could be acceptable in the context of a particular film.

Senator BARNETT —Really?

Senator McGAURAN—The context of this movie, as you would well be aware, deals with the sexual abuse, degradation, torture and humiliation of minors. Now, according to the Classification Code, a minor is under 18. But anyone who views this movie knows the implication of the children on the screen is definitely that they are between 13 and 16 at the max. But we only have to deal with under 18. That would be a viewer’s point of view. Just looking at it, you know it is minors. But, more than that, the minority of your board said the same and the majority of the review board said the same—that this movie deals with minors, people under age. Yet, in your own report, you did not even mention that the core objection to this movie, Salo, is that it deals with minors. It is not even in your report. Are you reading your own report now?

CHAIR —Senator McGauran, if you want an answer, you need to give the person a chance to answer.

Senator BARNETT —What is the delay? In the majority report of your board you do not mention anything about the core objection against this movie, yet the minority of your board does, the majority of the review board does and the minority of the review board does.

Mr D McDonald —The minority view of our board is part of the board report. They are of a piece.

Senator McGAURAN—So you have grabbed onto that, have you? They say it deals with minors in the minority report. Why have you not gone to justifying that? This deals with under 18s—in fact, younger.

Mr D McDonald—I repeat that the board’s report is a total report. It includes the majority and the minority views. I am struggling to understand.

Senator McGAURAN—So we will establish that this movie deals with paedophilia. If the minority report is part of your main report and it states that it clearly deals with minors then this movie is all about the degradation, torture, humiliation and abuse of minors, or they are part of the movie. Yes or no?

Mr D McDonald —You are stating something.

Senator BARNETT —Is that correct?

Senator McGAURAN —Is that correct and does this movie deal with paedophilia?

Mr D McDonald —That is one of the themes in the film, unquestionably.

Senator BARNETT—Can you confirm that the victims of the scenes, the torture and degradation, are depicted as minors in the movie? Can you confirm that?

Mr D McDonald —Yes.

Senator BARNETT—You have just not put it on the record. I am just confirming that. Can you also confirm that in the majority report there is no mention of the fact that these depictions of torture and degradation involve minors? Because the contrast is the minority—

Mr D McDonald —The report uses other language; it talks about young males and females.

Senator BARNETT—The minority report specifically says, ‘numerous depictions of realistically simulated sexual activity, sexual violence and torture involving minors throughout, including depictions of coprophagia and urolagnia?’ Is it not relevant to advise consumers that minors are depicted in these scenes?

Mr D McDonald —The board report is a totality and I believe that speaks for itself.

Senator McGAURAN —This is foolish.

Senator McLUCAS—I do not know whether this will help, but when we write committee reports from Senate reference committees and there is a majority report and a minority report, our differentiation is that those two reports are written by different parties. By way of assistance, I think Mr McDonald’s reports are written in a different way to our mindset. I do not know if that assists.

Senator McGAURAN—It does. I am again in admiration of you. But it is again a slippery answer. The minority report is the objection to the majority in Mr McDonald’s report.

Senator McLUCAS —That is not what Mr McDonald is saying.

Senator McGAURAN —The objection is that it deals with minors. There is a certain number on his board that did not want that movie passed.

Senator McLUCAS —I think that is a statement of fact.

Senator Wong —No-one is disagreeing with that.

Senator McGAURAN —But he is trying to say it is just one report.

Senator Wong —No, I do not think that is a correct indication of Mr McDonald’s evidence.

Senator McGAURAN —All right.

Senator Wong —I think he has indicated that there was a majority and a minority part of the report, as I understand it.

Senator McGAURAN—Correct, and in the majority side of the report, which justifies the release of this movie, they do not even mention—cowardly so—that this movie deals with minors in the worst form. Is that correct?

Mr D McDonald —No, I could not possibly agree with the use of the word ‘cowardly’.

Senator McGAURAN —Why did you not refer to it?

Mr D McDonald —It is completely inappropriate for the processes and the attitude that the board brings to its work.

Senator McGAURAN—Under the Classification Act, it requires you to seek community opinion. It also says the board has to consider the standards of morality, decency and propriety when classifying Salo, which means you must use the community standards as a touchstone. That relates to my first question: how did you do that in relation to Salo?

Mr D McDonald —I need to ask you to focus that into a question that I can answer.

Senator McGAURAN —What community opinion did you seek?

Mr D McDonald —We do not seek community opinion.

Senator McGAURAN —You do not? You are required to under the act.

Mr D McDonald —I am sorry, that is not the case.

Senator McGAURAN —Yes, you are.

Mr D McDonald —We are obliged from our various backgrounds to seek to reflect community opinion.

Senator McGAURAN —The act says that you are required to protect minors from harmful material; you are to seek standards, morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults. It is referring to a community standard. You are saying that in regard to Salo, let alone other movies, there is no community touchstone in your decision making?

Mr D McDonald —The board is the community touchstone. The board is chosen to be as representative of the community as it can be, given the numbers.

Senator McGAURAN —The code also says:

(d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

(i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and

(ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

It uses the phrase ‘community concerns’. What community investigation did you undertake? Was it all in-house; were you all breathing the same oxygen inside your own cinema? Every other board I know has used the community as a touchstone. I know this well because I go back to 1993 in relation to this issue. I know that the fundamental change to the board, at least when the coalition was in government, was to have community advisory boards. What happened to them?

Mr D McDonald —I have not the faintest idea. I have been director for—

Senator McGAURAN —You are incompetent.

CHAIR —Senator McGauran, I ask you to withdraw that.

Senator McGAURAN —Why?

CHAIR —I think that is not a reflection on Mr McDonald’s expertise and the role he is asked to play.

Senator McGAURAN —If you knew what this movie was about—

CHAIR —I am asking you to withdraw that

Senator McGAURAN —You would be as horrified as I am.

CHAIR —I am asking you to withdraw that comment. Senator McGauran, I am asking you to withdraw that comment.

Senator McGAURAN —I am reluctant to, Madam Chair.

CHAIR —We will have a private meeting, if that is the case. I am asking you to withdraw that comment.

Senator McGAURAN —I withdraw that comment.

CHAIR —Are there any other questions of Mr McDonald?

Senator McGAURAN —Yes, there certainly are.

CHAIR —Senator McGauran, I am reluctant to call you but, if you have some more questions, keep going.

Senator McGAURAN —I will give a few questions to Senator Barnett while I cool down.

Senator BARNETT —Can I ask about the logic of the board’s decision where you say that a screening of a film in a cinema, without the additional material, would constitute a breach of the classification laws. Is that correct? That was in your media release.

Mr D McDonald —Correct.

Senator BARNETT—To me it makes no sense if on the one hand it is prohibited in a movie theatre but allowed at home on a DVD so long as on the DVD it has that extra couple of hours—all that additional background to the movie that puts it into its so-called context, according to the board. It makes no sense because have you got any evidence to say that people will actually look at all those hours of background, bits and pieces to the content, and then watch the movie? Have you got any evidence that people will do that, or is all the evidence before you based on past experience that they will simply watch a movie in their own home, without the extra bits and pieces?

Mr D McDonald —We can have no evidence one way or the other about what people do in their own home.

Senator BARNETT—Then how on earth would you require as a board that on the one hand you prohibit it in a movie theatre but on the other hand it is okay in somebody’s home only on the basis that they watch the couple of hours of background screening about the making of the movie, Salo?

Senator McGAURAN —You say in your own report—

Senator BARNETT —Can I just hear Mr McDonald’s response to that?

Mr D McDonald —I am sorry, I have lost the question.

Senator McGAURAN —Do not get smart, Mr McDonald.

CHAIR —Senator McGauran! You continually interrupt.

Senator Wong —I understand your views about this but you are interrupting your own colleague and frankly being quite rude to Mr McDonald. You may disagree with the position of the board, but it is not appropriate for you to deal with this in this way. If Senator Barnett has a question we would like to hear it and the answer being given without Senator McGauran deciding to jump in.

Senator McGAURAN—I will say to the chair that I will be more respectful. You are right, Senator Wong, except to say that the reason I am so heated is that I have no respect—none at all. That is what is driving me, but I will try to control myself.

CHAIR —Is this for Senator Barnett you are talking about? Who are you referring to here?

Senator McGAURAN —For Mr McDonald.

CHAIR—The least you could do is give him the opportunity to finish answering his questions. Senator Barnett, you might want to reiterate your question to Mr McDonald.

Senator BARNETT—Mr McDonald, I cannot see the logic of the board’s decision, where you have one rule for cinemas and what can be seen at a public cinema compared to what can be seen in a home. My question is: what evidence was before the board, or what reasoning led the board to assume, that all or most people who purchased or rented a DVD of Salo would view all or even any of the additional material? Was there any evidence before your board to persuade you accordingly?

Mr D McDonald —I can only repeat what I have already said. We can have no evidence of what people do in their own homes, but we classify the product that comes before us as a totality.

Senator BARNETT—Can I just say to you that that confirms in my view why I believe this decision was an appalling decision by the board and why I support an appeal to this decision and why, on behalf of the community, I can understand their concern, their angst and their upset—including people like Senator McGauran, who are so enraged by the fact that this decision has been turned on its head by the board. You do not have to respond to that question, but you are welcome to do so.

Mr D McDonald—I will respond and say that, if the Classification Board was in error, it is the function of the review board process to deal with that.

Senator BARNETT—Yes, indeed. And the minister has a particular opinion, which obviously has been disregarded by the review board and indeed by the Classification Board, because the views of the minister were known to the board.

Mr D McDonald—I beg your pardon; I have no idea what the minister’s view of this film is, and it would have been quite inappropriate for him to have indicated such a view. Frankly, I find that an astonishing suggestion.

Senator Wong—I presume, Senator Barnett, that you are referring to the fact that there was a request by the minister for a review of the classification, which went to the Classification Review Board.

Senator BARNETT —That is right.

Senator Wong—And the decision in relation to that application was made, I think, on 18 May. Is that correct, Mr Griffin? The reasons were published on 18 May, I think, from various people saying things around me.

Senator McGAURAN —Asking the same question, what evidence did the review board have with the additional material on the making of Salo that people would watch it and therefore that the would mitigate the offences of the main movie?

Mr Griffin —If I go back to the Federal Court decision in Viva Erotica, that issue about community standards was raised and the Federal Court did not overrule what the Classification Review Board had done in that case, and that was to assess it from the board’s own perspective of its experience within the community. But the review board, in its operation, particularly in contentious matters, tries to engage with bodies such as the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, as it did in this case, as well as, in this case, FamilyVoice Australia and the Australian Family Association. It was endeavouring to get two perspectives—possibly different perspectives from opposing points of view—not just on the issue of community standards but also on the issue of acceptance of the particular film, video or publication that is being subject to review.

Senator McGAURAN—In both your report and the report of the Classification Board, the sole reason that differed from any other occasion for the release of this movie was the second DVD in the packet, which would go into the making of Salo—behind the scenes, so-called. That is the sole fundamental difference. You have not really answered the question. What evidence is there that people will watch this? This is the first time that this has happened, isn’t it?

Mr Griffin —I think there have been other occasions.

Senator McGAURAN —What other occasions?

Mr Griffin —I do not know. So far as the review board is concerned—

Senator McGAURAN —Because there have not been.

Mr Griffin—The review board has a very limited number of applications for review before it each year. This year, so far there have been seven. In the previous year there were 10. Our job is to review a particular decision of the Classification Board and not to get involved in the administrative background to the administration of the classification act by agencies, state and federal. In respect of this particular movie, as in respect of other reviews, in the press release that goes out there is an indication that submissions will be received from interested parties. There is a conscious effort to endeavour to get differing points of view presented to the review board, and I have indicated the nature of the agencies or bodies that in this instance made submissions.

We rely also on the decision of the Federal Court, as with an administrative review of the decision of the Classification Review Board in the case of Viva Erotica, where it indicated that the experience of members of the Classification Review Board itself was a relevant basis upon which it could make a decision about acceptance or otherwise from the perspective of community standards.

Senator McGAURAN —If you do not watch the second disc in the package of this movie, it is a paedophile’s treat. I think it is, anyway, given that it is worse to release it on home viewing, ironically, when you think of the fact that people at home have their own privacy, than it is in the arthouse cinemas, when it was first released and then rebanned in 1993. At least in the arthouse cinema you have someone at the door checking, and people have to pay for it. They cannot freeze-frame it as they can at home. They cannot relish it as they can at home. Children may well walk into the room or use the video themselves. So, in fact, you have spread the audience—you have expanded the audience—more than if you released it to arthouse cinemas. Did you take that into account?

Mr Griffin—The majority of the review board took the view that that additional material was a relevant consideration in determining the impact of the initial part of the DVD. The minority, on the other hand, took the view that it would have a bearing. So there are differing points of view which are reflected in the reasons that have been published. The hearing was on 4 and 5 May, not 2 May as previously indicated, and I apologise for that error. The reasons are now publicly available and up on the internet.

Senator McGAURAN—In your report, the minority view, to its absolute credit, whoever the minority is on your board, lays out—in excruciating detail, I should add—exactly how young these people are. You have read the report, which states in absolute detail why they really are, to the viewer, probably aged 13 to 16, maximum. This is a movie about the degradation of children and minors. Both of you never considered the community standard, but did you at least consider, for example, the state laws in Victoria? There are child pornography laws on material that describes or depicts a person who is or appears to be a minor engaging in sexual activity or depicted in an indecent sexual manner or context—section 67A of the Victorian Crimes Act. Did you consider any of that in regard to Salo?

Mr Griffin —The majority view of the Classification Review Board was that the young persons were not or did not appear to be under 18 years of age. The minority had the contrary view. So the issue was considered but the decision was divided.

Senator BARNETT—Mr McDonald, you accepted that they were underage. You just said yes to that. Maybe I misunderstood your answer, Mr Griffin, but Mr McDonald certainly accepted that the actors in the film were under 18 at the time the film was made.

Senator McGAURAN —And the minority report was part of his report.

Mr Griffin—And the minority in the review board report concluded that they were or appeared to be under the age of 18, but the majority said at the bottom of paragraph (6) of its reasons—

Senator McGAURAN —No, that is not true.

CHAIR —Mr Griffin, please finish your answer.

Mr Griffin —It states:

In respect of these Guidelines, the Review Board reiterates its comments above relating to the relevant section of the National Classification Code, as to whether an actor is 18 or ‘appears’ to be under 18. It is the view of the Review Board that the film does not contain descriptions (in stories related during the film) or depictions of child sexual abuse which are exploitative or offensive, or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving such a ‘person’ given the context, purpose and cinematic techniques of this modified version of Salo in DVD format referred to below in these reasons.

From that, I conclude the majority decision did not conclude that they were or appeared to be under the age of 18.

Senator McGAURAN —This is how I understand it. You spent an unnecessary amount of time saying that the actors were not under 18 in your opinion and, as historically as you could get, were not under 18. That was at one point an accusation too. Then you go on to say that if they are under 18, not the actors but just the depiction of them, and blind Freddy can see they are—

Senator BARNETT —The victims in the scenes?

Senator McGAURAN—Yes, the victims in the scene as depicted, not the actors themselves. You say it will be mitigated by the context of it all. So you are in fact admitting that on the screen they are taken to be under 18—under 16 really—but it is all mitigated by this extra DVD, ‘The making of Salo’. You are trying to pull the wool over our eyes by stating that the actors are not under 18.

Mr Griffin —With respect, my view differs from yours. I cannot take it any further. The majority view in the review board’s decision was not saying that the actors or the persons portrayed were, or appeared to be, under the age of 18 years. What they are saying is that, if they were, there was no exploitative or offensive depiction.

Senator BARNETT—Mr Griffin, do you mind me asking you straight out the same question I asked Mr McDonald? Are any of the victims of the scenes of torture and degradation depicted as minors?

Mr Griffin —All that I can do—

Senator BARNETT —It is not a tough question. It is a very simple question.

Mr Griffin—All that I can say is that the majority held the view that was not necessarily the case. The minority held the view that it was. There were five members of the review board and the majority took the view that I have indicated.

Senator BARNETT —What is your view?

Mr Griffin—With respect, I would prefer not to indicate that. The review board has traditionally over the years taken—and prior to that the Film Review Board took—the view that the identities of those who approve or disapprove of particular matters do not have their identities disclosed for the obvious reasons.

CHAIR —Mr Griffin, we respect that answer.

Mr Griffin—For the obvious reason that they might be picked off and targeted by other groups within the community for reasons other than those which are honourable.

CHAIR—Thank, Mr Griffin. This committee would not be asking your personal view. You are here representing the review board, so that is the position from which we would ask questions.

Mr Griffin—The fact of the matter is that the convenor—in this case the acting convenor—has to defend the decision of the review board. There are occasions when the convenor holds a different view which has to be subjugated to the majority view.

Senator McGAURAN —Can we expect now that we can pick up this movie in Blockbuster or Video Ezy? Is that where it is headed?

Mr Griffin—I would be surprised if that were the case, but I can do no more than speculate. It would be unwise of me to speculate because my job as a member of the review board finishes when a particular review is finished. It is subject to review by the Federal Court. There have been occasions when the Federal Court has reviewed it under the administrative decisions legislation. It may be that it will occur in this case; I do not know. If it does, we can be assured that it will get the same sort of review that Viva Erotica got in the Federal Court.

Senator McGAURAN —Is there anything to prevent it from going to Video Ezy or Blockbuster? Is it general release?

Mr Griffin —I would prefer to flick that across to the agency. I am not responsible, and the review board is not responsible, for the day-to-day administration of the act.

Senator McGAURAN—But you should know, when you release a movie or classify a movie, where it is going and to what audience. In fact, not only do I say that as general moral principle but it is in the act. You have to know where it is going and who it is affecting. The act requires you to know that.

Mr Griffin—In classifying films and computer games, one of the matters which have to be taken into account is the class of persons amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published. Of course, that has some sinister connotations as well as creditable connotations. The review board methodically goes through each of the requirements of the act, the Classification Code and the guidelines in endeavouring to reach a conclusion. Because there are people from different backgrounds on the review board, there will from time to time be different conclusions reached.

Senator McGAURAN—But why have you avoided the fundamental question which, as you would well know, would pull down the whole classification of this movie—that is, the age, as depicted, of those on screen? Why, in your own report, have you avoided that?

Mr Griffin —With respect, I do not believe it has been avoided. I believe it has been addressed by both the majority and the minority.

Senator McGAURAN—The minority addressed it very well, including the minority on Mr McDonald’s board. They say clearly it is. This is the key. You have both skipped around it, as if you wanted to see the movie up and running and out in Blockbuster.

Mr Griffin —I think that is unfair, with respect.

Senator Wong—Senator, I understand your views about this movie, and there are people in the community who hold that view. Imputing malevolent motives to officers at the table is really not fair. These gentlemen are exercising their obligations under legislation which, to my recollection, existed under your government. People may have a view about the way in which that legislation operates and has operated in relation to this particular film, but that is not an issue which goes to an improper motive by anybody sitting at the table.

Senator McGAURAN—Thank you for constantly checking me, because I am passionate about it and I will try and get through the list of questions. Not to correct you or anything, but for the record: this movie was rebanned under the Howard government. The classification laws were tightened under the Howard government because of this movie. It was released in 1993 and rebanned in 1998. The classification laws were tightened, the board was reshaped and the movie was banned. This is an icon. I am not just being some sort of—

Senator Wong —Sorry, Senator. We might be at odds on this, but I understood that there had been no change by this government to these laws.

Senator McGAURAN—No. I will tell you where the changes came in. In 2008 this movie was refused classification yet again. In 2009 half the board—half of both the review board and the Classification Board—were turned over and reappointed by the minister and the cabinet. I think that says it all.

Mr Griffin —I do not think—

Senator Wong —So you are impugning the appointments. That is the political tack, is it?

Senator McGAURAN—Yes, basically I am. They have reinterpreted the laws. In fact, they have not even reinterpreted them; they have just walked over the top of them. It is so blatant. I could excruciatingly go through each point of the grounds for refusing classification, and Salo would match every single one of them. You have not even acknowledged that. You found this new concept called ‘context’ in the making of Salo, put it in the DVD cover and pushed it out. One of the reasons you gave—I will not say it is a reason why you released it, but it was part of your report—was the age of the movie. It was first filmed in 1975 and was never released. Where is the statute of limitations on paedophilia, on rape or on torture? The fact that it was filmed in 1975 does not make it any more correct. Mr McDonald, where is the statute of limitations?

Mr D McDonald —I am taking that as a rhetorical question.

Senator McGAURAN—No. The issue is that, in your report, you mention that the age of the movie was a mitigating factor against the horror and the degradation. I am saying to you that in the movie there is degradation, rape and so on. I will not go through each point, but what does age have to do with it, just because it was filmed in 1975?

Mr D McDonald—Let me first repeat, that this film does not contain actual paedophilia. These are depictions of paedophilia, which is part of the theme of the anti-fascist intent of the film. The age is relevant because the documentary material, if I could just correct your impression, is not solely about the making of the film. There is documentary material about the political background to it and the context in which the film was made. Its age is relevant because of the time in which it was made in Italian history and what it was seeking to critique. Its age is also relevant in that it is available in every developed country in the world. Anybody who was a student of this film could have bought it in New Zealand on holidays any time in the last 10 years. For instance, they could have bought it in Ireland any time in the last 15 years. To watch it now is as though one is looking at some sort of archaeological artefact. It is not a film of current notoriety in the minds of the public and its likely audience will be people who are seriously interested in film history.

Senator McGAURAN—I beg to differ, and I have police expertise to back up my statement from many years ago—and currently too. When it was first released in 1993, it was described rightly by a Victorian police profiler as a handbook for the Mr Cruels of this world. This is not an artistic movie. Is that what you are trying to sell it as—some sort of art piece?

Mr D McDonald —I have not used that word at all.

Senator McGAURAN—That is the implication I take. But anyway, you said it is not real paedophilia. Of course it is not; it is implied and it is depicted to be so. Again, coming back to the classification and the law, if it is implied, that is a ground for refusal of classification. It only has to be implied or acted or depicted. Of course you will never get actual paedophilia: that is a ridiculous statement to make.

What was the other thing I was going to mention? Again, you have rewritten the rules and just walked over the top of them. When you classify movies—and this has always been the case—you classify scenes. Some scenes stay in and some scenes stay out. If you pull out a scene or two, an R becomes an MA and an MA becomes an M. That is how movies are usually classified—according to the scenes. Therefore, every one of these scenes—but enough of them—warrants an RC classification. You are talking about the context of the whole movie. You are trying to sell us the whole movie along with the second DVD. You call that all ‘in context’. But you have a responsibility to classify as much as that, scene by scene, don’t you?

Mr D McDonald —That is your interpretation, Senator. We are required to look at the whole product and to deal with the context of the complete film.

Senator McGAURAN —Do you ever recommend that a scene come out?

Mr D McDonald—I am sorry, Senator; you are mistaken. We do not censor films. We do not say, ‘This film will be passed if you take out that scene.’ We simply make a decision about the film as it is. Perhaps under the old legislation—

Senator McGAURAN —But you do classify—

Mr D McDonald —What you are suggesting applied, but it does not apply now.

Senator McGAURAN—But you do classify having regard to the impact of classifiable elements or scenes. You do classify according to the scenes and the impact of certain scenes?

Mr D McDonald —As part of the total film.

Senator McGAURAN —Would you say that within Salo there are certain scenes with a high degree of impact?

Mr D McDonald—It is to state the obvious that there are. That is why it is classified for adults only, and that is why it is given the consumer advice that it has.

Senator McGAURAN—No, it is an R-rated movie if there is high impact. Did I say very high impact? If it has very high impact it is rated RC. If it has high impact it is rated R. Are there very high-impact scenes?

Mr D McDonald —No. It is high.

Senator McGAURAN —Again I come back to the classification.

Mr D McDonald —The board’s view was that it was high impact.

Senator McGAURAN —High impact? It was not very high? There were no very high scenes within that movie?

Mr D McDonald —I have answered the question.

Senator McGAURAN—No very high-impact scenes? You are going to force me to describe every scene. We do not have the time. There are very high-impact scenes. I will probably be asked to withdraw this but for you to say that there are no very high-impact scenes in that movie is a disgrace.

CHAIR—We are at afternoon tea time. Senator Barnett and Senator McGauran, have you finished your questioning of Mr McDonald and Mr Griffin, or will we ask them to come back after afternoon tea?

Senator BARNETT —No, I just needed to respond to the minister, so I do not have further questions for the Classification Board.

Senator McGAURAN —I would like—

CHAIR —Do you, Senator McGauran? Just a yes or no answer, as we need to go to afternoon tea.

Senator Wong —They can come back. We are just trying to clarify whether or not you have finished.

Senator McGAURAN —Yes, I would like them to come back.

Proceedings suspended from 3.30 pm to 3.46 pm

CHAIR —We are continuing with questions of the Classification Board and the review board.

Senator McGAURAN —I am still reeling, even after the break, from your comments, Mr D McDonald, that Salo is a movie that does not have high-impact scenes. I am compelled, actually, to mention such scenes. The refused classification—

Mr D McDonald—Chair, Senator McGauran, as I understood him, said that I said there was no high impact. There is high impact, which is why it was classified R18+.

Senator McGAURAN —Very high impact.

Mr D McDonald —Sorry.

Senator McGAURAN —I left out the ‘very’, which is key, ironically, to R or RC.

Mr D McDonald —Indeed.

Senator McGAURAN—For this movie or any movie to be refused classification, let us go to the violent scenes. I regret that I have to do this, but this is the gravity of the release of this movie. I will ask two questions, one relating to its violence and the other relating to its fetishes. The classification system says this about RC:

… gratuitous, exploitive or offensive depictions of:

(e) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed…

But the key there is ‘very high degree of impact’. In your own report you say: ‘At 110 minutes a young man has his penis explicitly burnt with a candle. Another young man has his tongue explicitly sliced. At 111 minutes a young man’s eye is explicitly gouged out with a short blade. At 113 minutes, a young woman is explicitly scalped, with blood and gore depicted.’ The word ‘explicit’ in your own report would have to confirm ‘very high degree of impact violence’, would it not?

Mr D McDonald —The view of majority of the board was that it was high impact. Your view that it was very high impact is a view that is reflected in the minority view. It is a perfectly valid view; it is just a different view.

Senator McGAURAN —That was with regard to violence. The refused classification category says about sex:

… gratuitous, exploitive or offensive depictions of:

(h) sexual activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent.

In your own report, in regard to fetishes, at the 65-minute mark it relates to—I cannot even read it out, but I am sure you know what it relates to. It may have to be read out to make the point publicly: ‘At the 65-minute mark, obscured by a table, a male squats and implicitly defecates what appear to be faeces. The male hands a nude young female a spoon. He tells her to eat it. She retches and cries.’ It goes on, but I will leave it at that. Would that not then fall into the refused classification category of activity accompanied by fetishes offensive and abhorrent?

Mr D McDonald —That is a view that some would have. Indeed, the minority of the board probably had that in mind, in part, when forming their minority view. Others, perfectly validly, had a view that this was high-impact material, not very high impact. One perhaps does not need to repeat that none of this is actual. This is a fictional construct which is a critique of fascism in Italy. It is not an actual sex film.

Senator McGAURAN—Correct. But the classification code does not define the difference between ‘actual’ and ‘acting’. It just says if it is at all implied. That is what you must be guided by. I do not think that is any ‘out clause’ at all.

Mr D McDonald—Senator, I am not looking for an ‘out clause’. The board formed a view and it did so seriously and honestly, and no inappropriate motives should be attributed to the board. If the board was in error in its majority view then that was a matter to be addressed by the review board.

Senator McGAURANI could ask the review board the same questions that I just asked Mr McDonald. In fact, I will to get that on the record. Do you want me to repeat them or do you recall them? The first one is in regard to the violence, which is very high impact. I described several screens that were explicitly very high impact.

Mr Griffin—I am not prepared to enter into a debate about each particular scene. The reasons of the majority and the reasons of the minority in the review board have to stand or fall as a whole. The matter may go to the Federal Court under the administrative decisions review legislation.

I think it would be quite unfortunate if I were to express views in respect of particular scenes referred to in the reasons for either the majority or the minority. That may be regarded as a cop-out, but I do not think it is fair that I should now be asked to analyse again the various scenes which are referred to in the reasons.

Senator McGAURAN —That is absolute rubbish. You are here to answer questions, fair or not fair. You are paid to do a job and we are paid to ask you questions here.

Mr Griffin —You can ask the questions—

Senator McGAURAN —If you do not answer them then I would consider that a breach.

Mr Griffin —You can take me up before the full Senate.

Senator McGAURAN —You are threatening me, are you? You are a real smart alec.

CHAIR —Senator!

Senator McGAURAN —Minister, pull him into line.

Senator Wong —I think that was actually the other way round.

Senator McGAURAN —You do not have to defend him.

CHAIR—Do you have another question? If you listened to Mr Griffin, he was not talking about and did not provide a view about not answering questions. You asked him about his opinion. We have already said that it is not appropriate for these people to provide their personal opinion. If you have a question of Mr Griffin, please ask it.

Senator McGAURAN—I will finish on this point. In relation to your nonanswer, it is obvious now that you cannot answer about the details of the movie, scene by scene. You have become a coward on this issue.

Senator Wong—Senator! There is really a difference between having a difference of views about the decision of the board or the review board and that kind of personal accusation about people sitting at the table.

Senator McGAURAN —It is a personal movie.

Senator Wong—Then, there are a whole range of way in which you can deal with that. But we are in an estimates hearing and it is not appropriate for you to be impugning personally officers at the table. You have a view about the decision, and you are entitled to that view.

CHAIR—Senator McGauran, I will ask you to withdraw that comment about Mr Griffin, thank you. It is not appropriate and you know it is not appropriate.

Senator McGAURAN —He gave as good as he got.

CHAIR —I am asking you to withdraw that reflection on Mr Griffin.

Senator McGAURAN —I withdraw the reflection and I have finished my questioning.

Senator Wong —I do not think that ‘he did it, too’ is quite what we should aspire to.

Mr Griffin—The difficulty is that the reasons, whether of the majority or the minority, are combined representations of the views, in this instance, of a majority and a minority. Each member will have different reasons for making a judgement about particular scenes. I think the issue about the administrative decisions review legislation being applied to this in the Federal Court are very real. If they are, I do not think it is appropriate to be answering questions which anticipate what may or may not have been the basis for what those members of the review board had in their minds when they made these decisions. We may like it or not, but I think that is the fairest way of dealing with it. If we are wrong, either in majority or minority, the Federal Court will tell us.

Senator McLUCAS—I think it would be speculative for Mr Griffin to answer that question. I am not sure that he actually knows the answer to that question and it would be speculating.

CHAIR —Do members have any further questions.

Senator BARNETT—First, with respect to the letters from the Minister for Home Affairs to the law enforcement agencies of every state and territory. The letter was dated 4 February. We have had two responses, both from Victoria. The first from the Minister for Police and Emergency Services dated 4 June and then from the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Simon Overland. They say similar things, but they confirm that in Victoria, at least, Bob Cameron MP Minister for Police and Emergency Services says, ‘Although I am cognisant of the matters raised in your letter, I can appreciate the chief commissioner’s view that increasing policing effort should not be directed at the enforcement of classification laws at this point.’

That is part of the letter and that is on the public record. Please have a look at it. That disappoints me greatly in terms of the Victorian response. But what disappoints me even more is the fact that we have received no response from any other state or territory to that letter of 4 February. That confirms in my mind, and I think in the minds of many others, that the views of the state and territory governments around this country with respect to this being a priority and something of a serious matter are very poor indeed.

So we have an issue here where there is a system failure where there is advice that goes to the law enforcement agencies and they do nothing about it in the states and territories or they consider it as a very low level of priority. They received a letter from the federal minister and here we are in May, some three odd months later, and there is still no response. I appreciate, Mr Wilkins, your officer, Kim Duggan’s work. Thank you for that. You have written back to our committee dated 22 May where you say that you will follow up to see if any further responses can be obtained. Thank you very much. But you should not have to do that.

It is a deplorable lack of a response. It confirms in my mind that the system is broken and it needs fixing. So, my second point in conclusion is that we have a lack of response to the call-in notices; the prevalence of publications that contain material that should be refused classification, including child pornography, for sale in petrol stations and general stores; the issues raised by Senator McGauran, which I entirely agree with, regarding Salo; we have the display and sale of restricted publications in areas accessible to children and we have a lack of follow-up information following referrals to the state and territory law enforcement agencies by the Classification Board. We have a system breakdown and it needs fixing. All I can do is put on notice this disturbing evidence that is now confirmed, yet again, at this Senate estimate committee regarding these matters. I am happy to have a response; otherwise I am happy to move on.

CHAIR —Mr McDonald, do you want to respond to that?

Mr D McDonald —No, it was a statement by the Senator.

CHAIR —I thank all the officers.

Mr D McDonald —I have not had the occasion in this hearing to introduce my companion on my left, the acting deputy director, Jeremy Fenton. I would like to record the fact that his term with the Classification Board finishes this Thursday. He will have completed seven years’ service, which as you probably know is the statutory maximum that can be served. I and the board have been extraordinarily well served by Mr Fenton and I am very grateful for that.

CHAIR —Thank you for that, Mr McDonald. Mr Fenton, all the best in your next endeavours.

Mr Fenton —Thank you.

CHAIR —I thank you very much for your time and your patience this afternoon.

[4.01 pm]

 

 

June 2010: SALO R18+ challenged in Federal Court

Following the failure of the Review Board challenge, Julian McGauran decided that the way ahead would be a Federal Court challenge.

He was joined by fellow MP Guy Barnett, Family Voice Australia, and the Australian Christian Lobby.

 

 

June 2010: Julian McGauran on SALO court challenge

Salo To Be Taken To The Federal Court
Julian McGauran MP
Media Release
June 15, 2010

A coalition of community groups and public representatives have today appealed to the Federal Court against the release of the movie Salo.

Victorian Liberal Senator for Victoria Julian McGauran said the Rudd Government has failed to protect the most basic of community standards by not stopping this movie. The movie delves into explicit, degrading and violent sexual behaviour against minors (under 16 years of age).

The joint objectors to the Federal Court are:

- FamilyVoice Australia
- Senator Julian McGauran
- Senator Guy Barnett
- The Australian Christian Lobby

The group of objectors will argue that the Classification Board and Review Board have transgressed process and law.

“The Rudd Government’s failure to object to this movie has allowed our censorship laws to be trashed and is allowing paedophilia and sexual violence to become acceptable on our screens,” Senator McGauran said.

“Our chief censors, by releasing this movie, have redefined paedophilia and its acceptance.

“The movie classification has been rejected on six occasions, the last in 2008. Salo’s 2010 release clearly reflects the change in the majority of Board appointments in 2009, appointments made by Minister O’Connor and cleared by the Labor Cabinet.

“The movie shows disturbingly strong depictions of torture, degradation, sexual violence, mutilation, including a live rat being forced into a girl’s vagina.

“If the horrors of this movie have not motivated the Government to act to the fullest then it can only be judged as an endorsement of the movie’s release,” Senator McGauran concluded.



June 2010: Family Voice Australia on SALO court challenge

FamilyVoice appeals Salo ruling
Family Voice Australia
Media Release
June 16, 2010

FamilyVoice Australia has today filed an appeal in the Federal Court against the decision of the Classification Review Board to classify as R18+ the child abuse and torture film Salo or 120 Days in Sodom.

“This film is based on the perverted writings of the Marquis de Sade,” said FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips. “For many years it has been refused classification because of its scenes of young teen boys and girls being physically and sexually abused in horrible ways.

“But last month, the Classification Review Board removed the Salo ban on the extraordinary ground that the film now comes in a package of two DVDs – one of the film itself, and another DVD containing additional material including an interview with the director Pasolini. The Board claimed this additional material would reduce the impact of the film.”

Ros Phillips said online comments indicate that people who hire DVDs generally watch the main film only, not any additional background material.

“In any case, how can additional material justify scenes of sadistic child pornography in the main DVD?” Mrs Phillips said.

FamilyVoice Australia is not alone in objecting to the film.

Senators Julian McGauran and Guy Barnett quizzed officers from the Classification Review Board at recent estimates hearings. Dissatisfied with the answers they received, the two senators wrote to the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor – who said he would not appeal the Review Board’s decision.

The senators have encouraged FamilyVoice Australia to pursue an appeal. Together with the Australian Christian Lobby, they are supporting the Federal Court action.

 

 

June 2010: Guy Barnett on SALO court challenge

Guy Barnett
Australian Communications and Media Authority
SENATE SPEECH
Thursday, 17 June 2010

Senator BARNETT (Tasmania) (6.23 pm)—I wish to speak on the Australian Communications and Media Authority—Communications report for 2008-09. It makes a number of observations with respect to what films and different types of media can and cannot be banned in this country. Tonight, I want to specifically refer to the movie Salo, which I find despicable. It is derogatory and demeaning in the most awful, awful way. This movie is no longer banned. It was initially banned in 1975 and then under Labor was released in 1993, but it was re-banned under the coalition in 1997. In recent weeks that has been overturned. That is a great shame. Senator Julian McGauran and I wrote to Minister Brendan O’Connor asking for the government to appeal the decision of the Classifications Board to release that film into the community. It is now available publicly. The minister did not get back to us within the appropriate time and the government has decided not to proceed to appeal the Classifications Board’s decision.

The movie Salo is one of the most awful movies that one could imagine. Our censorship laws, in my view, are broken. The classifications system in this country is simply not working. The laws have been trashed, allowing paedophilia and sexual violence to become acceptable forms on our screens—in the movie theatre, on the television and on our video screens. The fact is that this movie Salo has been rejected previously but is now available. There was a majority decision of the Classifications Board and a minority decision. I know Senator McGauran and I both supported the minority position, which was to reject this movie being allowed into our community. It shows disturbing, strong depictions of torture, degradation, sexual violence and mutilation—including with underage children. The protection of our children should surely be the top priority for us as members, senators and decision makers in the community. It is simply horrific and why the government has not decided to appeal and to fix the system, I do not know.

I want to commend Family Voice Australia for its leadership in lodging an appeal with the Federal Court. It is supported by both Senator McGauran and myself and by the Australian Christian Lobby. I hope that appeal is successful. I do not know what will happen; that remains to be seen. That is a matter now for the courts. That appeal has been lodged with the Federal Court and has our full support. Since that appeal was made I have certainly received feedback—and I know Senator McGauran has—supporting that effort because of the horrendous and awful nature of this particular movie.

I simply say that in the Senate. I put it on the record. It should be taken to the Federal Court. If the system was not broken, then of course we would not need to go to the Federal Court to remove this movie, Salo, from the view of members of the public. The Rudd government does stand accountable. It has made this decision not to proceed to an appeal. It is overseeing a systemic failure of our classification system and it is not good enough. On the record, I would like to say that I am proud to support the appeal in the Federal Court and I seek leave to continue my remarks. Leave granted.

 

 

 

June 2010: Julian McGauran on SALO court challenge

Julian McGauran
Australian Communications and Media Authority
SENATE SPEECH
Thursday, 17 June 2010

I want to quickly get up and support my colleague Senator Barnett in his condemnation of this movie. As he said, it was released under a Labor government in 1993, was rebanned under a coalition government in 1997 and now has been released again under a Labor government. People may say, ‘How can that be?’ Ironically, in 2008 this movie was put up for consideration to the Classification Board and was rejected, but in 2010 it was released. The reason for that is that new appointments under this Attorney-General were made between the last time it was rejected again on application and 2010. Over half the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board were replaced by Labor appointees. There is a direct path to this minister in regard to his appointments to the Classification Board and the release of this movie for failing to stop this movie and to act by appealing to the Federal Court—an utter failure. In fact, the government are ticking off on this movie.

What is wrong with this movie? Time does not permit me to discuss it all. I quite understand that in the censorship debate there is a grey area. Just about everyone is going to have a different opinion, some far more conservative than others. Many would call Senator Barnett and me very conservative on issues. You would be surprised: we are not, and we understand that the censorship line has shifted a great deal in the last 20 years since Salo was first made. But certain things have not shifted in the censorship debate. There is a line in the sand, and that line in the sand is the National Classification Code, which both sides of parliament have made law. That is the line in the sand. Go to that code and you will see what is required in regard to classifying movies in this country. In that code there is another clear point, black and white, not open for interpretation, and nor would it be as a community standard: that paedophilia is not for our movie screens and that people under 18 are not to be depicted or implied to be involved in sexual violence, exploitation or degradation. This movie is all about that.

In fact, it is not even people under 18 in this movie. If you have the misfortune to see it or just read the Classification Board’s own report on the movie, you will clearly see that the people involved are under 16. That is against the law, it is against the community standard and the Classification Board and review board have breached it. They have trashed it, and the minister has allowed them to do this. That is why Senator Barnett and the coalition are appealing this to the Federal Court. Senator Barnett says we do not know what our chances are, but I wish we had the weight of the government and their expertise behind us and that we had a minister and a government that had the strength to draw a line in the sand in regard to paedophilia.

Should this movie be released on DVD, society will have been subjected by this government to a redefinition of paedophilia and its acceptance on our screens. This movie’s scenes are so disgusting and so degrading to minors under 16—boys and girls—that they can barely be described. In fact, I would not dare describe them. If anyone listening to the broadcast wants to know exactly what we are talking about—an open and shut case of a movie that ought to be banned, not open to the grey area in the censorship debate—go to the internet and pull off the Classification Review Board’s report on this, particularly that of those brave characters who put in a minority report, and you will see how bad and disgraceful this movie is. That the Classification Board could release on the grounds that it was all in context means that they deserve to be dismissed. Only the government has the real strength to stop this movie, and it ought to. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

 

 

June 2010: Australian Christian Lobby on SALO court challenge

ACL joins legal action against film containing ’simulated paedophilia’
Australian Christian Lobby
Media Release
June 20, 2010

ACL has joined fellow pro-family group Family Voice Australia, and Liberal senators Julian McGauran and Guy Barnett, in a Federal Court appeal against the release of the disturbing 1975 film Salo. The film had previously been refused classification on six separate occasions, the most recent in 2008.

Salo, which depicts the kidnap, torture and sexual abuse of minors by a group of four Fascists in Mussolini’s Italy, was recently approved for DVD sale in Australia accompanied by two hours of additional material, which is meant to place the film within its broader historical and cinematic ‘context’.

In recent Senate Estimates hearings, chairman of the Classification Board Donald McDonald admitted that the Board had no evidence people would actually watch the contextual material, which formed the basis of the decision to approve the DVD’s release.

Mr McDonald also confessed that, “Simulated paedophilia could be acceptable in the context of a particular film”. He further admitted the film contained “depictions of paedophilia”, contradicting his classifiers, who had argued otherwise. Clearly the Classification Board have erred in allowing the sale of Salo – if paedophilia doesn’t overstep the boundaries, do any boundaries actually exist? ACL has called for an overhaul of classification laws to restore the public’s trust in the system.

 

 

August 2010: Christians vs. SALO

Here is a snippet of Pastor Brian Robertson, from Bundaberg Baptist Church, urging Christians into action against SALO.

 

Salo Coming to a DVD Store Near You
coralcoastchurch.org
August 2010

While it is not possible for us to influence the hearings in the Federal Court, it would be appropriate to contact the Classification Review Board to state that the decision to grant Salo a R18+ rating was wrong and to request that the Board review its own decision in this matter.

f the R18+ rating is allowed to stand for Salo just because it has been released as a two disc package, there will be a series of other graphic films currently with a RC-ratings being re-released with accompanying discs of background material. If this is allowed to stand, our nation may as well abandon any attempt at film classification!

Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
Psalm 94:16

 

 

September 2010: DVD and Blu-ray release

Shock released SALO, OR THE DAYS OF SODOM on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 8th, 2010.

 

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom - Shock [au] DVD 1Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom - Shock [au] BluraySalò, or the 120 Days of Sodom - Shock [au] Rental Warning

 

Disc one contains the 111:50 (PAL) film, and OSTIA: THE DEATH OF PIER PAOLO PASOLINI, a 7m music video by the band Coil.

The extras on disc two are the reason that the Classification Board awarded the film an R18+ rating. Theses are as follows.

 

 

September 2010: Complaints and Comments

Complaints
Films not for public exhibition
Classification Board Annual Report 2009-2010

A total of 24 complaints were received about the Classification Board’s R 18+ classification for the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo). Four of these complaints were received after the Classification Board’s decision but prior to the Classification Review Board’s R 18+ classification which was made following an application for review from the Minister for Home Affairs.

A further 20 complaints were received after the Review Board’s R 18+ classification decision. Only one of these 20 complaints referred specifically to the decision of the Review Board as opposed to being a general complaint about the film’s availability with an R 18+ classification.

Most complainants expressed the view that Salo should have remained in the RC (Refused Classification) category. This film has had an extensive and controversial classification history since it was made in 1975. One correspondent expressed support for the R 18+ decision.

 

 

Donald McDonald
Director's Overview
Classification Board Annual Report 2009-2010

One classification decision of the Board that attracted some public debate is the R 18+ classification for a modified 292 minute DVD version of the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo). The film, in a number of different versions, has been variously classified R 18+ and RC (Refused Classification). Before this decision, the Board most recently classified a version of the standalone feature Salo RC in July 2008.

This latest version is a two-disc release which also contains documentary material, a trailer and a music clip. The Classification Board, in a majority decision, classified the film R 18+ with the consumer advice ‘Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’.

The Board readily acknowledges this is an extremely controversial film with a difficult classification history. Beyond that, the decision of the Board speaks for itself, and in any case has been overtaken by the decision of the Classification Review Board which classified the film R 18+.

An application was made to the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 on 16 June 2010 regarding the Classification Review Board’s R 18+ classification of Salo. I understand the matter is to be heard by the Federal Court in 2010–11.

 

 

Victoria Rubensohn AM
Convenor Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2009-2010

The film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo) and the Review Board’s R 18+ classification with the consumer advice ‘Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’, received significant media attention and public debate. In making our decision, the Review Board considered submissions from a number of interested parties including Shock Records (the original applicant for classification), Australian Family Association (AFA), Family Voice Australia (FAVA), NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSW CCL), and Flinders University Film Animation Comics and Television Society (Flinders FACTS).

 

 

R18+ Films
Classification Board
Annual Report 2009-2010

A modified DVD version of the film Salo was submitted for classification as a two disc release which also contained a trailer for the film, a music film clip and documentary features. The film has a lengthy classification history and, in a number of different versions, has been variously classified R 18+ and RC (Refused Classification). A previous version of the film was recently classified RC in July 2008. The 1975 film explores themes of torture, degradation and sexual violence in the context of a narrative about a group of fascist libertines detaining 16 young males and females during World War II.

The Classification Board classified this most recent version of Salo R 18+ with the consumer advice of ‘Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’. In the opinion of the Board, the film had a high viewing impact and may be offensive to sections of the adult community. The Board found that the classifiable elements for the film are themes, violence and nudity that are high in viewing impact. The film contained violence that is high in viewing impact as well as implied sexual violence that is high in impact and justified by context. Within the R 18+ classification there are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes. In the opinion of the Board, the inclusion of additional documentary material provided the film with a broader cultural and historical context, which mitigated the level of offence and the impact of classifiable elements to the extent that the film could be accommodated within the R 18+ classification. The Board issued a media release about this decision.

At the request of the Minister for Home Affairs, the R 18+ classification was reviewed by the Classification Review Board which also classified the modified version of the film R 18+ and left the consumer advice unchanged.

 

 

October 2010: Senate Estimates - McGauran fights on

SALO was discussed in the October 2010 Senate Estimates. Julian McGauran had lost his Senate seat in the August 2010 Federal election. However, he did not have to stand down until June 30, 2011.

 

The speakers were:

Senator Julian McGuaran - Liberal Party
Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig - Labor Party
Senator Louise Pratt - Labor Party

Classification Board
Mr Donald McDonald AC, Director
Mr Greg Scott, Deputy Director
Ms Jane Fitzgerald, Assistant Secretary, Classification Operations Branch

Classification Review Board
Ms Victoria Rubensohn, Convenor
Ms Jane Fitzgerald, Assistant Secretary, Classification Operations Branch

 

LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S PORTFOLIO: Classification Board and Classification Review Board
Date: 18-10-2010
Source: Senate
Committee Name

CHAIR —Senator McGauran?

Senator McGAURAN —I would like to direct my questions to the convener of the Classification Review Board, Ms Victoria Rubensohn. The annual report just recently tabled states:

Films containing descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years, will be classified RC—

That is a restricted classification. It continues:

The majority of films that are classified RC are sexually explicit films containing these prohibited elements.

I take it that the majority of films contain the prohibited element of a person who is 18 years and under. In the cases that you have handled, when coming to that conclusion do you report how you came to that conclusion that there are children under the age of 18 in the movie? Do you set out that description in your report?

Ms Rubensohn —Senator, we address all the required criteria that are in the guidelines whenever we do a report. Where it is pertinent we would address that.

Senator McGAURAN —In relation to exactly why you think those persons in a film are under 18, you would give your reasoning or your methodology?

Ms Rubensohn —I am not sure about methodology, Senator. But if it was pertinent we would address the issue. How we address it I suppose might vary from time to time.

Senator McGAURAN —Tell me how you would address it if there is not a methodology or a reasoning behind it? How do you come to those conclusions?

Ms Rubensohn —Senator, do you have a specific example in mind?

Senator McGAURAN —No, I am looking at it fairly generally at the moment.

Ms Rubensohn —In my experience, since I have been the convener, it is an issue that has arisen only once.

Senator McGAURAN —What is that once?

Ms Rubensohn —That once was the film Salo.

Senator McGAURAN —Why does your annual report then state:

The majority of films that are classified RC are sexually explicit films containing these prohibited elements.

Ms Rubensohn —In my time there has been only one film.

Senator McGAURAN —Of course. I suppose I should go soon to Mr McDonald.

Ms Rubensohn —Yes. The Classification Review Board handles only reviews. We get only a small proportion of the number of films that are classified. Since I have been the convenor of the board we have not had much experience of that particular issue.

Senator McGAURAN —But you would still go into the theatre with a set of criteria relating to those who are over 18 and those who are under 18. It would not just be seat of the pants stuff, would it?

Ms Rubensohn —We go in to the theatre with the guidelines, the act and all other related material. But no list in any of those documents sets out the criteria for making judgments about—

Senator McGAURAN —How do you make your judgments?

Ms Rubensohn —One does one’s best, Senator, as a matter of common sense.

Senator McGAURAN —That is subjective.

Ms Rubensohn —That is about as much as I can say. I cannot speak for my panel; I can speak for the way I would approach that sort of issue.

Senator McGAURAN —There is no guideline at all. When you walk into the theatre it is all subjective as to what constitutes someone over 18 years and what constitutes someone under 18 years?

Ms Rubensohn —No. On that issue there are no set criteria in the legislation or the guidelines for making that judgment. Of course, we do not participate in the making of the legislation or in the making of the guidelines.

Senator McGAURAN —Then it is subjective. You raised the matter of Salo. What were your reasons for not refusing classification? You would know that one of the main controversies, if not the main controversy, of the movie Salo is the age of the victims.

Ms Rubensohn —Senator—

Senator Ludwig —As I understand it this matter is currently before the courts.

Ms Rubensohn —Senator—

Senator Ludwig —Let me finish. What I was going to suggest—

Senator McGAURAN —I was not interrupting.

Senator Ludwig —I was interrupted.

Ms Rubensohn —I did.

Senator Ludwig —Let me make this plain—

Senator McGAURAN —You said “Let me finish” but I was not interrupting.

CHAIR —Senator McGauran, Minister Ludwig is trying to clarify something for us.

Senator Ludwig —Thank you Madam Chair. I was going to say that I note we are now going to an issue. The Salo film, as I understand it, is currently before the courts. I ask the committee to take that into account in questioning in relation to that issue and that responses may be unable to be given as the matter is currently before the courts. We would not want to prejudice any of the proceedings before the courts.

Senator McGAURAN —Indeed, we would not and we will not. Please let me know, Madam Chair, if I transgress.

CHAIR —I am sure that the minister is advising you.

Senator McGAURAN —I assure the minister that I do not want to talk necessarily about Salo, although it seems to be the prime example raised by the convener herself. I want to keep it on the classification itself, the criteria, the rules, and even those that we appoint. What are they thinking when they walk into the theatre? How do they make their judgments of, ‘That person is 18 and that person is 17’? We have a right to know and the public have a right to know. So far we have heard from the convener but she cannot even tell me her own personal view about how she judges whether or not someone is 17 or 18. That is what I am trying to get at, Minister. I say to the convener that I am absolutely shocked: you cannot tell me whether you or anyone on that review board uses any methodology to determine who is aged over 18 years and who is aged under 18 years, according to the standards.

Ms Rubensohn Senator, I reiterate that since I have been convener my only experience has been the film that is the subject of court process at the moment. In relating my personal view or experience I have nothing to refer to other than the one that I am unable to discuss.

Senator McGAURAN —Let me put it another way.

Ms Rubensohn —Could I just say—

CHAIR —Let Ms Rubensohn finish.

Ms Rubensohn —Insofar as the code, the guidelines or the legislation address this issue, under films and the RC classification are these words, ‘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.’ It then refers to some other things. However, as I said before and I reiterate my statement, it says nothing about how one makes the judgment as to whether a person is or appears to be a person under the age of 18.

Senator McGAURAN —That is what I want to know from you. You tell me.

CHAIR —Senator McGauran, just let the witness finish her answer.

Ms Rubensohn —In which case, as I said before Senator, one can only apply common sense in approaching that question. I think all those who are appointed to positions like this have to proceed in that manner. There is no magic formula that we are given from any source, including the legislature, as to how to go about that task.

Senator McGAURAN —If it were a controversial movie and you thought the victims were over the age of 18 and one part of the board thought they were under the age of 18, I suggest you would be required to report. But would you report why you thought they were over the age of 18 if the rest of the board descriptively and in detail told you why they were under the age of 18. Do you not have a duty to report why you thought they were under the age of 18?

Ms Rubensohn —Unfortunately, Senator, you are referring again to Salo.

Senator McGAURAN —No, I am not.

Ms Rubensohn —I am sorry, in that case I do not know what you are referring to.

Senator McGAURAN —I am talking about your processes.

Ms Rubensohn —There has not been such a split on the board—

Senator McGAURAN —I know that there has been a split in the Classification Review Board. I know where your vote went and I know it was ghastly. I am asking about your processes.

Ms Rubensohn —Senator, we do not discuss on the board or publicly whose vote went where.

Senator McGAURAN —Why do you not?

Ms Rubensohn —For the obvious reason, Senator.

Senator McGAURAN —Well tell me. Put it on the record.

Ms Rubensohn —That my panel would be—

CHAIR —Senator McGauran, it is not very helpful to keep interjecting in the way in which you have. I understand that you are trying to make a point but it would be most useful if you could just let the witness complete her thought patterns in answering the question and then you can then ask subsequent questions. Ms Rubensohn?

Ms Rubensohn —Senator, may I say that I was not here in May but I note that there are 15 pages of Hansard from the May hearings of this Senate estimates committee in which you asked my deputy convenor the same questions about this issue—questions about why the names and the votes of the panel were not revealed. He quite properly said—and I can add nothing to it—that it is a protective measure to protect those members of the panel from being victimised and harassed by whoever might disagree with their vote. To my understanding, that is the way in which this body has always proceeded. I cannot imagine that it could proceed in any other way and have anyone willing to serve on it.

Senator McGAURAN —I am dealing only with process. I am asking you about process. Your own report states that most of the RCs are issued on the grounds that depictions are of persons under the age of 18 years. I am not sure whether I got an answer relating to process.

Ms Rubensohn —Senator, that is not our part of the report; that is a general statement in the report.

Senator McGAURAN —Well—

Ms Rubensohn —I could not make that judgment because we have had only the one case, as I have pointed out to you. Most of it is an expression that is not relevant when there is only one case.

Senator McGAURAN —But you would have to be prepared for more than one case coming to you.

Ms Rubensohn —Indeed.

Senator McGAURAN —In your role you would have to be prepared to make these judgments?

Ms Rubensohn —Indeed, but it has not occurred.

Senator McGAURAN —Albeit that they are rare you still have a job to do.

Ms Rubensohn —Yes.

Senator McGAURAN —Why is it that I have seen reports from the minority on your board that has a methodology, that has a reasoning and that states in excruciating detail I might add why it made a judgment that those victims, for want of a better word, were under the age of 18, and why the movie was depicting persons who were under the age of 18? Some of your minority reports go into methodology, reasoning, process and common sense as you would have it. It is not seat of the pants to them. Yet in your own majority report you do not even go there. You do not even mention it.

Ms Rubensohn —Senator, you are referring again to the film about which I cannot make a comment. It is the only example where there was a minority view on this matter. I am afraid that I am precluded from commenting on it while it is before the courts.

Senator McGAURAN —Generally speaking, if you believe that the depictions are of children over the age of 18, do you give a detailed report as to why you think that is so?

Ms Rubensohn —We have never had cause to do so while I have been on the board—except for the film about which I am not able to make a comment. So I have no “generally” to report to you on, I am afraid.

Senator McGAURAN —Then I would like to approach Mr McDonald on the same grounds. But before I do so, I put this question to you: is there any moral line that you would draw and would you stand by it in your role as the convener of the Classification Review Board? Is there any movie that would come to your table on which you would draw the line and you would resign?

Ms Rubensohn —I am afraid that I could not answer that question. It is an issue that has never occurred.

Senator McGAURAN —Where do you draw the line?

Ms Rubensohn —It is my job and my role to apply the legislation, the code and the guidelines. I am required to do that and that is what I do. I cannot make a hypothetical judgment based on your question. Until I address the issue applying the relevant legislation, code and guidelines, I am sorry; it is an impossible question for me to answer.

Senator McGAURAN —You cannot tell me whether, in your own mind, when you go into that theatre, at some point there is a line that you will draw and you will even resign from your position?

Ms Rubensohn —No, I cannot tell you whether that—

Senator McGAURAN —If the rest of—

Ms Rubensohn —I cannot tell you whether that situation might or would ever arise.

Senator McGAURAN —Let me put to you the case of paedophilia.

Senator PRATT —It is an inappropriate question.

Senator McGAURAN —If your review board happened to clear a movie that you thought was outrageously delving in paedophilia would you say, ‘I am resigning if that is the case’? Do you have any moral line?

Ms Rubensohn —I cannot imagine that that occurrence would eventuate, but if it did I would have to consider my position, as anybody would. We try very hard to have the relevant discussions around the table before we come to a judgment. It is there that we discuss our positions on various films. So far under my tenure at the review board there has never been an issue that brought things to that place.

Senator McGAURAN —Are you aware of any of the resignations that Mr McDonald was talking about? I suppose that you cannot speak for him but there have been one or two on the review board, have there not?

Ms Rubensohn —No. There have been no resignations. We had two people whose terms ended and we are one down on our complement.

Senator McGAURAN —Mr McDonald, you heard the questions to the convener. Do you and your fellow board members use a set of criteria, a methodology or a rationale when judging which persons are over the age of 18 and which persons are under the age of 18?

Mr D McDonald —I might ask Mr Scott to answer your question as he is involved with the details of these more frequently than I am.

Mr Scott —From time to time we have to make decisions and judge the age of participants in films. We are appointed as general representatives of the community and we bring our own personal experience into those matters. As the director of the review board said, we have to apply common sense. From time to time, in the majority of time in these films, we have to assess the ages of participants in the films, generally in films that are classified X-18 plus. So we ascertain whether people involved in these films and in the sexual activity in these films are aged 18 or otherwise.

We do not prove whether or not they are adults but quite often we discuss our reasoning as to why they are not adults. Some of the things that we use—which is not a checklist but which I guess is a more common sense approach that reasonable adults can use and apply in their day-to-day business—would be things such as props in a room or in a scenario; the physical development of a participant in the scenario; the costumes that the participant may be wearing; and the vocalisations that a participant may be making. Those things may contribute to the age of a participant in a film.

If a reasonable adult considers that those items contribute to such an extent that they cause an offence, the film will be refused classification. Our reasoning and our view of why a person or a participant is under 18 will be detailed clearly in a decision report when we make it.

Senator McGAURAN —Why was it not clearly detailed? In fact, it was not even mentioned in your reasoning in regard to Salo. You did not even mention the issue of persons aged 18 or over.

Senator Ludwig —I think we have gone there again, Senator McGauran. That matter is currently before the courts as I understand it.

Senator McGAURAN —Would the courts be discussing these sorts of things?

Mr Wilkins —Yes, that is the central issue before the court.

Senator McGAURAN —Is it?

Mr Wilkins —Basically it is a question of law.

Senator McGAURAN —But these hearings cannot be used by the court.

Mr Wilkins —Basically it is a question of law under the Administrative Decisions Judicial Review legislation, which goes to the nature of reasons given. The various grounds for appeal might be precisely the sorts of issues that you are canvassing.

Senator McGAURAN —Let me put the question another way. When reporting on such matters your report states:

The majority of films that are classified RC are sexually explicit films containing these prohibited elements.

In other words, descriptions and depictions of children under the age of 18. That is the reason you place an RC classification on these films. When making those reports do you report on such matters? Do you give descriptions as to why you believe a child may be under or over 18?

Mr Scott —Yes, we justify why we have gone RC1(b) under the national classification.

Senator McGAURAN —I suggest that you do not.

Mr Scott —I think you are referring to a film that was classified—

Senator McGAURAN —Can you give me an example of where you have?

Mr Scott —There is a raft of films. We could take that question on notice and give you the decision reports on films that were classified RC.

Senator McGAURAN —Thank you, I will take that.

Mr Scott —I think the film that you are referring to that was classified R18 was deemed not to contain any explicit sexual activity. It can be offensive to members of the public. If you read what the R18 classification allows you will find it contains a raft of themes that can be addressed in a number of ways, as long as they are contextually justified. We were referring to films that were classified X-18 plus and that contain sexually explicit material, which the majority of films that are classified R18 plus would not contain.

Senator McGAURAN —I am not talking about sexually explicit material; I have kept away from that. I am talking only about the age.

Mr Scott —You did mention it.

Senator McGAURAN —The age is enough to get it banned in itself.

Mr D McDonald —On a point of clarification I believe you were quoting from the section of the annual report on page 45 which is under the section headed X-18 plus.

Senator McGAURAN —That is right. Still, it holds true.

Mr Scott —For X-18 films.

 

 

February 2011: Guy Barnett questions the Classification Board

In the February 2011 Senate Estimates, Senator Guy Barnett questioned Donald McDonald and Victoria Rubensohn regarding the upcoming SALO Federal Court case.

 

Title: LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
ATTORNEY-GENERAL PORTFOLIO
Classification Review Board
Date: 22/02/2011

Senator BARNETT — Are you participating in the Salo court case?

Mr D McDonald —No. The review board are the respondents because the subsequent decision by the review board becomes the decision. Ms Rubensohn can help you.

Senator BARNETT Are you preparing for the court case?

Ms Rubensohn —Yes. The hearing is on 4 March, which is at the end of next week.

Senator BARNETT —I will not go into particular questions, because it is before the court, but I will clarify that you are appearing for and on behalf of the—

Ms Rubensohn —No, I do not appear.

Senator BARNETT —You are a respondent, aren’t you?

Ms Rubensohn —We are one respondent and the minister is the second respondent—there are two respondents—and the Australian Government Solicitor appears. I do not appear.

Senator BARNETT —Will you be there?

Ms Rubensohn —I hope so.

Senator BARNETT —Thank you

 

 

Senate inquiry into censorship

In February 2011, the Attorney-General's department made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Classification scheme. It included a history of SALO in Australia.

 

Senate Inquiry into the Australian film and literature classification scheme
Submission by the Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra
February 2011

The film Salo is a 1975 Italian drama written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini based on the book The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. It has a long and complex classification history going back to 1976.

For a time, Salo was unavailable in many countries. It is now available, uncut, on DVD, in the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Austria and Germany.

There have been a number of applications for classification of versions of this film since the 1970s. The applications relate to the same film with minor edits and changes to the running times.

• In March 1976 it was Refused Registration under the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations.

• In June 1992 it was refused Registration by the former Film Censorship Board.

• In 1993 it was classified R 18+ by the former Film and Literature Board of Review.

• Between 1993 and 1997 it was available except in Western Australian and South Australia where restrictions applied.

• In June 1997 it was reclassified R 18+ by the Classification Board.

• In 1998 it was classified RC (Refused Classification) by the Classification Review Board. The Commonwealth Attorney-General lodged an application for review after receiving a request to do so from the Queensland Attorney-General (as required under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.)

• In 2003 the Classification Board declined to deal with an application for reclassification.

• On 9 June 2008 an edited version of the film was classified RC by the Classification Board.

On 13 April 2010 the Classification Board classified a modified 292 minute version of the film Salo R 18+ with consumer advice for ‘Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’. This version included additional background information providing an historical context which, in the view of the Board, mitigated the overall impact of the material submitted to no greater than high.

On 15 April 2010, the Minister for Home Affairs applied for a review of the Classification Board’s R 18+ classification. The Minister sought a review of the classification because he considered it was in the public interest to do so, as there was likely to be sections of the community who would have different views on the content of this film.

On 4 and 5 May 2010, a five member panel of the Review Board met to consider the Minister’s application.

 

 

March 2011: SALO in the Federal Court

In March 2011, Family Voice Australia (previously The Festival of Light) had their case against SALO heard in the Federal Court.

 

Salo appeal heard in the Federal Court today
Family Voice Australia
Friday, March 4, 2011

FamilyVoice Australia, backed by two senators and the Australian Christian Lobby, has argued in the Federal Court that the Classification Review Board erred in its decision to overturn the previous ban on the DVD of the child abuse film, Salo –120 Days of Sodom.

Justice Margaret Stone has reserved her decision after hearing both sides of the case.

“We believe that the Classification Review Board did not take into account all the relevant factors required by the law and film guidelines to be considered when coming to its majority decision last year,” Ros Phillips, national research officer for FamilyVoice Australia, said today.

“Our concern is about how bodies charged with administering the classification law go about their business,” Mrs Phillips said. “This film and its DVD were previously refused classification because they showed young naked teens being physically and sexually abused. We believe that the Board, in its decision to release the DVD with an R18+ classification, did not follow due process.

“It has been a big step for a community group like ours to mount this case against a government body. But there comes a time when someone needs to say, Enough is enough!” Mrs Phillips said.

 

Here we go again: Christians give voice to outrage over film
smh.com.au, March 5, 2011

Senator McGauran and FamilyVoice Australia moved against the film again, this time in the courts. The barrister Anthony Tudehope accused the board of a long list of failings when judging the film, in particular the failure to separately identify and assess elements of violence, cruelty and fetishes - even bestiality, though Salo contains no congress with animals.

But the controversy surrounding Salo has been the age of the victims and the actors playing them. Along with a minority of the Classification Review Board, Mr Tudehope argued they are children being subjected to child sexual abuse, which was ''simply not acceptable'', he told the court.

But that was not the view of a majority of the board, which found Pasolini's victims ''clearly sexually mature'' and that their fate at the hands of the fascists would not offend reasonable adults given the ''context, purpose and stylised, detached cinematic techniques'' of the film.

The solicitor Nick Gouliaditis denied any failures of process in Salo's release. He told the court that assessing the merits of a film required ''highly subjective'' judgments which ''the Classification Review Board has been entrusted to make''.

Justice Margaret Stone has reserved her decision.

 

 

March 2011: Julian McGauran and the Australian Christian Lobby attack SALO during Classification Review

During the March 2011 Classification system inquiry, Senator Julian McGauran questioned Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby.

 

SENATE
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS REFERENCES
Committee
Reference: Australian film and literature classification scheme
Friday, 25 March 2011
Canberra

[8.35 am]

Mr Lyle Gavin Shelton,
Chief of Staff,
Australian Christian Lobby

The Classification Board and the Classification Review Board last year demonstrated what a farce they have become with the green-lighting, against their own guidelines, of the film Salo, which, in the words of Classification Board chair Donald McDonald contains ‘depictions of paedophilia

Senator McGAURAN—You mentioned that Donald McDonald—for the record this is the chairman, the longstanding chairman of the Classification Board—said that the movie Salo, which was passed for distribution, had paedophilia in it. What is the source of that?

Mr Shelton—His words were ‘depictions of paedophilia’ in testimony he gave to Senate estimates.

Senator McGAURAN—He said to Senate estimates that the movie Salo had ‘depictions of paedophilia’ but depictions is meaningless. It had paedophilia obviously in it, yet it was released. I am asking for a lot of knowledge from you but feel free to give an opinion. Is it your understanding that the existing classification system would rule that out if that was the case? Well, it is the case. The chairman of the Classification Board tells us a movie has paedophilia in it, yet it is released. Do you think that breaches the Classification Board guidelines system?

Mr Shelton—Yes, absolutely. I believe it is in direct contravention of the guidelines and as a lay person, in my reading of those guidelines, I cannot for the life of me understand how the board and then the review board could green-light this film based on its own standards. I believe this has been a long running battle, but eventually those who support this film’s release for distribution have chipped away and chipped away until they found a board that will, somehow, find a convoluted way to allow it, something to do with providing extra documentary material. It seems like it would be a breach of the guidelines. In one sense, if there was a proper application of the guidelines, there would be almost no need for reform in this area but of course the guidelines are not applied and so the whole thing is made a farce.

 Senator McGAURAN—That is my very point actually. We make the point that we can put more red tape, we can put more regulation, but maybe what is there already is not too bad, a bit of tweaking would not hurt, but it is those who are appointed to make these judgements?

Mr Shelton—Absolutely, Senator. Obviously there are certain guidelines that apply to film classification. As we were saying earlier it is different for television and that is where inconsistencies arise in the minds of the community. That is why I think the Australian Law Reform Commission looking at the whole thing across all media is valid. It gives us a chance to look at the failings, yet again, and hopefully to apply some consistency across the board.

 

 

March 2011: Barbara Biggins, ex-Classification Review Board Chair on SALO R18+

During the March 2011 Classification system inquiry, Senator Julian McGauran questioned Barbara Biggins from the Australian Council on Children and the Media. From 1994 to 2001, Biggins held the position of Convenor of the Classification Review Board.

 

SENATE
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS REFERENCES
Committee
Reference: Australian film and literature classification scheme
Friday, 25 March 2011
Canberra

Barbara Edith Biggins
Chief Executive Officer,
Australian Council on Children and the Media

Evidence was taken via teleconference—

Senator McGAURAN—You would have kept yourself updated on the classification rules and laws, but certainly the principles have not particularly changed. From your experience, is it possible to have it both ways—to have a movie that concedes paedophilia yet be released? Was that okay in your day?

Ms Biggins—No, it was not. The principal reasons when I was Chair of the Classification Review Board for Salo being given an RC rating—and I am speaking here as an individual, of course, not as the ACCM—really revolved around cruelty and torture and degrading portrayals, because there was some ambiguity around the ages of the persons involved. The review board at the time thought that there was a very clear case for extreme examples of gratuitous cruelty and torture, that those quite definite criteria were contravened by the film, and that the artistic merit as some claimed for the film was certainly not sufficient to override that clear prohibition in the criteria.

I guess my observation over the years—and I think this is really an important issue for the Senate committee—regards the change in the wording that has occurred since the wording that was in force when the Classification Review Board last looked at Salo, which I think was 1998. The wording then was much clearer than it has been since the amalgamation of the film and computer games guidelines in 2003, making those guidelines much more subjective and relying a great deal on impact and context. I could probably read the wording that applied at the time. For example, the R18+ category in the 1999 guidelines stated:

Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of cruelty or real violence will not be permitted. Sexual violence may only be implied and should not be detailed. Strong depictions of realistic violence, but depictions with a high degree of impact should not be gratuitous or exploitative.

With that degree of detail, that was why the Classification Review Board at that time thought the film warranted an RC rating.

I suppose if I could just move slightly sideways while we are on this issue to something that we did draw attention to near the end of our opening statement. One of the issues that concerns us greatly about the more recent decision about Salo is one that has very wide implications way beyond Salo. That issue is the view of both the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board that the version of Salo which was put on a DVD with a whole lot of other material was deemed to be a modified film because of the presence of the additional material on the DVD. We find that principle quite worrying because that then says that if you put a very strong film on a DVD and you perhaps put a ‘making of’ or a short documentary on why the director did what he did, then somehow or other that downgrades the classification of the main feature. This is a most worrying precedent and one that should be very carefully examined.

Senator McGAURAN—Just to get it clear, between 1998 when you first judged Salo and when the rules were changed, if you like, in 2003, there has been a softening and a greater emphasis on the context element of it, all things in context—is that right?

Ms Biggins—With the introduction of the 2003 guidelines, it was changed to examining impact and context as being the most important elements. When you were examining those, you were required to look at frequency and close-ups and detail and all of those things, but a much more subjective approach. Whereas in the guidelines that were in force from 1996 to 1999, it actually spelt out the types of material that should not be NR18+ and which should be NRC.

Senator McGAURAN—If we got the 1999 guidelines and cross-referenced them with the 2003 guidelines, we would actually see the written difference? It is not subtle, it is actually written in there—impact and context in 2003?

Ms Biggins—Yes.

Senator McGAURAN—But it is not written in 1999?

Ms Biggins—Yes.

Senator McGAURAN—That would be something beneficial to see how words have tilted the whole interpretation of the classifications system. We will actually find in 2003 where they write emphasis on impact and emphasis on context?

Ms Biggins—That is right. That change has had a ripple effect throughout all of the classifications. It is resulting in material which perhaps would have belonged in MA15+ that has gone to M, or it would have been in R18+ and has gone to MA+, simply because the context has been interpreted as, well, it is a fantasy context or it is a horror genre or it is an action and adventure movie, and therefore put in that context, this very violent material is deemed to not have the same impact. The wording of the guidelines allows that interpretation.

Senator McGAURAN—If we wanted to keep it simple and said, ‘Let us just go back to the original 1998 guidelines’, do you think that would have a profound effect on the existing board’s interpretation?

Ms Biggins—It certainly would have a profound effect on my interpretation of the guidelines were I in their position.

Senator McGAURAN—That is an excellent answer. You have been before estimates before, I am sure; that is a real estimates answer. You are right, and that leads me to the next point. If that would have an impact on you reading it, and I have always admired your work over the years, it does bring us back to the point that it is who you appoint as much as what you write, is it not, on these boards, or is it?

Ms Biggins—I do not actually agree with that statement. Who you appoint is important, in that certainly there should be people on those boards who have a good understanding of child development and can understand impact on children in particular. Certainly it needs a crosssection of the Australian community there, but the words are all important. If you are in a classifier’s position, you are not at liberty to bring your own personal interpretation of what should be an M or MA+ or R18+; you are obliged to apply the guidelines as approved by the state and territory and federal ministers. It is those state and territory and federal ministers who bear the responsibility for the form of the criteria that are being applied. The classifiers are the servants of the ministers, and they do their job according to the criteria. The wording is all important.

Senator McGAURAN—That is a good and interesting answer. On the same issue, and I hate to keep saying ‘in your day’ or anything like that, but I recall with the developments in 1998— and you can correct me if I am wrong—was it not written into the guidelines, when making the decisions, a need to reflect and seek counsel, if you like, from the community? You almost needed a community advisory board as a touchstone. Am I correct that that was a requirement?

Ms Biggins—Not that I recall. We were really obliged to think through the sort of networks and the associations that we had and bring our experience and our knowledge of what people thought about certain issues in the community. We would have that as a background, but there were no requirements for community consultation. Mind you, that might not be a bad idea. I have been quite a fan of the New Zealand wording which requires ‘consideration of material that might be injurious to the public good.’ I know that that allowed the New Zealand classification board to then go and consult with psychologists and child abuse specialists or sexual violence specialists about whether certain material would be injurious to the public good. It brought a broader view and a very informed view to that concept of harm and injury to the public good.

Senator McGAURAN—That is very interesting. The New Zealand model might be something that this committee can look at and reflect on. That might be a new clause we can insert into the classifications system. Thank you.

 

 

April 2011: Trevor Griffin on the SALO court case

During the April 2011 Classification system inquiry, Senator Guy Barnett attempted to question Donald McDonald and Trevor Griffin about the SALO Federal Court Case.

 

SENATE
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS REFERENCES
Committee
Reference: Australian film and literature classification scheme
Thursday, 7 April 2011
Sydney

Tasmanian Senator Guy Barnett, Chair
Mr Trevor Griffin, Deputy Convenor, Classification Review Board
Mr Donald McDonald, Director, Classification Board

CHAIR—We are a bit tight for time so I just indicate to you that Senator McGauran was an apology today and that he and I obviously have an interest in Salo. Do you have anything further to add to that matter, bearing in mind where it is at in the court system?

Mr McDonald—I certainly have nothing to add. Of course, as Mr Griffin has made clear, the decision that the Federal Court is dealing with at the moment is the Review Board’s decision—not that it varied in any particular significance from ours. In my view it is with the court, and that is where it belongs at the moment.

CHAIR—Fair enough. Mr Griffin, do you want to add anything?

Mr Griffin—No, Chair. It is with the court, and the review board has always made a rule of relying on its published reasons, which are the considered views of the review board, rather than publicly debating some nuance or other aspect of those reasons. Also, having regard to the fact that the matter is before the Federal Court, we have taken the view both in this case and in several others—I think VIVA EROTICA was one of those, several years ago—that it is sub judice and in that respect inappropriate to comment on.

 

 

April 2011: Guy Barnett seeks update on SALO court case

SENATE
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS REFERENCES
Committee
Reference: Australian film and literature classification scheme
Thursday, 27 April 2011
Canberra

Tasmanian Senator Guy Barnett, Chair
Mr Chris Collett, Acting Assistant Secretary, Classification Branch, Attorney-General’s Department

Chair: Let us move on. A-G’s, can you provide an update to the committee on the Salo proceedings in the Federal Court? I realise that it is before the court, but are there any updates in terms of where things are at? That would be appreciated.

Mr Collett: Certainly, Chair. As you are probably aware, the matter was heard on 4 March. Her Honour Justice Stone has reserved her judgement. There is nothing further we can add at this time.

 

 

May 2011: SALO update Senate Estimates

SENATE
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Estimates Committees
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Canberra

Tasmanian Senator Guy Barnett, Chair

Attorney-General's Department Management and Accountability
Mr Roger Wilkins AO, Secretary

Australian Government Solicitor
Mr Ian Govey, Chief Executive Officer

 

Senator BARNETT: Finally, on another matter, can you provide a status report on the Federal Court matter regarding Salo—where that is up to? I understand judgment is pending. Do you have any further information you can give the committee?

Mr Govey : That is a matter for the Attorney-General's Department.

Mr Wilkins : Notice was addressed to the Classification Review Board this morning.

Senator BARNETT: You do not have an interest in the matter, Mr Wilkins, as Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department?

Mr Wilkins : I have an interest in lots of things.

Senator BARNETT: It has significant implications for your department and the Commonwealth.

Mr Wilkins : There was a half-day hearing on 4 March but the judgment has not been handed down yet.

Senator BARNETT: Thank you; that is most useful.

 

 

June 2011: Review of the National Classification - Report released

In 2011, the conservative Christian, Guy Barnett, chaired an inquiry into the Australian classification system. It heard from a who’s who of religious right groups such as Salt Shakers, Collective Shout, the Australian Christian Lobby, and Family Voice Australia.

Not surprisingly, their thirty recommendations were heavily in favour of tighter restrictions. This included a ban on the X18+ rating, and implementation of the South Australian model where R18+ titles are sold separately.

Here is what the final report had to say about SALO.

 

The Senate
Legal and Constitutional Affairs
References Committee Review of the National Classification Scheme: achieving the right balance
June 2011

MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
Members Senator Guy Barnett, Chair, LP, TAS
Senator Patricia Crossin, Deputy Chair, ALP, NT
Senator Mark Furner, ALP, QLD
Senator Scott Ludlam, AG, WA
Senator Stephen Parry, LP, TAS
Senator Russell Trood, LP, QLD

Participating Member
Senator Julian McGauran, LP, VIC

R18+ films

5.13 Term of reference (g) for the inquiry specifies the 'classification of films, including explicit sex or scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity as R18+'.

Salo

5.14 Much of the evidence and submissions on the issue of classification of R18+ films centred on the 2010 decision by the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board to classify the film Salo as R18+. The Attorney-General's Department (Department) summarised the film as 'a 1975 Italian drama written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini based on the book The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade'.

5.15 The Department's submission provided details in relation to the 'long and complex classification history' of Salo, going back to 1976. Briefly, the film was Refused Classification in Australia until 1993. In 1993, the film was classified R18+ by the former Film and Literature Board of Review, and between 1993 and 1997 it was available in all jurisdictions, except in Western Australia and South Australia where restrictions applied. In June 1997, the film was reclassified R18+ by the Classification Board; and, in 1998, the film was classified Refused Classification by the Classification Review Board. In 2003, an application for reclassification was declined by the Classification Board and, in June 2008, an edited version of the film was classified Refused Classification by the Classification Board.

5.16 The Department's submission described the events pertaining to the latest classification application for the film:

On 13 April 2010 the Classification Board classified a modified 292 minute version of the film Salo R18+ with consumer advice for 'Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity'. This version included additional background information providing an historical context which, in the view of the [Classification] Board, mitigated the overall impact of the material submitted to no greater than high.

On 15 April 2010, the Minister for Home Affairs applied for a review of the Classification Board's R18+ classification...because he considered it was in the public interest to do so, as there was likely to be sections of the community who would have different views on the content of this film... In a majority decision, the Review Board classified Salo R18+ with consumer advice for 'Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity'.

5.17 The Department's submission noted that FamilyVoice Australia had taken legal action in the Federal Court of Australia under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. In their appearance before the committee, officers from the Department noted that the matter has now been heard in the Federal Court and that a decision has been reserved.

5.18 As this matter is still before the courts, it would not be appropriate for the committee to engage in a deliberative analysis of the Classification Board's or the Classification Review Board's reasons for their decisions in relation to the Salo matter. For this reason, the discussion below is a general consideration of the issue of classification of R18+ films.

 

Should R18+ films be available in Australia?

5.29 Similarly, and in the context of the film Salo, Mr Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby made the following point:

I do not agree with the proposition that adults should be able to watch and see whatever they like...[W]e have a category called 'Refused Classification'. There are just some things that we judge as a civil society that go beyond the realms of civil liberties, and I think that is appropriate particularly when it comes to the protection of children.

5.31 Mr Matthew Whiteley highlighted in his submission the full range of graphic content which is permitted in the R18+ category. In particular, Mr Whiteley referred to the film 'Cannibal Holocaust' which 'contains several scenes of actual animal killing and dismemberment filmed specifically for the film'. This film was released in its entire cut form in Australia with an R18+ rating from the Classification Board. In noting the controversy with respect to Salo, Mr Whiteley observed:

[While] much has been made of such sexually explicit films such as Salo which depict simulated sexual violence, it's rather strange that no one seems to get outraged at the release of a film which contains real animal cruelty leading to death.

 

June 2011: SALO and the Pasolini DVD Box Set

In 2011, Shock released a DVD box set of THE FILMS OF PIER PAOLO PASOLINI. It contained THE DECAMERON (1971), CANTERBURY TALES (1972), ARABIAN NIGHTS (1974), and the two discs of SALO.

 

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom - Shock [au] DVD 2

 

 

July 2011: Classification Board Annual Report

Director’s Overview
Donald McDonald AC, Director, Classification Board
Classification Board Annual Report 2010-2011

One classification that has continued to attract some public debate in the reporting period is the R 18+ classification of the controversial film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo). The film, in a number of different versions, has been variously classified R 18+ and RC (Refused Classification).

In the previous reporting period, the Classification Board classified the film R 18+ with consumer advice of ‘Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’. Also in the previous reporting period, the Classification Review Board, on referral from the Minister for Justice, assigned the same classification and consumer advice for the film.

The Classification Review Board’s R 18+ classification of Salo was the subject of an application made to the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. During the reporting period, there was a half-day hearing on 4 March 2011 and the presiding Judge, the Hon Justice Stone, reserved her decision.

 

Judicial decisions
Classification Board Annual Report 2010-2011

An application was made to the Federal Court on 16 June 2010 under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) regarding the Classification Review Board’s decision to classify the modified version of the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo) in DVD format, R 18+ (Restricted) with the consumer advice ‘Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’. There was a half-day hearing on 4 March 2011. The presiding Judge, Justice the Hon Margaret Stone, reserved her decision.

 

Correspondence
Complaints
Classification Board Annual Report 2010-2011

The Classification Board received 674 complaints in 2010–11. The Board had received 1,090 complaints in 2009–10.

The films which attracted the most complaints were Snowtown, Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo), A Serbian Film, Piranha, Grown Ups, The Killer Inside Me, and Black Swan.

There were 85 complaints about DVD releases of films. Again, the complaints related to a small number of the titles which comprised the 3,957 classification decisions for films not for public exhibition in 2010–11. This compares with the 91 complaints about films not for public exhibition that were received in 2009–10.

Fifteen complaints were received about the R 18+ classification of the film Salo. All 15 complaints were that the film was classified too low and should be RC (Refused Classification).

 

Complaints
Classification Review Board Annual Report 2010-2011

There were five complaints to the Review Board in relation to the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo). In addition, there were two complaints in relation to membership of the Review Board.

 

 

August 2011: Christian appeal against SALO fails in Federal Court

On August 31 2011, Judge J. Stone dismissed the appeal against the awarding of an R18+ rating to the SALO DVD. His decision was that:

...the applicant’s objections to the Board’s decision are, in my view, objections to the merits of the decision and do not point to any error of law. For these reasons the application must be dismissed with costs.

The full case can be found at Family Voice full  Australia v Members of the Classification Review Board [2011] FCA 1014 (31 August 2011).

 

Judicial Decisions
Classification Board Annual Report 2011-2012

Aspects of a Review Board decision can be reviewed, on application, by the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth). In the reporting period, no application for review of the Review Board’s decisions was lodged with the Federal Court.

On 16 June 2010, an application was made to the Federal Court regarding the Review Board’s decision to classify the modified version of the film Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo) in DVD format, R 18+ with the consumer advice ‘scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity’. On 31 August 2011, the judgment was delivered by Justice Stone in favour of the respondents, the Review Board and the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, that the application be dismissed. Justice Stone found that the Review Board directed itself correctly as to the application of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines without error of law.


 

 

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