In 2005, the Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, began a push to change the classification laws regarding the promotion of terrorism.
This page covers the two-year process that in September 2007 saw the eventual amendment of the ‘Classification, (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995’.
Defence of the Muslim Lands
Author by Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
In July 2005, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that books promoting terrorism were openly on sale at the Islamic Bookstore in the suburb of Lakemba. Other media outlets soon ran with the story.
July 18, 2005
A Sydney shop, The Islamic Bookstore at Lakemba, is reportedly selling books endorsed by the al-Qaeda terrorist leader which discuss the effectiveness of suicide bombings and attack Western civilisation as “the culture of oppression, the culture of injustice, the culture of racism”.
The shop refused to comment on the claims today. A spokesman said: “We’re not talking to any media … we hope to put out a press release early tomorrow.”
A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus today said the state had laws against racial vilification and incitement to violence.
But on the face of it, the content of the books did not appear to constitute incitement to violence, he said.
“For incitement to occur, violence has to actually take place [as a result of publishing the material],” the spokesman said.
“If the literature is found to contain racial vilification then the laws are there to prosecute.
“If any information or literature results in a violent act that can be proven, then we have laws to prosecute under incitement to violence.
“We take any breach of the law extremely seriously and the threat of terrorism extremely seriously.”
People could be prosecuted for racial vilification if a complaint was made against them and the Anti-Discrimination Board recommended pursuing legal action, he said.
But the NSW Government could not ban the books outright, he said.
“Banning that sort of stuff is a federal matter that comes under the classification of material through the Office of Film and Literature Classification,” the spokesman said.– Bin Laden book ban ‘not an option’
– article @ smh.com.au
July 18, 2005
New South Wales police have set up a task force to investigate if it is possible to prosecute people who write, publish or sell material that incites terrorism.
Police Commissioner Ken Moroney says Australian Federal Police and officers from the New South Wales counter-terrorism command are involved in the investigation.
Commissioner Moroney says police need to determine if any offences have been committed under existing state or Commonwealth laws.
“Obviously in the course of this investigation it will be necessary to seek qualified legal opinion as to whom actually commits the offence,” he said.
“Is it the author? Is it the publisher? Is it the retailer? Is it the purchaser of this particular material or is it all of the above?”– Sydney police probe ‘hate book’ claims
July 18, 2005
New South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney says state and federal police are investigating the existence of such material but the Opposition’s spokesman for police, Michael Gallacher, wants the store in question raided.
“If we receive information that there are bookstores out there that are selling material that is designed to kill or maim, and in fact cause division and hatred in our society, I think the authorities should do whatever they can to get in there and get those books off the shelves,” he said.
“If that means raiding them, then so be it.”
Mr Debus says it is up to police to make that call, but has defended existing federal terrorism laws designed to act against those who incite violence.
“There is no doubt that there is a strong existing power to charge a person for inciting terrorism under our existing laws,” he said.
Mr Debus’s federal counterpart, Philip Ruddock, has indicated he will encourage authorities to prosecute people who provide or publish material that breaks Australian laws about inciting violence.
“If there are offences that have been committed here in Australia then competent authorities will seek to obtain appropriate evidence and we will deal with them,” he said.– No barrier to raids over ‘hate book’ claims: A-G
– article @ abc.net.au
July 19, 2005
Acting Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Mark Vaile says there may be a case for federal authorities to investigate books that promote terrorism.
Mr Vaile says its a complex issue but consideration must be given to the effects of publications that promote violence.
“I’m not advocating banning books but if there are publications that exist that give clear instructions in terms of how to build a bomb and go to the extent of targeting and those sorts of things, then federal authorities should be very interested in that,” he said.
Authorities are meeting in Sydney today to discuss if it is possible to prosecute writers, publishers or sellers of material that incite terrorism.
A spokesman for the New South Wales Police Commissioner says officers from the counter-terrorism command, the Australian Federal Police, and other officials will review the literature that is available for sale.– Terrorism book reports concern Vaile
Muslim ‘Terror’ books classified
The Islamic Bookstore in Lakemba was eventually raided by the Federal Police and the controversial titles submitted to the Classification Board.
In December 2005, all were passed with Unrestricted ratings.
The titles were:
- THE ABSENT OBLIGATION
- THE CRIMINAL WEST
- DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS
- THE IDEOLOGICAL ATTACK
- ISLAM AND THE MODERN MAN
- JIHAD IN THE QUR’AN AND SUNNAH
- JOIN THE CARAVAN
- THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF WAR
One video tape, titled JIHAD OF TERRORISM (2000?) was also confiscated in the raid. When submitted to the Classification Board, it was passed with a PG (Mild Themes) rating.
Failure to secure RC ratings
After the eight books were cleared, the talk turned to changing the law.
May 18, 2006
PRESENTER: Attorney-General, good morning to you.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning Ray.
PRESENTER: I noticed one of your colleagues, in your absence, suggested that maybe what we need to do is change the laws if these pass the test of the current laws. Would you agree with that?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Certainly. Look, if laws aren’t adequate to the task, you look at it again and I’ve asked for advice on that. But I think it’s important to look at these matters in context. When we introduced the sedition laws, you may recall, the debate that occurred and we made it an offence to urge others to overthrow the Government; to interfere with elections; and, more particularly, to urge violence against other groups in the community in a way, which threatened the peace and good order of Australia. As with any criminal thing, you have to prove an intentional act of urging others to engage in that conduct. And what the AFP have done is they’ve come to a view… even though I might add, we included in the offence an element of recklessness. And recklessness means that you might still have the intention, if you recklessly know that there is a substantial risk that the act will occur as a result of what you are doing. And I’ve asked for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to look at this matter again.
The advice that was given, I understand, was orally. It wasn’t a conclusive written advice and I’ve asked the DPP to now give me that advice because that might point in the direction of potential changes that we should make. But people were very concerned when these laws were introduced that we shouldn’t be hindering freedom of speech and argued very cogently that people like yourself, who were reporters, shouldn’t be held accountable for reporting what others have said and we included in the law a measure that made it clear that reporting of what others have said would not be an offence. I note the Opposition is out there saying we ought to look at what they did in Victoria with their religious vilification measures…
PRESENTER: Oh no, please.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …and were arguing that we should go down that route and we know what’s happened in Victoria, where a number of Christian ministers have now been charged with offences because they’ve offered some critical views of Islam.
PRESENTER: [They tell me] that in Victoria they’re removing bibles from various venues down there including hospitals.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I mean the point I would make is that I think the Opposition taking up the Victorian measure would want to go further than I would think is appropriate. But in the United Kingdom, and I tested this with my officials last night, they introduced – and Malcolm Turnbull raised the issue at the time – whether we should look at glorification of suicide [bombing] in the way in which, in these publications you refer to and whether that would urge other people to act inappropriately. Now glorification or, you know, essentially advancing that this is appropriate behaviour for people to engage in is a step further. We didn’t go that far at the time but it may be a matter that we’ve got to look at further, given that we now know that these publications and what they’re saying don’t seem to be regarded by the police as constituting an act of urging violence against other groups in our community.
PRESENTER: But surely Minister, it shouldn’t be a long complicated process if the Federal DPP and the AFP say, look, under the current laws we can’t remove these books from the shelves, wouldn’t it be a simple matter of making the law … well, say what do we need to do so that you do have the power to remove them from the shelves. Wouldn’t that be easy?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well what we find is you don’t know how laws will unfold until you actually have specific examples, which you can look …
PRESENTER: So you’ve got lawyers out there, poring over it trying to find…
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …and you know, to think that these things are simple issues, I think, belies the nature of the criminal law system and the way in which those who seek to defend people who engage in behaviour which we believe is repugnant will defend it and what I’ve got to look at is if we go a step further, will it achieve the purpose and I need to get very comprehensive advice on that and I will. Mark Vaile made it clear. Look, we regard this material that has been published as repugnant. It offends our society because what it’s doing is attacking the very values that enable people to enjoy freedom of speech and the way of life that we take as being the most appropriate and best form in which people can live together.
PRESENTER: Well at least it’s raised the debate and now I note that the bookstore proprietors were saying, as recently as yesterday, in your absence, we won’t be selling those books anyway.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I mean I think that they’re aware that we’re looking at these issues. They’d be conscious of that. But I make the point that we’ve got to get a balance in relation to these matters. I don’t want to be in a situation where we’re picking up at a federal level what they’ve done in Victoria and we end up with these sorts of cases which just, I think, unreasonably restrict people’s right to be able to proselytise in relation to their own religious beliefs.
PRESENTER: I appreciate your time. Thanks Minister. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, talking to us about a rather important issue.– Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal) interview with Ray Hadley
– Sydney Radio 2GB
Classification of Muslim ‘Terror’ books to be reviewed
Phillip Ruddock was unhappy with the Classification Board’s decision. In June 2006, he applied to the Classification Review Board to have the eight ratings reexamined.
June 9, 2006
The Australian Government will push for censorship laws to be reviewed to assess whether they deal adequately with material which urges or advocates terrorist acts, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced today.
“I have written to State and Territory Censorship Ministers advising them of my intention to raise the adequacy of current censorship laws at the next ministerial meeting in July,” Mr Ruddock said.
“The Australian Government does not consider material which urges or advocates terrorist acts should be available for sale.
“I will be asking my State and Territory colleagues to consider whether current laws strike the right balance between freedom of expression and community concerns about promotion of acts of violence.
“Freedom of speech is a right all Australians would fiercely defend so it is important to consider these issues carefully,” he said.
Mr Ruddock also has referred eight publications and one film to the Classification Review Board in response to community concerns about the dissemination of material which promotes terrorism.
The material, highlighted in media reports as the so-called “Books of Hate”, had been referred to the Australian Federal Police which found there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution.
“This is an important issue and further consideration of the classification of this material is warranted,” he said. The Classification Board classified the material in December 2005 and considered the material did not promote, incite or instruct in matters of violence or crime.
Under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the Attorney-General may apply to the Classification Review Board for a review of a decision of the Classification Board.– Classification Board to consider hate material
– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
June 9, 2006
The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification for the books entitled DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS, THE IDEOLOGICAL ATTACK, THE CRIMINAL WEST, JOIN THE CARAVAN, JIHAD IN THE QUR’AN AND SUNNAH, THE ABSENT OBLIGATION, ISLAM AND MODERN MAN, and THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF WAR and the film entitled JIHAD OF TERRORISM..
All eight books were classified “Unrestricted”, and the film JIHAD OF TERRORISM classified PG with consumer advice “Mild themes”, by the Classification Board on 23 December 2005.
The review is in response to an application from the Attorney-General. Under the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the Attorney-General may make an application for a decision at any time.
The full Board of the Classification Review Board will begin meeting to consider these items from Monday 19 June 2006. In determining the classification of this material, the Review Board will ensure that a range of viewpoints are considered. The original applicant, the Australian Federal Police, will be notified.
The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website once the review has been finalised.
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.– Review announced for eight Islamic books and one film
– Classification Review Board
Two books now banned
In July 2006, the Classification Review Board overturned the Unrestricted ratings and banned two books by Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
- DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS
- JOIN THE CARAVAN
The Unrestricted ratings were confirmed for six titles.
- THE ABSENT OBLIGATION
- THE CRIMINAL WEST
- THE IDEOLOGICAL ATTACK
- ISLAM AND THE MODERN MAN
- JIHAD IN THE QUR’AN AND SUNNAH
- THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF WAR
The videotape, JIHAD OF TERRORISM, also retained its PG (Mild Themes) rating.
The Classification Board’s report for DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS is below. The other titles have their own entries in our Publication Censorship Database and Film Censorship Database No. 1.
July 10, 2006
The full Board of the Classification Review Board has determined that, of the 8 Islamic books submitted for Review by the Australian Attorney-General, 2 are Refused Classification and 6 are classified Unrestricted. The film entitled JIHAD OF TERRORISM is classified PG with the consumer advice ‘Mild themes’.
The books classified Refused Classification are DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS and JOIN THE CARAVAN. Refused Classification (RC) means the books are immediately banned throughout Australia. They cannot be sold within or imported into the country.
The books classified Unrestricted are THE IDEOLOGICAL ATTACK, THE CRIMINAL WEST, JIHAD IN THE QUR’AN AND SUNNAH, THE ABSENT OBLIGATION, ISLAM AND MODERN MAN: THE CALL OF ISLAM TO MODERN MAN VOL. II, and THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF WAR. There are no restrictions on publications classified Unrestricted.
All decisions were unanimous with the exception of the Unrestricted decision for THE ABSENT OBLIGATION, which was a majority 5 to 2 decision.
In the Review Board’s opinion DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS warrants Refused Classification because it promotes and incites in matters of crime, specifically terrorism acts, including the plan, action and execution of martyrdom operations. The Review Board noted that the book was republished in English firstly in 1995 by Muslims seeking support for the Mujahadeen in Bosnia and then again in September 2002. The book is specific and explicit in its support for and encouragement of suicide bombing, including details for undertaking such crimes.
The Review Board concluded that JOIN THE CARAVAN is presented as a direct appeal to Muslims to engage in fighting, particularly in Afghanistan, but also in other theatres. JOIN THE CARAVAN warrants Refused Classification because it has the objective purpose of promoting and inciting acts of terrorism against “disbelievers” and is a real and genuine call to specific action by Muslims to fight for Allah and engage in acts of violence. The first English translation was printed in 1996, following the conflict in Bosnia. According to the publishers due to popular demand and the book being sold out they decided to publish the copy that was submitted for review. It was reprinted in 2001. The publishers state that the original book was “the principal inspiration for thousands of Muslims from all over the World to go and fight in Afghanistan.” The publishers state that “the struggle must continue until Truth emerges distinct from Falsehood and the true Mujahudeen attain triumph and defeat the enemies of Islam who are trying to destroy the fruit of the Afghan Jihad.”
Convenor of the Review Board, Ms Maureen Shelley said, “The Classification Review Board has taken the responsibility and importance of these decisions extremely seriously. In considering this material the Review Board has sought the opinions of a number of organisations so that a range of perspectives could be considered. These include the Mufti of Australia Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. Further, the Review Board has considered current Australian terrorism legislation and its applicability to these matters. The Review Board is confident that every effort has been made to make a balanced decision under Australian Classification law.”
The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision are located on the OFLC website on the page entitled Review Board Decisions.
The review was undertaken in response to an application from the Attorney-General. Under the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the Attorney- General may make an application for a decision at any time.
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.– Classification Review Board determines 2 Islamic books are Refused Classification
– Classification Review Board
July 11, 2006
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has welcomed the banning of two of the so-called ‘Books of Hate’ he referred to the Classification Review Board.
The Review Board assessed eight publications and a film following the referral and has classified two of the books as RC (Refused Classification). They are DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS and JOIN THE CARAVAN.
“There had been community concerns about the dissemination of material which promotes or advocates terrorism and this outcome indicates I made the right decision to refer the material to the Board,” Mr Ruddock said. “Freedom of expression is one of the underlying principles of Australian society, but it should not protect circulation of material that urges or advocates acts of terrorism against that society.
“I would urge State and Territory Attorneys-General and Police to ensure that they enforce the laws available to them and keep offensive material of this nature off streets. “The New South Wales Premier had expressed concerns about these books and it is now up to him to ensure he follows through on this matter,” Mr Ruddock said.
The Australian Government is already pushing for censorship laws to be reviewed to assess whether they deal adequately with material which urges or advocates terrorist acts.
“I have written to State and Territory Censorship Ministers advising them of my intention to raise the adequacy of current censorship laws at the next ministerial meeting later this month,” Mr Ruddock said.– Attorney General Welcomes ‘Books of Hate’ Decision
– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
Classification Review Board RC report
One of the books to be banned was DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS.
June 19, 20 & 23, 2006 & July 3 & 5, 2006
23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, NSW
Ms Maureen Shelley (Convenor)
The Hon Trevor Griffin (Deputy Convenor)
Mr Rob Shilkin
Mrs Kathryn Smith
Mrs Gillian Groom
Ms Ann Stark
Mr Anthony Hetrih
APPLICANT: Commonwealth Attorney General, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP, not represented.
INTERESTED PARTIES: NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
BUSINESS: To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the publication DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS (the publication) ‘Unrestricted’
DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION
The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) in a unanimous decision classified the publication RC (Refused Classification).
2. Legislative provisions
The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of publications and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 of the Act provides that publications are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines.
Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 1(c) of the Table under the heading ‘Publications’ provides that:
1. Publications that
(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence are to be classified ‘RC’. The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible.
Section 11 of the Classification Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a film or publication 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 publication or film; and
(c) the general character of the publication or 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 2005 Guidelines for the Classification of Publications (the Publication Guidelines), determined under s.12 of the Act:
1. The importance of context;
2. Assessing impact; and
3. The six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.
The Review Board convened on 19 and 20 June 2006 in response to the receipt of an application from the Attorney General, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP (the Applicant), dated 5 June 2006 and numbered L05/1452.
The original application for classification of the publication was lodged by the Australian Federal Police on 15 December 2005 (application reference L05/1452). The Classification Board classified the publication (L05/1452) as ‘Unrestricted’ on 23 December 2005.
At its meeting on 19 June 2006 seven members of the Review Board received an oral submission from Mr Drew Kovacs representing the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, provided in addition to their written submission. The Review Board determined it was not able to reach a decision without carefully reading the publication and considering all relevant matters. The Review Board then adjourned in order to do this.
The Review Board further deliberated on the 20th and 23rd of June 2006 and on the 3rd of July 2006. The Review Board on 5 July 2006 met a final time to consider the substance of the application and, after careful consideration of all of the relevant issues, determined that the publication be classified ‘RC’ (Refused Classification).
4. Evidence and other material taken into account
In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:
(i) The Applicant’s application for review;
(ii) The NSW Council of Civil Liberties’ written and oral submissions;
(iii) The Publication DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS (L05/1452); (iv) The relevant provisions in the Act;
(v) The relevant provisions in the Code, as amended in accordance with s.6 of the Act;
(vi) The Classification Board’s report; and
(vii) The 2005 Guidelines for the Classification of Publications.
Written in 1984 – as was the preface by Osama Bin Laden – four years after the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR, the book is a “fatwa” (Islamic legal ruling) and a “call to arms” against the invasion, which was condemned at the time by much of the Western world including Australia, the UK and the US.
The book was reprinted in English in August 1996 and again in September 2002, which was the edition submitted for review. The original translation was undertaken in 1996 by the Mujahadeen in Bosnia “with a view to encouraging the Englishspeaking Muslims to come to the assistance of their fellow Muslims there.”
In addition to the original work by Sheikh Azzam, the September 2002 edition includes a dedication to Sheikh Azzam “who ignited the flame of Jihad in the 20th Century”, a publisher’s foreword, a biography of Abdullah Azzam, the addition of 150 footnotes giving explanations and additions to what was meant (in the eyes of the publishers) by the author, the scholars index outlining details of more than 50 scholars whose statements form the basis of the book, and a detailed glossary of Arabic or Islamic terms.
The book is 114-pages and aims to clarify, through the use of classical sources of Islam, the concept and manner in which “Jihad” should be prosecuted. It justifies the concept of “Jihad” in the context of fighting the USSR as per the author’s words and with the addition of the publisher’s comments “to all similar situations facing the Muslims” today (as at September 2002).
6. Findings on material questions of fact
Having determined that the book promotes and incites crime, specifically, the crime of terrorism, the Review Board did not consider it necessary to consider the impact of the classifiable elements of violence, themes, nudity, coarse language, sex or drug use. The facts and reasons for the determination in regard to promotion and incitement of terrorism are outlined below.
Promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime
This is a book by Sheikh Abdullah Azzam. Azzam is often known as the “Godfather of Jihad” and is known as a mentor to Osama Bin Laden. The book states at page xv that when Sheikh Azzam realised that only by means of an organised force would the Ummah (the Muslim believers) ever be able to gain victory, then Jihad and the gun became his pre-occupation and recreation. The Sheikh’s motto is stated to have been:
“Jihad and the rifle alone. No negotiations, No conferences and No dialogue”.
The book contains an endorsement by Osama Bin Laden stating:
“Sheikh Abdullah Azzam was not an individual, but an entire nation by himself. Muslim women have proven themselves incapable of giving birth to a man like him after he was killed”.
The book is dedicated to Sheikh Abdullah Azzam and the Mujihadin of Afghanistan “who ignited the flame of Jihad in the 20th Century…amongst them were those that joined the Caravan of Martyrs and amongst them are those that are still waiting…”
The book notes specifically in the publisher’s foreword that “this book was written at a time when the first Soviet-Afghan Jihad was well underway, and the context in some parts may be related to this. However, since the core issues dealt with in this book are based on the texts of classical scholars, the material is applicable to all similar situations facing Muslims”.
The publisher, for the 2002 edition, prays “may He grant success and victory to all those who fight in His Way in all corners of the World”.
The publication promotes and incites in matters of crime or violence, specifically terrorist acts and martyrdom operations. This is illustrated in pages 64 & 65 and includes the plan, the action and execution of these operations. Also the concluding paragraph of page 93 furthers this premise.
While the document was written in 1984 and much of the content was regarding the Jihad in Afghanistan, this revised edition was published in 2002 with a publisher’s forward explaining how it is just as relevant today in Islamic conflicts all over the world. Additionally, there are “letters of agreement” by Islamic scholars who support the use of martyrdom operations as described in the document.
There is also some level of instruction on how to go about martyrdom operations and their benefits on pages 64 & 65. This is not detailed, however, in the context of the document as a whole, and due to the tone of glorification and justification of these martyrdom operations, this has increased impact.
The book also discusses the benefits of martyrdom and cost in some detail. The book is a call to arms. Its objective purpose, as outlined in the foreword by the publishers in September 2002, and intent is to exhort people to perform acts of terrorism.
The main purpose of the document is to justify the use of, and glorify martyrdom operations. It also calls upon Muslims to become involved in this type of operation to 5 overcome the “disbelievers”. “Fighting for Islam” is held in the highest esteem as described in the quote on page xvi: “Standing for an hour in the ranks of battle waged for the Sake of Allah is better than standing in prayer for sixty years”.
The publisher notes that:
“there is not a land of Jihad in the world today, nor a Mujahadin fighting in Allah’s Way, who is not inspired by the life, teachings”
of the author Abdullah Azzam.
The book notes that there are two types of Jihad against the disbelievers:
· offensive Jihad (where the enemy is attacked in his own territory – it is obligatory on Muslims to send an army “at least once a year to terrorise the enemies of Allah”).
· defensive Jihad (a compulsory duty on all Muslims to expel the disbelievers “from our lands”). Jihad is stated to be the most important of all compulsory duties on Muslims.
The book notes that it is a “sin” for Muslims to not advance towards “Afghanistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Kashmir, Lebanon, Chad, Eritrea etc.”
The book specifically states that it is not necessary for persons who are to engage in Jihad to seek the permission of their parents or spouses.
Appendix C is entitled The Islamic Ruling on Martyrdom Operations. The description of martyrdom operations is specific. It states that
“the form that (martyrdom or self-sacrifice operations) usually takes nowadays is to wire up ones body, or a vehicle or suitcase with explosives, and enter into amongst a conglomeration of the enemy, or in their vital facilities, and to detonate in an appropriate place there in order to cause the maximum losses in the enemy ranks, taking advantage of the element of surprise and penetration…another technique is for an armed mujahid to break into the enemy barracks or area of conglomeration and fire at them at close range, without having prepared any plan of escape, not having considered escape a possibility. . .
As for the effects of these operations on the enemy, we have found, through the course of our experience that there is no other technique which strikes as much terror into their hearts, and which shatters their spirit as much.
On account of this they refrain from mixing with the population, and from oppressing, harassing and looting them. They have also become occupied with trying to expose such operations before they occur which has distracted them from other things. Praise is to Allah
. …On the material level, these operations inflict the heaviest losses on the enemy, and are lowest in cost to us. The cost of equipment is negligible in comparison to the assault; in fact the explosives and vehicles were captured as war-booty such that we return them to the Russians in our special way.”
The publication notes the practical success and benefit to Islam of martyrdom operations in Chechnya, Afghanistan and “Palestine”.
This Appendix contains 24 pages of Koranic and Islamic analysis supporting the argument that such operations are legal. The conclusion to the Appendix is:
“that martyrdom operations are permissible, and in fact the mujahid who is killed in them is better than one who is fighting in the ranks, for there are great oceans even among martyrs, corresponding to their role, action, effort and risk undertaken.”
Promotion, Incitement or Instruction in Matters of Crime and Violence
The Review Board considered that the book:
· was specific and explicit in its support for and encouragement of suicide bombing;
· contained details about how to undertake suicide bombing, explained techniques for undertaking such crimes and outlined the political and psychological benefits and distress caused to the enemy caused by such attacks;
· was written in an emotively and passionate manner with the purpose of being a real and genuine call to specific action by Muslims. The book was written as an impassioned plea to Muslims to fight for Allah and engage in acts of violence;
· was republished in 2002 to specifically refer to “all situations confronting Muslims around the world” which gave the book a contemporary relevance and context;
· was written by a well-known Jihadi who had engaged in acts of terrorism and who had ties to the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and associates;
· had the objective purpose of promoting and inciting acts of terrorism against disbelievers, and suicide bombings, either in non-Muslim lands or in occupied Muslim lands.
French J in Brown v Classification Review Board noted that the term “promote, incite or instruct” is a “collocation of overlapping meanings”. This decision was in the context of an interpretation of the term “instruct”. Nevertheless, insofar as this “collocation of overlapping meanings” applies to the interpretation of the term “promotes or incites” the Review Board concluded that the publication contained elements of specific instruction, referred to above, about how to undertake suicide bombing attacks.
7. Reasons for the decision
The Review Board considered:
· the general principle that adults should be able to read what they want, but also the community’s concerns about material that promoted terrorism and other criminal activities;
· that the publication, being written by a prominent Islamic terrorist, may appeal to some disenfranchised segments of the community and that the book was designed to encourage such people to take up arms and commit specific crimes against non-believers, in the cause of Islam;
· that the book, written by an extreme Jihadi, presented a one-sided and extreme interpretation of Islam and it did not have any discernible educational or literary merit. Even after considering the need to undertake a conservative interpretation of the Code, the Review Board unanimously concluded that the publication promoted and incited in matters of crime and violence. Having considered this, the Review Board did not consider it necessary to consider the impact of the classifiable elements (violence, themes, nudity, coarse language, sex or drug use).
The Review Board unanimously concluded that the publication should be Refused Classification.
Note: The Review Board had regard to section 101.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code which provides that “a person commits an offence if the person engages in a terrorist act”. This is punishable by imprisonment for life and is a crime. Under section 15.4, the offence applies whether or not the conduct constituting the alleged offence occurs in Australia.
A “terrorist act” is defined under the Code to include an action done:
· “with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”; and
· “with the intention of coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the Government of the Commonwealth or a State or Territory or foreign country or of part of a State, Territory or foreign country; or intimidating the public or a section of the public”; and
· which causes serious harm to a person, serious damage to property, death, or endangers a person’s life. The Review Board also noted that each State referred power to the Commonwealth to legislate against terrorist acts. For example, New South Wales passed the Terrorism (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2002 “to refer certain matters relating to terrorist acts to the Parliament of the Commonwealth for the purposes of section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth”. The other States passed equivalent legislation.
Also, the Review Board noted that the provisions apply in the Territories because the Commonwealth can make laws for the Territories under section 122 of the Constitution. The Review Board was satisfied that the objective purpose of DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS was to promote and incite actions of precisely this type.
The classifiable elements and the impact in the overall context of the book warrant a refused classification (RC). The publication was refused classification in accordance with the National Classification Code as it was found to “promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence.” The decision of the Review Board was unanimous.– Classification Review Board report
NSWCCL submission to the Review Board
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties made the following defence of the eight books and one film.
June 19, 2006
Re: Islamic Literature – Application for Review of Classification from the Australian Attorney-General, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP
“If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
As one of the leading non-political, non-religious, and non-sectarian human rights organisations in Australia, the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) objects to heightened censorship of material which is politically unpopular or even repulsive but not otherwise objectionable.
For the past forty years the NSWCCL has monitored censorship in Australia and spoken out when paternalistic determinations threaten to prevent people in Australia from viewing material available in countries around the world.
The NSWCCL believes that freedom of expression (and freedom of political communication in particular) is fundamental to the functioning of a successful democratic society and an Australian ideal upheld by both tradition and law. A citizenry well-informed by a range of competing ideas and a variety of information will always be better equipped to deal with challenges posed by people who oppose Australia’s liberal democratic tradition. Trying to fruitlessly repress access to political opinions, however disturbing they might be, not only limits the right of people in Australia to see and hear what citizens of democracies around the world may see and hear, but ultimately makes Australia less safe by keeping people uninformed as to what motivates others view different from our own.
It is wrong and counterproductive to seek to suppress political views to which one is opposed by censoring them.
In this case, the NSWCCL objects to classification based on a politically motivated rejection of the material. NSWCCL submits that censorship of this material will ultimately be counter-productive to the interests of those who oppose its content.
We note that the time limitations imposed on the making of this submission permit only a summary written submission to be made.
Freedom of Political Communication
In the late 1990’s the High Court of Australia found and developed the implied constitutional freedom of political communication.1
The High Court correctly determined that such a right was essential to representative government and that while it was not all encompassing it protected free and public political discussion.
An attempt to censor the material in this case runs the risk that the attempt will be legally challenged, which would be counter-protective regardless of the result. The attempt would draw additional attention to the material and provide a platform for further promoting unpalatable political views.
1 See Australian Capital Television v Commonwealth [(1992) 177 CLR 106] and Nationwide News v Wills [(1992) 177 CLR 1]
Maintaining an Independent Classification Review Board
The NSWCCL believes that it is important that the Classification Review Board not be seen as part of the political process or to making a politically motivated decision.
A decision that is perceived by any section of the community to be politically motivated will have the counter-productive tendency to validate the censored material, at least in the view of that section of the community.
Other Consideration of the Material
The material in question has already been subject to intense government and media scrutiny, including decisions by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Federal Police that such material does not pose a security threat or violate the recent anti-terrorism laws. The DPP’s decision not to limit the dissemination of the material in question reflects the view that there is no nexus between the positions taken in the material and any threats to Australian society. Moreover, the AFP determined that the material in question is “descriptive, rather than inciting any type of violence.”2 Descriptive literature and film, however unpopular politically, should not be examined with more heightened scrutiny than the Board would normally employ.
2 See Kelvin Bissett and Angela Kamper, “Muslim ‘Books of Hate’ Get OK.” The Daily Telegraph, 15 May, 2006.
Restricting Access to Controversial Material has the Contrary Effect
Restricting film and literature only serves to make such material more widely disseminated and potentially popular. In this instance, because the content of the material in question is inherently political, restricting the material will only send a message that the material is more significant than it otherwise might be. Moreover, given the ease with which information is disseminated over the internet, restricting access to political material is largely impossible.
Ultimately, pushing material underground will only prevent open and honest discourse. Throughout the last century, open and honest discourse triggered by controversial films and literature have only served to strengthen the liberal Western tradition in the face of competing views from other societies. In short, the NSWCCL believes that the best way to confront politically sensitive material is free and public discussion, not through sensationalised second-hand accounts available through the media or over the internet.
The Further Marginalization of the Islamic Community
The Classification Act 1995 instructs the board to consider “the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.”3 All of the material in question is directed at the already marginalised Islamic community. The NSWCCL believes that restricting perfectly lawful statements, including statements that glorify suicide bombers or offensive statements by Muslim leaders who are critical of the Western way of life, will further marginalise this community and have a chilling and contrary effect on freedom of expression within it. The NSWCCL believes that censuring the material in question will only prevent free and open discussion that can most effectively undermine politically unpopular views that seek to undermine the traditional liberal principles of Australian society.
3 Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.
Undermining Australia’s International Reputation
The Board should avoid censoring material which relates to international political themes where that material has not been censored in other democratic countries. It is not obvious that the material poses any significantly greater threat in Australia compared to any of the other countries in the world where it is freely available. To do so would have the tendency to undermine Australia’s international reputation.
While the material in question may be politically and socially controversial, as it does not present a threat to Australian society, it ultimately serves an educational purpose. The material provides people in Australia with insight into the views that underlie the current political climate and the motivations of those that oppose the liberal western tradition. Censoring such material, in addition to being realistically impossible, only increases the significance of the material and undermines the values that ultimately will best protect Australian society.– Submission to Classification Review Board
– Stephen Blanks, Secretary,
– NSW Council for Civil Liberties
More censorship power
Following the two RC ratings, Phillip Ruddock was eager for more.
July 26, 2006
The nation’s attorneys-general will consider banning books that praise terrorism and placing fresh restrictions on reality shows like Big Brother when they meet in Melbourne tomorrow.
Mr Ruddock has told the attorneys the difficulty of banning the books shows that present classification codes and guidelines “may not provide sufficiently clear guidance” at a time when “there has been community outrage at inflammatory and aggressive incitements to violent acts of terrorism contained in some material”.
The books — a cause celebre on talkback radio and in the tabloid press — were first cleared by police as neither seditious nor an incitement to violence.
He has written to the attorneys saying that the difficulties he has experienced point to inadequacies in the code and he will be asking the ministers to endorse new rules that would ban any material “counselling, urging, providing instruction or praising” acts of terrorism.
Mr Ruddock’s proposal will face opposition from some attorneys tomorrow.
“NSW is not going to support this,” said a spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus. Margaret Keech, the minister representing Queensland Attorney-General Linda Lavarch at the meeting, said: “Queensland does have some reservations on the hate publications issue.”
Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls said: “The current classification arrangements already address publications and films that promote acts of terrorism. These arrangements are co-operative and agreed by all jurisdictions.”– Ruddock aims to tame Big Brother
– article @ theage.com.au
July 26, 2006
New South Wales Attorney-General Bob Debus says most states will not support the proposal.
He says the current laws are tough enough.
“The governments of Australia have recently introduced extraordinarily tough laws in the system of criminal law affecting terrorism and so it should be,” he said.
“The Commonwealth is at the present time suggesting some changes to the censorship laws, the laws that classify publications and at least most of the states don’t think that’s necessary.
“Our existing classification laws prevent the publication of books which genuinely incite terrorism and that occurred indeed as recently as last week.
“But we do have concerns about a proposal that might see us catching say crime novels or legal textbooks or even as someone has suggested, the Bible.”– Ruddock seeks tougher classification laws
July 26, 2006
PHILIP RUDDOCK: It certainly seems to me that having submitted I think some seven publications for consideration by the Review Board, and two of them having been refused classification, you have to ask yourself whether the others that were not denied classification might, if the regime operated differently, be refused classification, and that that be appropriate because the material might glorify or promote or incite or instruct people in the way in which serious acts of violence might be undertaken.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: But these books were cleared by police and then the Classification Board, so what in your view is so dangerous about them?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, the point I would make is that there was very considerable anger when it was ascertained that the hurdle that had to be satisfied in order to bring charges in relation to the publication of the particular books described as books of hate, the issue was one in which people said well, look, the laws aren’t adequate to the task. And I referred the same publications to the Classification Review Board, who can refuse classification, and in the case of two of them did, in relation to the others. And I think it’s fair enough to ask the same question, whether the standard has been set at a too high a level to deal with matters that might well be of real concern to the broader Australian community.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Robb Hulls from Victoria is already saying that the current classification system works.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Yes, there are some people who, in advance of considering those issues, are prepared to turn their eyes against any form of change. I mean, there are some people who view that publications should be totally unrestricted, and in part that’s one of the issues you had to deal with.
My approach in relation to these matters is to try and get a balance, and to get that balance right.– Ruddock seeks broader powers to ban terrorism books
– AM @ abc.net.au
July 26, 2006
Journalist: Can I just ask you about the concern over the recent books that were allowed into circulation
Mr Ruddock: I think the Australian public is very concerned about publications that advocate – and I use that word advisedly – advocate the carrying out of terrorist acts. What we have at the moment is some ministers… some classification ministers are more concerned about the impact of programs and computer games may have in inciting people to carry out an illegal act – namely graffiti. However when it comes to the so-called ‘books of hate’, which may well encourage people to carry out terrorist acts, there is no concern. Among the seven complained of, only two… after a very long and tortuous process… have been refused classification. What I am asking is the ministers to look at, is whether the test which now goes to whether or not the publication incites or promotes terrorist activity as a crime, ought to be changed to a test of advocacy, which wouldn’t require us to go into people’s minds when they produce their publications, or their film or their video. It would be a simpler test and easier test of dealing with terrorist acts and I’m encouraging the state classification ministers to deal with this issue. And that’s what I will be taking to the meeting tomorrow.
Mr Ruddock: I would ask them to look at why on the one hand that if the illegal act is graffiti, that ought to have tougher laws… that’s a point argued by some… and yet when it comes to something that goes to people’s life and their very safety and security, that people step back and say ‘Oh, we wouldn’t want to interfere with somebody’s freedom of speech.’ I mean you have to get the balance right in relation to these matters and none of our freedoms are absolute and people’s safety and security is a primary human rights consideration. As I say it’s a matter of where the balance should be. At the moment the test is a very difficult one to apply and you’ve got to try and look at whether people knowingly are inciting terrorist acts when you seek to refuse classification. I think a test of advocacy would be more appropriate.
Journalist: It’s been suggested there is potential for some seemingly innocent publications to be caught up in this.
Mr Ruddock: Look I find it very hard for a novel – which is what is being put – to be seen as one that ought to be refused classification, unless it were advocating the commission of a terrorist act. I mean you could write novels that glorify the commission of terrorist acts and advocate about what you might well be concerned, but its down to the same sort of issue. If you have general commentary that is part of a theme you’re not seen to be glorifying and advancing – in other words advocating – the carrying out of terrorist acts, you wouldn’t be refused classification. That’s the proposal I am putting forward.
Journalist: Isn’t it a hard line to draw. I mean to work out what is advocating terrorism and what is ironic?
Mr Ruddock: The point I am making is it wouldn’t be an Attorney it wouldn’t be a classification minister that would be making these decisions .They would be made by classifying officers and people are able to appeal those decisions to the Classification Review Board which has ordinary members of the public who help make these determinations. But when you have a legal determination that has to be made and it is narrowly cast as it is now, you have to effectively prove an intention to incite or promote terrorist acts. My view is the more appropriate test is advocacy. But it is a test. That is the point I am making. Irony and writing a novel which carries a theme that is not advocating terrorist acts, ought not be caught up in them. Ok?– Brisbane doorstop interview
– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
What will Labor do?
Here is Kim Beazley and Nicola Roxon with the opposition’s view on the proposed new laws.
July 26, 2006
JOURNALIST: The States have come out and said that they don’t support Philip Ruddock’s proposal tomorrow for the AGs meeting on censorship, that Ruddock wants to tighten it up to crack down on it, basically, so terror books can’t get through. And what Bob Debus is saying today is those laws could actually effect things like the Bible.
BEAZLEY: Look, I think it’s important that on the terrorism laws that the States and the Commonwealth come to agreements to ensure that those laws are effective as they can be. I hope that their discussions in that way will be fruitful tomorrow. But can I say this: we don’t want endless concentration on laws. What we need now are practical measures. We have identified a series of practical measures in relation to protecting our people on trains and in public transport. The Government promised they’d do things about this 12 months ago and they haven’t delivered. We need them to deliver on that. We’ve got to get a situation on the waterfront where dangerous cargoes are carried exclusively in Australian ships, Australian-manned ships.
These are practical measures to defend us. In the end, when we deal with terrorists, we’re dealing essentially with lawless people. Whatever the laws might happen to say, they are quite prepared to break them. So, as well as having decent laws – and I hope that the AGs tomorrow emerge with decent laws, decent additional laws on these matters – but decent laws don’t take the place of practical measures. This Government’s got to be held accountable for the fact that they promised a whole lot of things 12 months ago and they haven’t been delivered.– AMWU Conference, Sydney, doorstop interview
– Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley (Labor)
July 26, 2006
FAINE: [inaudible] Ministers for the law who have a busy agenda and added to it just recently, as you may have heard on AM this morning, is the prospect for the Commonwealth Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock to revamp the laws on censorship. He’s not happy with things on television and book sales. He says books on terrorism are being sold and Big Brother needs to get a dose of its own medicine. Nicola Roxon is the Shadow Attorney-General from the Federal Opposition. Nicola Roxon, good morning.
ROXON: Good morning. How are you?
FAINE: Does the Labor Party think we need new censorship laws?
ROXON: Look I think what this shows is that Mr Ruddock just cannot get his act together when he’s making our laws, I mean if he has a concern about books that are promoting terrorism it just highlights that he didn’t take the time to get those anti- terrorism laws right when we had a debate 18 months ago.
We already know he mucked up the sedition provisions because he pushed for something that was a clumsy tool instead of looking at how you might appropriately catch incitement to violence. And I’ve got to say from the Labor Party’s perspective we draw a very strong line between what is inciting violence and what might be hateful and ugly and things that people don’t want to read but nevertheless we have to argue against those in our public debate in a democracy. They’re not the things that should be unlawful. We believe the ones that should be [unlawful] are those that actually cross the line and encourage and urge violence from others. Using a censorship policy to do that just seems crazy and I think highlights that Mr Ruddock keeps getting it wrong and keeps then wanting to use other silly tools to deliver an outcome which he failed to deliver the first time around.
FAINE: Yes but the question is about whether the community standards are adequately reflected in the rules and regulations.
ROXON: Of course that’s what our classification structure is meant to do.
FAINE: But is it in touch or not?
ROXON: Well I think broadly its right. It’s always appropriate to be able to review it but we do have to understand that the classification scheme is a co-operative one between the states and the Commonwealth and that is a word that Mr Ruddock doesn’t like dealing with. He actually has to be able to work with the states to work out what is going to be in this classification scheme. He can’t do it just by announcing it in the media.
FAINE: Why not?
ROXON: And then saying we should all just do it.
FAINE: He’s in charge isn’t he?
ROXON: He isn’t. The classification structure is a cooperative one that relies on agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. Why doesn’t he go and talk to them if he’s got a problem with this, not just announce it in the media?
FAINE: He’s laying down what he believes are the new limits that he wants to see. To some extent he’s got more say than anybody else doesn’t he?
ROXON: He certainly does and in our federal system its appropriate but you’d be interested to know it wasn’t something that was on the agenda yesterday or the day before for the SCAG meeting and is obviously today on the agenda.
It doesn’t seem to me to be something that he is seriously trying to deal with because it would have been in, you know, the papers, he would have been negotiating with the states, he would have been trying to deal with this in a serious way.– Shadow Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon (Labor) interview with Jon Faine
– Melbourne ABC Radio 774
States to look at censorship laws
July 27, 2006
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock today welcomed the willingness of the States and Territories to re-examine laws relating to the classification of material advocating acts of terrorism, including the so-called books of hate.
“The Classification Scheme is intended to reflect community standards and a significant proportion the community is outraged that this material is available,” Mr Ruddock said today at a meeting of Australia’s Censorship Ministers in Melbourne.
Mr Ruddock questioned whether current censorship laws strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the community’s right to be protected from material that incites terrorism.
“Material which urges or advocates terrorist acts should not be available for sale. Our laws should be effective to keep offensive material off the streets, and protect the vulnerable and impressionable in the community,” Mr Ruddock said
“We are not about curtailing freedom of speech. “I believe there is a case for the Classification Board to be given the power to ban material which has been submitted by law enforcement authorities and contains depictions or descriptions that advocate terrorist acts.
“I am pleased that the states and territories, some of whom had previously expressed concerns about the availability of particular books, are willing to support a fresh look at the Classification Scheme,” Mr Ruddock said.– States & Territories reconsider classification of terrorist material
– Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock (Labor)
July 27, 2006
Most state attorneys-general had earlier said they believed censorship laws were tough enough, but Mr Ruddock said there was now a mood for change.
“I am pleased that the states and territories, some of whom had previously expressed concerns about the availability of particular books, are willing to support a fresh look at the Classification Scheme,” he said.
“The Classification Scheme is intended to reflect community standards and a significant proportion of the community is outraged that this material is available.”
Mr Ruddock questioned whether current laws struck the right balance between freedom of expression and properly protecting the community.
“Material which urges or advocates terrorist acts should not be available for sale. Our laws should be effective to keep offensive material off the streets, and protect the vulnerable and impressionable in the community,” Mr Ruddock said.
“We are not about curtailing freedom of speech.”
He said he thought there was a case for the Classification Board to be given the power to ban material which contains depictions or descriptions that advocate terrorist acts.– States agree to look at censorship
July 28, 2006
In the end, however, the states fell into line, although some maintained a veneer of suspicion. Mr Ruddock said he was pleased that previously reluctant states and territories “are willing to support a fresh look”.
“Material which urges or advocates terrorist acts should not be available for sale,” he said. “We are not about curtailing freedom of speech.”
Mr Ruddock asked the states to ban material “counselling, urging, providing instruction or praising” terrorist acts.– States cave in on Ruddock’s book curbs
– article @ smh.com.au
July 28, 2006
Mr Ruddock said he had highlighted a gap in the censorship laws – allowing through books “advocating” a terrorist act in general – with a hypothetical scenario.
“I am puzzled if attorneys come to a meeting and don’t have the wit to be able to understand what the law means,” he said on the second day of the meeting in Melbourne.
“The scenario demonstrates it. It ought not to be beyond the wit of people to understand it.”
Although the state attorneys were not persuaded by his example, Mr Ruddock said it had been agreed that government staffers would draft a paper based on his scenarios, “perhaps in one syllable terms”.
The submission would be presented to a later attorneys’ meeting where Mr Ruddock hoped they would be convinced of the need to strengthen censorship law.
“The Victorian attorney sees human rights as absolutes. You are entitled to impact upon people’s freedom of speech if it is going to secure people’s lives and personal securities,” he said.
Mr Ruddock rejected Mr Hulls suggestion the federal criminal law could be used instead to tackle the problem saying the proposal “flies in the face of what is in fact the most sensible route”.
Tougher censorship was more effective than imposing jail terms on people under criminal law, Mr Ruddock said.
“Rob Hulls has a bit of a blind spot in relation to these matters.
“I hope that in the intervening time a sensible premier might realise the implications of dealing with national security issues in a comprehensive and sensible way.”
Mr Hulls acknowledged the attorneys had agreed to consider a further submission on the issue even though Mr Ruddock had so far failed to make his case.
“We’ll have a look at it but the general view was that the censorship laws are actually appropriate now,” he said.
Mr Ruddock’s proposal was “half-baked” and had not identified any gaps in the current censorship laws, Mr Hulls said.
“He couldn’t tell us what the problem was with the censorship law, in fact (he) cited examples where the censorship legislation is actually working.
“This is a very important forum dealing with matters of national significance.
“He come in and he postures and says there’s a big problem with our censorship laws but he can’t tell us what the problem is.”– Ruddock and states at censorship odds
July 28, 2006
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell.
Mr Corbell said the states and territories remained unconvinced of the need for the tougher laws.
“There was no support to change the laws but we did indicate we would look at any further information the Commonwealth wished to provide,” he said.
“In the meeting, Mr Ruddock provided a hypothetical example using a hypothetical book with a hypothetical claim not captured by the current laws.
“We did not feel his argument was compelling.”– Federal, ACT talks on terror law threat
The Muslim community on the book ban
August 1, 2006
Senator FAULKNER—I suppose the logical follow-through issue for people in parliament and government to consider is how we deal with that perception. Do you change the laws or do you try and deal with some of the other root causes? What is your view on how to deal with it? You have talked about increasing fear, growing alienation and mistrust of authority in the Muslim community. I accept that evidence that you have given. I think all of those things ought to be concerning for members of this committee and members of parliament and senators. I think those are matters of great concern. How would you advise this committee or parliament or government to deal with that growing fear of, mistrust in and alienation of the Muslim community?
Dr Kadous—Let us break it up into legal, political and social. Legally, I think accepting the recommendations of the Sheller report would restore balance regarding some of these issues, particularly proscription—I know that is outside of the scope today. I think implementing the recommendations of the Sheller report would show that the government is open to independent review of these antiterrorism laws. It would communicate to the community that they still have significant rights and that the government is not necessarily going one way on the laws. They are not pressing hard; they are adjusting the laws to ensure that they have a lesser impact on the Muslim community. I also think, strategically, from what we have seen in the last few days, and also with the sedition legislation, that trying to squash particular points of view is counterproductive—whether it be the censorship of books or the introduction of sedition offences, it is likely to backfire for a number of reasons.
We have already observed in the community people telling us that the reason they are introducing these sedition laws is that they cannot combat the arguments logically, so they are resorting to legal protections to entrench the message that they want to put out. Of course, I am not including in that incitement to violence. Incitement to violence should always be met with the full force of the law. I am talking about other things that may be said. I think censorship is counterproductive because all it effectively does is to work as an imprimatur for people who might be susceptible to thinking, ‘This is a book worth reading,’ or ‘This is an idea that’s worthy of further attention.’ Attempts to censor arguments are counterproductive.
On a political level, sometimes politicians forget about the impact of what they say. For example, when a politician says that the freedom to wear hijab is not the kind of freedom we want in Australia, that it is like the freedom that existed in Nazi Germany, that has ramifications on a very real basis for people on the street. After every terrorist attack we see a spike in attacks on women. After comments like that, you talk to your family and friends and they tell you that they have been attacked verbally. Another comment is that people who want to implement sharia law—and I am not trying to single out a particular party or person; I am simply giving examples—should go back home. This is ignorant on two fronts. Firstly, it shows a misunderstanding of what sharia is. Sharia law to Muslims in just how they do things. It covers business transactions, bioethics, inheritance law and family law. It is not just what is depicted in the media. That shows ignorance from that aspect.
It also shows ignorance of the demographics of the Muslim community. In the order of 40 per cent of the Muslim community is born in Australia. If you tell them to go home, they go, ‘Where? Back to Sydney?’ That is the issue. Politically, I think politicians need to be more careful about what they say. Socially, a recommendation that the Sheller report put forward is that there needs to be education of the Muslim community about the laws. We have done as much as we can within our limited resources, but I think it needs to be taken to the next level. Simplifying the laws and reducing their discretionary nature would also help. But those are also some of the recommendations within the Sheller report.– Senator John Faulkner
– Dr Kadous (Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network)
– Review of security and counter-terrorism legislation
– Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
Academics concerned about terrorism research
September 11, 2006
MARGOT O’NEILL: Why is it that growing numbers of young men and women are willing to kill themselves and slaughter innocent bystanders? It’s a vital question for those combating terrorism, which is why the Australian Research Council granted more than $800,000 to one of Australia’s most distinguished sociologists, Professor Riaz Hassan, to study suicide terrorism. It’s one of the largest research grants ever given for studying terrorism, which the Government has designated a priority for the federally funded research council. But Professor Hassan has confirmed to Lateline that he’s abandoned plans to interview those associated with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas because of concerns about Australia’s new anti-terror laws. Professor Hassan, who was made a member of the Order of Australia this year, refused a TV interview, but, in a statement to Lateline, said he’d “Had a meeting with [the Attorney-General] Philip Ruddock in Adelaide late last year to try to clarify the situation […] and his [Mr Ruddock’s] response was that I must ‘follow the law’. I am continuing with my study and exploring ways to restructure it to achieve the research objectives.”
PROFESSOR TESSA MORRIS-SUZUKI: A case like this one is of real concern and, unless some steps can be taken to get clearer guidance from the Government, it’s something that’s likely to recur in a number of universities and, in the end, it really will discourage researchers from going into this field at all.
MARGOT O’NEILL: Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki is chair of the ANU’s Asia & Pacific Research Committee. She says researchers are postponing or abandoning field projects, because, like Professor Hassan, they fear they could be targeted by Australian intelligence agencies.
PROFESSOR TESSA MORRIS-SUZUKI: In the extreme cases, that people might be picked up for questioning, but also that they might be required to hand over field notes, their recordings of research, and so on.
MARGOT O’NEILL: Last year, Lateline reported on an honours student at Monash University, who was researching suicide terrorism when he was visited by a Federal Policeman.
ABRAHAM RUSHDI, MONASH UNIVERSITY RESEARCH STUDENT (LATELINE, 12 SEPTEMBER, 2005): He wanted to ascertain if I was suspicious in carrying out any terrorism attacks or activities, and just to substantiate why I was borrowing books on terrorism. And, I explained that, at that time, I was doing an honours – oh, the year before, I was doing an honours in Terrorism Studies at Monash Uni and those books were directly related to my studies.
PROFESSOR GEORGE WILLIAMS, UNSW LAW FACULTY: People need to be well aware of just how their research could lead them down a path that they didn’t expect, and well aware of the possibilities of being called in for questioning or even the less likely possibility of breaching the criminal law.
MARGOT O’NEILL: Some researchers have been warned by their universities they could be detained and their notes and recordings taken. They’ve also been told they must alert interview subjects that their anonymity can’t be guaranteed, and that all information may end up in the hands of Australian intelligence. It means interviews with radical Islamists are all the more elusive. Dr Greg Fealy is one of the ANU’s most experienced and internationally recognised researchers into Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia. Speaking from Jakarta, he says it’s a serious set back for Australia’s national security if academic researchers drop field interviews.
DR GREG FEALY: It is absolutely vital for researchers to be able to conduct their research directly with the people who are involved in suicide bombers – whether these are prospective suicide bombers, who are pulled out of operations or not being used, or those people who’ve been masterminding suicide operations. Sometimes, you get insights from meeting people, from being able to discuss with them, at length, their motivations and their rationale for carrying out suicide terrorism. You can only get that from first-hand access to those people, rather than from reading second-hand accounts.
MARGOT O’NEILL: But to do this researchers need more reassurance from the Government, he says.
DR GREG FEALY: I suspect the Government would be better off if it stipulated that what is of interest to them and their intelligence agencies is information that researchers gather on terrorist operations, as opposed to terrorism ideology or the psychology of terrorists – anything like that. Any information which relates to a possible terrorist attack, could of – should – of course, be handed over to the relevant authorities. But it’s all the other kinds of research on terrorism that are possibly…fall within this legislation and its restrictions – that’s the kind of research which we badly need to have done and which may not be done as a result of the legislation.
MARGOT O’NEILL: In an interview with Lateline tonight, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, tried to offer reassurance, saying the new laws did not target research, and that academics could come and see him in person if they had any concerns.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: If somebody had raised these issues with me, I would have been happy to talk to them directly about their projects, what they were doing, what they hope to gain from them, and talk to them about the nature of the circumscribed powers that agencies have to investigate real threats.
MARGOT O’NEILL: Mr Ruddock also urged Professor Riaz Hassan to pursue his original research interviews with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, even if it’s of interest to intelligence agencies.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: The point I would make is that he, in my view, should undertake his research, and, um, he needs to be aware that, obviously, research of that sort might excite considerable interest and I hope he would be, in appropriate circumstances, willing to disclose information that would assist the broader Australian community.– Terror research under threat from Aust law
– Lateline @ abc.net.au
Books removed from University library
September 14, 2006
The University of Melbourne has been forced to remove from its library so-called hate books that may breach new anti-terror sedition laws.
Three books on militant jihad and arguing for martyrdom, including suicide bombings, have been removed from shelves in the Baillieu library at the university. An honours student requesting access to one of the books has already been refused permission to borrow or even view it.
Melbourne University made the censorship decision on the basis that federal authorities could argue the books may be used to encourage terrorism by students.
…the University of Melbourne’s lawyers and library officials have gone a step further, taking the two banned books and a third, THE LOFTY MOUNTAIN, off their shelves.
THE LOFTY MOUNTAIN, by the same author — Sheik Abdullah Azzam, an alleged inspiration to bin Laden — contains similar subject matter.
Associate professor Richard Pennell, the university’s lecturer in Middle Eastern history, is understood to have bought the three books over the internet more than a year ago to help teach an honours course.
“I am certainly pretty worried about the handling of these books,” Dr Pennell said.
Deputy vice-chancellor Peter McPhee said academic research would suffer as a result of the laws.
“It contravenes a fundamental principle of academic life that students and academics need to be able to access research materials,” he said.– Uni bans books on jihad
September 15, 2006
Several Australian universities are looking to follow the University of Melbourne’s decision to remove some Islamic jihad books from their libraries because they may breach censorship or new sedition laws.
But despite federal bans on two radical books, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said researchers and lecturers were able to refer to extremist ideology in teaching an academic understanding of militant Islam.
Mr Ruddock said sedition laws included a “good faith” defence, which stated a person needed to intentionally urge the use of violence to be prosecuted.
While the banned books should not be “disseminated” by the university, lecturers were free to use them as part of lectures if they were not used to incite terrorism, Mr Ruddock’s spokesman said.
“It doesn’t stop someone who has bought the books before (the July decision to refuse classification) from using them for research, but you can’t disseminate it.
“We would hope (that lecturers) would be responsible and lecture on the basis that these books have been refused classification.”– Book bans spread
Librarians speak-out against the book ban
September 25, 2006
The forced removal of two books – JOIN THE CARAVAN and DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS- from the University of Melbourne Library threatens both our freedoms and our capacity to respond to terrorism.
Australia’s liberal and tolerant way of life is based on respect for each others’ views and the freedom to state our opinions without fear of retribution or arrest. We have so many wonderful authors because they have the freedom to explore ideas and to stimulate us with their creativity.
The freedom to read, see or hear what we want is a central element of the Australian way of life. We expect and make hearty comment when we disagree with others but we respect their right to express their views. Banning books takes away not only our right to read the opinions of others but also our right to disagree with what they say. We can’t refute what we can’t read.
Even at the height of anticommunism in the 1950s, it was argued that we need to be able to read communist writings on the principle of “know your enemy.” In the post-September 11, 2001 world – and after the terrorist outrages in Madrid, London, Bali and Thailand – this is even more important. If we can’t read what extremists are saying, we can’t understand their thinking or present alternative views nor can we guard against their threats.
For universities, the freedom to research and study is central. Universities exist to educate the leaders of the future and to research important matters for society. Those matters include the security of Australia as the national research priority ‘Safeguarding Australia’s frontiers’ confirms. It is absolutely essential that our students and researchers can study the difficult questions of what poses a threat to Australia whether it be environmental damage, economic risk or terrorist threat. If the students and researchers can’t read the opinions of others – including the most extreme – then they can’t research the issues effectively.
It is the job of Australia’s university and other libraries to make available the information which enables that research. If they are constrained from doing so, we are all at risk.
The Council of Australian University Librarians supports its members in the achievement of their objectives, especially the provision of access to, and training in the use of, scholarly information, leadership in the management of information, and contribution to the university experience. CAUL is comprised of the library directors of all Australian universities . http://www.caul.edu.au/
The Australian Library and Information Association is the professional organisation for the Australian library and information services sector. It seeks to empower the profession in the development, promotion and delivery of quality library and information services to the nation, through leadership, advocacy and mutual support. http://www.alia.org.au/
The Australian Society of Authors is the peak professional association for Australia’s literary creators. Our members are biographers, illustrators, academics, cartoonists, scientists, food and wine writers, children’s writers, ghost writers, librettists, travel writers, romance writers, translators, computer programmers, journalists, poets and novelists. http://www.asauthors.org/
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. It is the global voice of the library and information profession. http://www.ifla.org/– Statement on Forced Removal of Books from a University Library
– Council of Australian University Librarians
– Australian Library and Information Association
– Australian Society of Authors International
– Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
Academics fight censorship laws
October 02, 2006
HELEN BROWN: Last year a university historian and lecturer bought two books to help his students better understand Jihad, or the Holy War waged by some Muslims. A year later the books have had to be taken off the library shelves.
GLYNN DAVIS: We feel we had no choice because the law requires it, it has fines of up to $27,000 and imprisonment of up to two years, and we can’t ask our library staff to risk that.
HELEN BROWN: The two books, by the late Abdullah Azam, a Palestinian Islamist, have been refused a classification, which means they can’t be sold, displayed, loaned or hired out.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: My concern is about laws that might encourage people to carry out terrorist acts. These books have been refused classification because of the arguments in relation to Jihad that they advance. They were found not to have any substantial educational or literary merit and were refused classification because of their content.
HELEN BROWN: The University says that even keeping the books in a secure area of the library doesn’t shield them from the law’s effect.
GLYNN DAVIS: This is, for us, a very rare occurrence, so rare in fact, that we’ve had media inquiries from around the world about it because most people don’t think of Australia as the sort of country that bans books.
HELEN BROWN: The ban has raised concerns among librarians and authors, who say it’s heavy handed.
DEREK WHITEHEAD: I think it’s very difficult to make that point in such an absolute way, that is to ban all access to this material whatsoever, which is what’s effectively been done. I think that’s possibly taking things too far.
HELEN BROWN: The University says the federal Attorney General has a difficult task, but wonders if the reasoning on the law has gone too far.
GLYNN DAVIS: So what we’ve done is written to the Attorney General in the politest possible terms, letting him know of our concerns, asking for clarification and wondering whether this was the intention of this law. After all, the effect of the law is to stop genuine scholars from accessing material in their area of expertise.
HELEN BROWN: Mr Ruddock says he’ll take the University’s concerns into account.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Research is important. I’d never suggest that research is something that ought not to be encouraged or utilised, and I will look at the professor’s letter when I receive it and I’ll be prepared to discuss, with my own officials and with State Government officials, as to whether or not, on a limited basis and a structured basis, material necessary for research can be made available for that particular purpose.
HELEN BROWN: While the books might be banned from the public, they can still be downloaded on the internet or simply bought from an online book store.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: I wouldn’t want to give a legal opinion about whether or not downloading is in fact lawful, but I would certainly say that those who seek to display them, hire them out or sell them, do commit offences. In relation to the internet, it always presents a variety of new complications that we have to look at.
HELEN BROWN: The University of Melbourne says it’s also seeking clarification on a third book by the same author dealing with similar subject matter. The university says the book hasn’t been classified and it’s unclear as to whether it’s been looked at under the same rules. The University and the group of concerned librarians are likely to be disappointed if the ban continues and are keen for Mr Ruddock’s response.– Melbourne Uni to challenge terrorism laws
October 3, 2006
Academics may be given limited access to books banned under terrorism laws, federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said. His comments came after the University of Melbourne removed three books from its library, fearful it may be breaking laws which prevent the distribution of literature which praises terrorism or terrorists.
University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis wrote a letter to Mr Ruddock seeking clarification on the laws. “The effect of the law is to stop genuine scholars from accessing material in their area of expertise,” Professor Davis said in the letter.
“I’m not sure that was the intention of the law.”
Mr Ruddock has said he was happy to consider Prof Davis’ concerns.
“There may be some way in which under appropriate supervision that can be pursued,” Mr Ruddock told ABC TV.
“Of course I am happy to look at those who would argue that for research purposes there might need to be limited access to particular publications.
“I’m surprised in a sense that this hasn’t happened before in relation to a wide range of material that is refused classification.”– Ruddock considers access to ‘terror’ books
October 3, 2006
While it is perfectly legitimate to question whether taxpayers should be funding inadequate and biased research, preventing access to primary sources is another matter. And as The Australian reports today, the works in question are freely available on the internet – allowing would-be terrorists to read them, but not academics seeking to understand and prevent their behaviour.
It is already illegal to incite violence, and a far-reaching legal apparatus exists to tackle racial and ethnic vilification. While the books singled out by the Government may be inflammatory, many similarly offensive titles will continue to be sold. Barring access to publications should be used only as a last resort.– Editorial: Government must tread carefully when restricting jihadi texts
Federal Police investigation
On 15 January 2007, Channel 4 in the UK broadcast an episode of its DISPATCHES documentary series titled UNDERCOVER MOSQUE.
Clips from Australian Sheikh Feiz Mohammad’s DEATH SERIES DVDs were screened, along with footage of them being sold. This led to an investigation by the Australian Federal Police.
January 18, 2007
Australian Federal Police are looking into DVDs featuring Sheik Feiz Mohammed, the leader of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Liverpool, in Sydney’s west.
NSW Premier Morris Iemma today accused the sheik of inciting terrorism in the collection of DVDs, called the DEATH SERIES.
The Federal Government said the sheik’s DVD preachings were “reprehensible and offensive”, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said they were “obscene” and Mr Iemma labelled them “disgusting”.
In the DVDs, which are on sale through the youth centre’s website, the Sydney-born cleric urges young Muslims to be prepared to sacrifice themselves for Islam.
“The importation of hatred into Australia is totally unacceptable. These remarks and the others before them are condemned by the government.”
Mr Iemma said he would urge the Federal Government to ban sales of the DVDs.
“This DVD goes a lot further than vilification,” Mr Iemma told reporters in Sydney.
“The sort of incitement that the DVD encourages is incitement to acts of violence and acts of terror.”
The Acting Attorney-General, Kevin Andrews, has labelled the preachings an “importation of hatred” and said an investigation had been launched.
“There is an offence in Australia, in broad terms, for a person to incite violence against another person or group of people based on political opinion or religious grounds or belief,” he told reporters earlier today.– Police probe firebrand cleric
– article @ smh.com.au
January 19, 2007
In one video, running on the hugely popular website YouTube, he admonishes his followers in English for not “sacrificing a drop of blood” as martyrs.
Australian Federal Police said yesterday they had begun inquiries into Sheik Feiz’s DVD encouraging jihad, which is believed to be unclassified in Australia and illegal to sell.
NSW Premier Morris Iemma accused the cleric yesterday of inciting terrorism.
“This DVD goes a lot further than vilification,” he said. “The sort of incitement that the DVD encourages is incitement to acts of violence and acts of terror.”
The YouTube video follows revelations in a British documentary that Sheik Feiz’s collection of DVDs – called the DEATH SERIES – were being sold by children in the car park of a mosque in the British city of Birmingham.
In that and another series called SIGNS OF THE HOUR, made about four years ago, Sheik Feiz labelled Jews “pigs” and exhorted children to jihad.
Acting Attorney-General Kevin Andrews said the matter was being investigated by the relevant authorities.
“It’s offensive to the Australian people, it’s reprehensible, it’s particularly outrageous that certain groups in Australia, such as the Jewish community, have been highlighted in these comments and we condemn the comments,” he said.
Experts believe the DVD material – recorded in 2004 – would escape federal sedition laws, which were passed in 2005 as part of the federal Government’s terrorism legislation, but may fall foul of other laws.
University of NSW law lecturer Andrew Lynch said NSW racial vilification legislation might apply to Sheik Feiz’s description of Jews as pigs, and the videos could be in breach of the federal criminal code, which prohibits incitement to commit an offence.– ‘Jihad’ sheik to face new probe
January 19, 2007
Copies were still on sale yesterday in an Islamic bookshop in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba, and on the Sydney youth centre’s website.
Acting federal Attorney-General Kevin Andrews denounced the sheik’s remarks as “reprehensible and offensive” and said the Government was concerned about a “developing pattern of behaviour” among some Islamic clerics. “The importation of hatred into Australia is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Yesterday, NSW Premier Morris Iemma called on Canberra to use sedition laws to outlaw the DVDs. “He has gone way beyond the sort of outrageous and stupid comments made in recent times by the other sheikh,” said Mr Iemma, referring to Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali. “This fellow is inciting people to commit acts of terror,” Mr Iemma said.
Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said the comments were “obscene in the extreme” and called on the Government to act against the sheikh. “As I see it, Sheikh Muhammad’s statements add up to an incitement to terrorism,” he said. “I would say this to Sheikh Muhammad: Do not return to Australia, you are not welcome here.”– Sheikh sparks outrage
– article @ theage.com.au
Controversial DVDs rated PG
In February 2007, two of the DVDs taken from the Global Islamic Youth Centre were rated PG (Religious Themes) by the Classification Board.
February 27, 2007– Classification Board
SIGNS OF THE HOUR Film (DVD)
Classification PG (Parental guidance recommended)
Consumer Advice Religious themes
Category Notional Sale/Hire 100%
Date of Classification 27 February 2007
Author NOT SHOWN
Publisher NOT SHOWN
Production Company 1 ISLAM PRODUCTIONS
Country of Origin AUSTRALIA
Applicant AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE
File Number T07/608
Classification Number 4172053E
February 28, 2007– Classification Board
THE GRAVE Film (DVD)
Classification PG (Parental guidance recommended)
Consumer Advice Religious themes
Category Notional Sale/Hire 100%
Date of Classification 28 February 2007
Author SHEIKH FEIZ MOHAMMAD
Publisher 1 ISLAM PRODUCTIONS
Production Company 1 ISLAM PRODUCTIONS
Country of Origin AUSTRALIA
Applicant AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE
File Number T07/607
Classification Number 61620626
Ruddock takes ‘terror’ ban to SCAG
13 April 2007 was the meeting day of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Here Ruddock proposed to further crackdown on books and films that he felt promoted terrorism.
April 13, 2007
Attorney General: I can report to you today that there have been some developments which I regard as very positive in relation to the issues relating to advocacy of terrorist acts.
You’d be aware that the documentation that had been submitted to Attorneys was documentation that had been prepared by Commonwealth officials alone. The reason for that was quite clear. The officials felt that they had from their ministers no guidance to be able to agree to an approach within the co-operative model in relation to dealing with classification issues.
The Commonwealth in its paper outlined how it might proceed to amend the Classification Act. In the discussions today, the State Attorneys have agreed that officers should now – and I might use the words from the actual agreed text –“Ministers agreed to request officers to report back by July on amendments to the Code and Guidelines – that’s the cooperative measure – that could be made to ensure that material that advocates terrorist acts is adequately captured.” I will put off consideration as to whether there should be any Commonwealth legislation to give officers the opportunity to deal with those issues by incorporating in the Code and if necessary in the Guidelines, provisions that will require the classification body and the Review Board to take into account advocacy. That should be advocacy that deals with, direct and indirect, encouragement of people to carry out terrorist acts.
It will address, hopefully, the matters that had been raised by particularly the Premier of New South Wales in his comments about me, and I’m pleased that there has been a substantial shift in the position that state attorneys have taken.
Journalist: On the terrorism advocacy are there many products on the market at the moment that the laws, if passed, when passed, will actually cover? Are you expecting books to be pulled from the shelves and that sort of thing?
Attorney General: No I don’t. But I think when there are issues that are brought to your attention and it becomes quite clear that the law does not permit you to deal with them, then it is important that the law be appropriately amended.
The issues that I would direct your attention are to the full range of publications that were considered two of whom were on the basis of existing law refused classification, but a number of others weren’t seen to fall within that strict definition.
And the other really relates to the matters that the Premier of New South Wales raised. I mean I don’t know whether you’re familiar with them but they related to Sheikh Mohammed who was the leader of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Liverpool in Sydney’s west. And the DVD, so that would be a product that could be refused classification, went on to urge young Moslems to be prepared to sacrifice themselves for Islam. It said: “We want children to have …” sorry. “We want to have children and offer them as soldiers in defending Islam. Teach them this. There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid.” That is a holy warrior.
“Put in their soft and tender hearts the zeal of jihad and the love of martyrdom.”
Now, I mean this is not what we normally expect in religions where you teach people to love another.
Mr Iemma called upon me to “do whatever was necessary” to have that withdrawn from sale. And I couldn’t do anything because the classification regime would not have seen that as inciting a criminal act which is the precise words of the Code that now operates. But advocacy in the form that that term is used in the Criminal Code introduced into this code, would enable that issue to be dealt with and hopefully officers will agree that that sensible approach should be followed.
Journalist: There’s another sheikh that makes controversial comments from time to time or …
Attorney General: I can’t imagine who that would be.
Journalist: … week to week. This week he’s called on …
Attorney General: He’s a fine Australian is he?
Journalist: I’m not sure. They’re your words.
Attorney General: Well he claims that, I think.
Attorney General: Better than the Prime Minister.
Journalist: Do you agree with those comments?
Attorney General: Obviously not.
Journalist: He’s called on Australian Muslims last week to join the trenches with Iran to support them in their fight against the western world. Is there any scope for him to be charged under racial vilification laws or anything like that?
Attorney General: I would have to look at the issues and take legal advice on whether or not, by those words, he was advocating terrorist acts. I suspect not, but I wouldn’t want to give a definitive opinion in the form of legal advice in relation to that.
The point I would make is that he claims to be a fine Australian – better than the Prime Minister. I would say that anybody who argues that Australians should join Iran in the trenches, as you said, when it is involved in the development of the nuclear fuel cycle, in a way which puts it outside of the internationally agreed norms and supervision, is not arguing in the best interests of Australia. That’s the point I’d make. And it’s inappropriate to claim that you’re better than somebody else when you’re not arguing in Australia’s interests.
Journalist: But you don’t think he stepped over some criminal code?
Attorney General: Well I don’t give legal advice in relation to these matters. If he has, they’re matters that will be taken up by the Australian Federal Police and considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions. But I do make the point that Australia’s interests are the same interests of the international community – that is that Iran ought to be a good international citizen. Those who barrack that you should get in the trenches beside them are not barracking for Australia or for the international community.
Journalist: Back on the books and DVDs, will Australia be a safer place when these laws are toughened up?
Attorney General: If you think about these issues in the context, not of how you and I might read particular material, I mean if I read material of that sort I would dismiss it.
I think most Australians would. But in these matters, you have to think about how in the impressionable eyes sometimes of relatively young people – sometimes even people of relatively diminished capacity read these matters, when they hear or look at that sort of content encouraging them to be involved in acts of martyrdom along with a promise of a better life hereafter.
My view of a life hereafter has always been that loving your neighbours might help secure it, but the idea that killing your neighbours will achieve that I think is something which is abhorrent to most Australians. But the real concern is ‘would it, being advocated in that way, lead to some people thinking they should act in that way?’
If you look at the fact that people have been abroad and trained with terrorist organisations. You look at the fact that we’ve had some people who have gone into other countries, and Iraq and Afghanistan are countries in point at the moment, and engaged in suicide bombing, you ask yourself how did they get themselves to that point?
Is it something that they woke up one morning and said ‘gee, this is something I’ve got to do?’ Or is it something that was put into their mind by this sort of advocacy?
Will Australia be a safer place? If you stopped one person thinking of conducting themselves in that way it would be a safer place. Okay?– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
– Interview at Parliament House
April 13, 2007
Imported material will be stopped at Customs if it is found to glorify, praise or encourage acts of terrorism.
“We are not going to allow material to be out there saying terrorism is a good idea,” Mr Ruddock told the Herald Sun yesterday.
“This is a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism.
“Terrorism acts are a specific and highly dangerous threat to Australian society. Material which advocates people undertake such acts should not be available for this reason alone.”
Mr Ruddock said the new law would aim at removing offensive material from the shelves rather than prosecuting authors or speakers.
He said the sedition laws covered incitement to terrorism offences and required a “very high standard of proof”.
“The classification scheme targets the material, not the person who creates it. Sometime it’s hard to identify the right person, or they are outside our jurisdiction.
“This proposal is intended to get inflammatory material inciting terrorism out of circulation without having to conduct a criminal prosecution.”– Ban on hate books
April 13, 2007
PHILIP RUDDOCK: They’re not sufficient at the moment because the test that has to be satisfied is of a higher order, that it is has to promote, incite or instruct rather than just advocate.
And the point that I’m making is that when you come to look at a range of publications, we saw that in relation to a number of books that dealt with terrorist acts, some were refused classification, others weren’t. And one of the reasons was that the test is a very high test.
LINDY KERIN: But the plan has sparked intense debate.
Maree McCaskill from the Australian Publishers Association says it’s an attack on fundamental right of freedom of speech
MAREE MCCASKILL: Publishers would accept that terrorism is something that we would not wish to encourage. But the difficulty is that once you start legislating thew ability of a government to ban books or ban all types of publishing, then you have a problem that it could be the thin edge of the wedge.
We’ve already seen a number of publications taken out of libraries and taken off shelves that have been published and been around for some time, and now the government has removed those.
I have a real concern that this is about freedom of speech. It is about censorship and once you start allowing governments to censor as they feel fit, then you give them a very wide opportunity to start being the arbiter of all sorts of things that should be banned or removed from shelves.
LINDY KERIN: Philip Ruddock accepts the new laws will be met by protests from civil libertarians, but he believes the measures will be supported by the wider community.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: The point I’d make is that when you are dealing with the advocacy of terrorism, which takes and puts people’s lives at risk, I think people say, look on balance, this is not a matter of people having a right to look at it, it’s a question of whether in fact it encourages people to involve themselves in committing acts of this sort.– Federal Attorney General proposes tough new laws on material advocating terrorism
– World Today @ abc.net.au
April 13, 2007
New South Wales Attorney-General John Hatzistergos says the states will consider supporting reasonable changes, but he is urging caution.
“It would mean additional work on the part of those authorities and going through material,” he said.
“But also you could have a different view expressed by different law enforcement authorities about what the publication does or does not do.
“At this point in time the board has operated reasonably well, it’s been a co-operative model.”– Move to ban terror books
– article @ abc.net.au
Delayed PG outrage
Following Friday’s meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, the old news that the Classification Board had passed Sheik Feiz Mohammed’s DVDs made the headlines.
After applications by the Federal Police, SIGN OF THE HOUR and THE GRAVE were rated PG (Religious Themes) on 27th, and 28 of February 2007. Note, the National Classification Database has no listing for anything called THE DEATH SERIES.
April 15, 2007
…the Office of Film and Literature Classification has ruled that THE DEATH SERIES is suitable to be bought and watched by children.
The shock decision has seen the nation’s peak censorship body slammed as weak and out of touch by family groups and the Jewish community.
It has also made a mockery of the Attorney-General’s plans to bring in tough new laws that ban material which “advocates” terrorism.
The PG decision comes as Australian-born Sheik Feiz, who is in exile in Lebanon, is still preaching to Australians by phone.
The films urge parents to make their children holy warriors and martyrs, and praises jihad as the pinnacle of Islam.
The radical sheik makes snorting noises on the films as he vilifies Jews as the “army of pigs”.
He blames a lack of courage for martyrdom on the battlefield for the “humiliation” of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Guantanamo.
The censors’ finding means children of any age can watch the films – but it is advised under-15s have a parent present.
The OFLC finding said the sheik’s calls to “jihad” and “martyrdom” were ambiguous.
And it found that comments vilifying Jews as an “army of pigs” and saying “behind me is a Jew, come kill him” were mitigated by the context.– Islamic pro-terrorism hate film gets PG rating
April 15, 2007
Australia’s chief censor has denied reports his office gave a PG rating to a film that promotes terrorism.
A report in News Limited papers alleged the DVD, featuring firebrand Sheik Feiz Mohammad, urged children to martyr themselves in the name of Islam and referred to Jews as pigs.
However, Office of Film and Literature Classification director Des Clark has told Sky News he has seen the film and it contains absolutely no incitement to violence or overt racial hate speech.
But Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock has suggested an urgent change is now required in the country’s censorship laws.
Mr Ruddock says he wants an agreement within the next two weeks, saying Sheik Mohammed’s film clearly advocates terrorist acts.
But, the Attorney-General admits he hasn’t viewed the DVD.– Terror film PG rating
April 15, 2007
Acting New South Wales Premier John Watkins says the Prime Minister should step-in over the decision to give a series of radical Islamic films a PG rating.
Mr Watkins says the state could do nothing to stop the Office of Film and Literature Classification giving the material a PG rating.
He says the office has made a mistake in classifying the films.
“I’m disgusted that any film calling for martyrdom and murder and describing anyone from any religion as a pig could be determined suitable for our children,” he said.
“I’m calling on the Prime Minister John Howard to take action that the classification bureau would not.”– PM urged to take action over PG rating on radical Islamic films
– article @ abc.net.au
April 15, 2007
Shadow Attorney-General Senator Joe Ludwig today urged Mr Ruddock to request an immediate review of the Office of Film and Literature Classification decision.
Mr Ruddock has already said today he will ask states and territories to urgently change censorship laws so that films praising terrorists can be banned.
Mr Ruddock said he had instructed his officials to seek agreement from the states within two weeks, following the classification of the DVD.
“Mr Ruddock must explain how a jihad video by Sheik Feiz Mohammed was given the same rating as THE NEVERENDING STORY and BACK TO THE FUTURE parts one, two and three,” Senator Ludwig said in a statement.
Senator Ludwig said Mr Ruddock was one of only four people with authority to seek a review – the others being the publisher, the person who applied for classification and a person who has been seriously aggrieved by the material.
“As a matter of urgency, Mr Ruddock must seek an immediate review,” Senator Ludwig said.
“This is a film that urges parents to send their kids on jihad, and attacks Jewish people – this is completely unacceptable.”
Mr Ruddock said today the test of whether a publication promoted, incited or instructed people to perform a criminal act was inadequate and material that advocated terrorism should be refused classification.
He said the states had agreed to toughen laws for material that praised terrorism following passage of federal terrorism legislation in 2005, and there should be no further delays in the states enacting the changes.– Warning over ‘disgusting’ martyr film
Ruddock pressures States into more censorship
April 15, 2007
Attorney General Philip Ruddock will ask the States and Territories to urgently approve changes to censorship laws after revelations that videos praising terrorism have been given a PG rating.
Mr Ruddock said the current test of whether a publication “promotes, incites or instructs” people to do a criminal act was inadequate and that material which “advocates” terrorism should be refused classification.
He said he was pleased the States had finally agreed the laws for material that praised terrorism should be toughened, but wanted no further delays.
“I have instructed my officials to see if they can gain the agreement of the States within two weeks with a view to settling this issue. I don’t want to wait until the next scheduled meeting of the Censorship Ministers in July,” Mr Ruddock said.
“If the States and Territories continue to resist, as they have done for more than a year, then I may be forced to go it alone and make this change to the Commonwealth’s Classification Act.”
He said advocacy was the same terminology agreed by all state and territory governments for the 2005 terrorism legislation.
Advocate in the Criminal Code refers to action that directly or indirectly counsels, urges, provides instruction on doing a terrorist act or directly praises the doing of a terrorist act where there is a risk that such praise might lead a person to engage in a terrorist act.
Under Mr Ruddock’s proposal material that contains depictions and/or descriptions that “advocate” terrorist acts would be refused classification and could not be sold or distributed.
The Attorney-General said the “advocacy” test was the most appropriate way to deal with material like the DEATH SERIES DVDs made by Sheik Feiz Mohammad of the Global Islamic Youth Centre.
“Whether a not a product should be refused classification will still be a matter for the independent Classification Board, or the Review Board, to determine.”
He added that if the States and Territories quickly agreed to a new test, the process of public consultation could commence.
“The Australian Government considers that direct praise of a terrorist act carries the risk that someone – usually the more impressionable and younger in the community – might be inspired to commit a similar terrorist act,” Mr Ruddock said.– States should agree to New Test for Terrorism Material
– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
April 16, 2007
John Laws: These videos have been around for a very long time. Why did your office become involved in this matter again last week or over the weekend?
Attorney General: Well, I’ve been involved for something like 12 months in trying to get the States to agree to a tougher test for what I think is material that advocates, particularly, terrorism.
I looked at the law that applied and the law at the moment is a very significant test and the test is whether a publication promotes, incites or instructs people to do a criminal act. What the Classification Board has done at the request of the police, because these matters were referred to the Classification Board, is determine they do not promote, incite or instruct in doing a criminal act – even if it’s a terrorist act.
Now, I think the test needs to be a lower test. I asked the state attorneys to agree to that and they said ‘no’.
I asked the State Attorneys to agree to have officers look at it and they said ‘yes’.
When the officers looked at it the Commonwealth said this is how we can do it and the states said ‘no, we’re not going to be a party to it’.
Then at the meeting last Friday when I raised the matter again and particularly the quotes of Premier Iemma in relation to Sheikh Mohammad I used those quotes and they said oh look, we’ll have officials look at it again. And that’s going to be another six months.
John Laws: And in the meantime this stuff is floating around on the market and is readily available to people.
Attorney General: That’s right. So at the weekend when I became aware, and I wasn’t aware before that it had been classified PG, I have asked all the state attorneys to agree to officials meeting in the next week to settle the form of the amendment to the Code and to do the consultation that is necessary, and for ministers to agree out of session which they can, to the change.
The change would be a very simple one, but I think it would then enable the Classification Board to deal with videos of this sort.
John Laws: Okay. don’t quite understand why your office didn’t know about it. Why did it take years for you to be told about it?
Attorney General: Well, I haven’t issued instructions to be advised of every classification decision.
John Laws: But one would think anything as sensitive as that would be brought to your attention automatically.
Attorney General: Well, I have directed that that should happen but they make 5,000 or so decisions a year and they haven’t been in the practice of bringing them to the attention of attorneys. I’ve said in relation to sensitive issues like this they should and I’ve given that direction
John Laws: Okay. But why does the Office of Film and Literature Classification think that something relating to terrorism in the climate in which we now live in this country and in fact the world is acceptable to be released on the open market?
Attorney General: They make a decision in accordance with the law, and that’s why I’ve been addressing the question of the law.
John Laws: Well the law’s stupid.
Attorney General: The law doesn’t permit them to deal with those products and that’s what I’ve been telling the state attorneys and they were playing games with it. When they came to a view on Friday that I think the game was up because of some of the quotes, they agreed to look at it by July, and what I’ve said over the weekend is this process needs to be expedited and they need to deal with it seriously.
When I’ve got the Deputy Premier out there saying you’ve got to do something about it. When I’ve got the Premier out there saying you’ve got to do something about it, I’m surprised that attorney generals don’t have the same sense of urgency.
John Laws: But can’t you control it? I mean you’ve had control of it up until now.
Attorney General: No. Classification is a co-operative scheme involving the Commonwealth and the states and territories. I mean theoretically I could amend the Commonwealth Classification Act and I might do that if the states aren’t prepared to agree. But when you’ve got a cooperative scheme in place, my view is you’ve got to give it a chance to work.
We’ve seen the way in which they’ve delayed it but they said on Friday they’d deal with and now I’m saying it’s got to be dealt with in the next fortnight.
John Laws: Yeah. You see, who are the people? Who’s the Office of Film and Literature Classification? Who are the people involved?
Attorney General: Well, the Chairman of it is a fellow called Des Clark who is a former Lord Mayor of Melbourne. There’s a fellow called Hunt – Paul Hunt, who’s the Deputy Chair, and there are I think about another 20 or so classifiers who are appointed in a process in which the Commonwealth goes through identifying who are suitable people to undertake this task. We consult with the states in relation to their suitability and then appointments are made.
John Laws: Who appoints them?
Attorney General: Well essentially the Governor General in counsel, but after a process which involves the States in assessing their suitability.
John Laws: I see. So this is not a totally federally controlled issue?
Attorney General: No it’s not.
John Laws: Why don’t you make it one?
Attorney General: Well we have a Constitution. I mean if you imagine that you could enact measures using the Corporations Power on the basis that these things are always distributed by corporations, you might have a Commonwealth code that deals with corporations and a state code that deals with individuals.
At the moment we’ve got a co-operative measure in place. I’ve really got to make it work, but I am looking at whether the Commonwealth should legislate if the States are going to play around with this issue again.
John Laws: It seems to me that … I just can’t understand how this kind of material could be given a PG rating. I mean that’s like putting FINDING NEMO or THE NEVERENDING STORY on the same level as hate videos. So these videos should not only be taken off the market. The people who made them should be prosecuted.
Attorney General: Well, I mean we’ve looked at whether prosecution is possible. I mean what you find John when you’re dealing with these sorts of issues – and I deal with them all the time – is that there is a group of people out there in the Australian community and in the end they get to senate committees and so on when you are dealing with legislation of this sort. The test that has to be satisfied in order to prosecute somebody for a criminal offence means you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the behaviour would lead to terror … that is being encouraged would occur.
In other words the test is one of beyond, it’s the criminal standard, beyond reasonable doubt – not the balance of probability, not a view that some people might be influenced. You have to prove in relation to these matters that people are promoting, inciting and instructing in relation to criminal acts, namely terrorist acts, to be able to deal with it adequately.
John Laws: Are the federal police still investigating this Sheikh Feiz Mohammad?
Attorney General: Well, I don’t report on operational issues but they asked that this material be assessed by the Classification Review Board.
John Laws: I just can’t understand how anybody with half a brain, even an ex Lord Mayor, could consider any of that stuff to be at PG level. How they just didn’t find it so offensive and bring it to your attention or the attention of the federal police is beyond me. I mean they’re not doing their job properly.
Attorney General: Well, no John. They have to make decisions on classification in terms of the Code, and it deals with all these things like pornography and child paedophilia and so on.
But when it comes to dealing with the advocacy of criminal acts it’s a very heavy test that has to be met. And it’s that test that I’ve sought to lower to give them power to be able to deal with these issues where the State attorneys general have been playing ducks and drakes.
John Laws: How, under any circumstances, could we accept Jewish people being referred to as ‘pigs’ in Australia?
Attorney General: Well I don’t think anybody should be referred to in language of that sort. They are issues that might be able to be brought to the attention of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission who might bring people in and counsel them, but that’s the only alternative method if you’re not going to classify it and refuse it to be marketed and sold.
John Laws: Yep. I just really fail to understand how intelligent people, more than 20 of them … I don’t know if they all look at all of this stuff. I suppose they take it in shifts do they?
Attorney General: No. Look, they do bring together a panel and I did speak through my staff to the Director and he said they saw it as being a whole lot of ranting.
I haven’t seen the videos myself but I’ve seen texts of what has been said and I don’t regard the material as being suitable for distribution.
John Laws: No. Well I’m glad you don’t, but you’d better tell somebody who makes these decisions that they’d better start looking at it the same way that you look at it.
Attorney General: Well I’m pushing this pretty hard with the state attorneys so I tell you I think I’ll send this transcript around to them.
John Laws: Yeah well that would … can I have a copy of that transcript?
Attorney General: We’ll get it for you John.
John Laws: That’s very good of you.
Attorney General: Okay.
John Laws: It’s good to talk to you Attorney. Thank you very much for your time.
Attorney General: Always a pleasure.– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock
– John Laws Radio Program
Rod Hulls on Ruddock’s censorship
April 29, 2007
The federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has backflipped and agreed to release a discussion paper on censorship laws this week in a move welcomed by Victorian Attorney-General, Rob Hulls.
Mr Hulls said he was pleased that Mr Ruddock, rather than acting unilaterally, had eventually agreed with his state and territory colleagues that any changes required proper community consultation.
“Censorship is a joint responsibility of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and the current cooperative system strikes a good balance between considerations such as artistic merit and community concerns about works that promote or incite violence,” Mr Hulls said.
“I and my state and territory colleagues trust that we will not see a repeat of Mr Ruddock’s attack on the scheme’s cooperative intent and spirit at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting earlier this month.
“Mr Ruddock tried to force through draconian changes in censorship laws in a move that circumvented due process, including public consultation. In a democratic country like Australia, there is no place for arrogant chief law officers who treat censorship as their personal fiefdom.
“The federal Attorney-General has already shown his contempt for due process and proper consultation with his unilateral decision to appoint the Prime Minister’s friend, Donald McDonald, as the director of the Classification Board.
“We all made it clear at SCAG that under the cooperative arrangement, Mr Ruddock needed to take into account the views of all states and territories, and we all totally rejected this appointment.
“Yet he decided to ride roughshod over those concerns and go ahead with this outrageous appointment.”
Mr Hulls said any changes in censorship laws must strike a considered balance between freedom of expression and community concern over material advocating terrorist acts.
The joint Commonwealth, State and Territory Government discussion paper will seek views on whether amendments to Classification Code and Guidelines are required to make clear the basis on which material can be banned.
Mr Hulls said the discussion paper reflected the needs of the different jurisdictions to find a solution to this difficult issue, and he urged Mr Ruddock to abide by the spirit of cooperation and consultation.
“No one wants a repeat of Mr Ruddock’s attempts to unilaterally and cynically force his will on the people simply to score political points against colleagues in other jurisdictions,” he said.
“I am sure that if we draw on the experience of anti-terrorism laws and the censorship system from all jurisdictions, an effective solution can be found.
“We must be vigilant to ensure that any changes are clearly defined so as not to inadvertently catch materials which simply express different points of view.”
“If there are gaps in the laws with respect to material advocating terrorist acts, they will be filled, but we also need to strike the right balance between stopping such material and maintaining our fundamental freedoms.
“The Bracks Government is determined to ensure appropriate measures are in place to stamp out materials advocating terrorism, while at the same time respecting rights to freedom of speech.”– Ruddock follows State lead on censorship laws
– Victorian Attorney General, Rod Hulls (Labor)
Ruddock releases ‘terror’ Discussion Paper
May 1, 2007
Journalist: Last time I talked to you … you’ve made that very clear about Terry Hicks and David Hicks. But last time we talked we talked about classification of that Sheikh Feiz Mohammed DVD, the so-called Hate Series. Can you tell me where you are in terms of your bid to get the states to adopt uniform measures for classifying that sort of material?
Attorney General: Well you know I said when I spoke to you on that occasion I wanted to act on the matter urgently and my officials have been talking to the state officials and we’ve prepared a discussion paper because it does require consultation. We can’t release the discussion paper until we’ve had all the state attorneys agree that it should be released and at the moment the Queensland Attorney is raising questions about whether that release should occur. He said he’s not approving of it at the moment. I’ve had my officials go back and say do you know all the others have agreed – why don’t you? And I’m hoping he’ll move today and I’m hoping all your Queensland listeners will encourage him in allowing for the release of that discussion paper so we can get on with it.
Journalist: Yeah, well we should get on with it. I’m surprised that he hasn’t responded and he could only respond in the affirmative if he was really concerned about the future of Australia’s youth if they get hold of this stuff. I mean it’s dangerous. This Hate Series is very, very dangerous.
Attorney General: Well I simply make the point I don’t know what his motives are. He hasn’t said he’s opposed to the measure. He said he’s opposed to the release of the discussion paper. We can’t proceed with it until the discussion paper is out there. I’ve had my officials go back to Queensland and say all the others have agreed, even those who have said they’ve got some doubts such as the Victorian who always seems to be able to hedge his bets. But I’ve told him that New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia – they’ve all agreed. Queensland is the only one that hasn’t. I’ve had my officials go back to them today.
Journalist: Okay. Can’t you act unilaterally? Can’t you just tell them you’re going to do it?
Attorney General: Yes, and I’ve said to them that if they’re seen to be standing in our way we will, but that would require Commonwealth legislation. I’ve certainly had our officials … I’ve had Cabinet agree that we should in fact move on it if the states don’t. We want the cooperative scheme to work. We’re going to give it its best shot, but we won’t be giving it the best shot if we don’t get that discussion paper out there so that we can undertake the consultation and then we can put in place a new code. But if the states aren’t willing to do it we’ll amend the Act, but that will take longer. I mean we’d do it during the budget session but we’d be looking about May or June before we could actually get around to doing that.
Journalist: How much time will you give Queensland?
Attorney General: Well, I’m giving them today. I’m wanting them to agree to the release of the discussion paper because then we can get on and see whether there are any serious views – that the way in which we’re proposing to it has some unforeseen consequences. I mean I’m always open to looking at people’s views when they can see it. But I want to have this in place within the next few weeks.
Journalist: Okay. I hope Peter Beattie … hey Pete, tell your Attorney to pick up the telephone.
Attorney General: Yeah, well Kerry Shine’s a nice bloke and he’s eminently reasonable. He’s never been the stickler on these things that some of his colleagues have been but on this particular matter he’s said he’s not approving of the release of the discussion paper. We’re going back to him and saying all the others have agreed. Will you?
Journalist: Yeah okay. And the sooner the better as far as you’re concerned.
Attorney General: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Journalist: Okay. Thank you very much for your time Attorney General.
Attorney General: It’s always a pleasure John.
Journalist: Thank you very much. Bye.– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
– John Laws Radio Program
May 3, 2007
Community concern over material that advocates terrorism will be swiftly addressed through new laws, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said today.
A discussion paper on proposed laws has been released for public comment. The laws propose banning Australian publication of material advocating terrorist acts.
“I am delighted that my State and Territory colleagues have agreed that the proposal can now be put out for public consultation,” Mr Ruddock said.
“Terrorist acts are a specific and highly dangerous threat to Australian society and material which advocates people undertake such acts should not be available. I am pleased that we are now one step closer to getting this kind of material out of circulation.
“I would like to thank my State and Territory colleagues for their fast response to my request to get this issue dealt with quickly .
“In particular, I acknowledge the efforts of Margaret Keech, the Queensland Minister responsible for censorship, for securing the Queensland Government’s approval to release the discussion paper.
“It is gratifying that the States and Territories have worked cooperatively and constructively with the Commonwealth and had quickly agreed to the proposal and process of public consultation.
“I am committed to a fast resolution of this important issue,” Mr Ruddock said.
The Material That Advocates Terrorist Acts Discussion Paper is available at www.ag.gov.au under ‘Classification’ and follow the links. Submissions are due to the Department by 29 May 2007.– Action on Material Advocating Terrorism
– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
Details of ‘terror’ censorship Discussion Paper
May 1, 2007
There are community concerns about the public availability of material that advocates people commit terrorist acts. It is not certain that the national classification scheme adequately captures such material.
This paper therefore outlines a proposal for amendments to the national Classification Code and the Classification guidelines to ensure that material that advocates terrorist acts is refused classification.
Submissions are sought on the proposal by no later than 29 May 2007.
Submissions may be sent in writing –
by email: email@example.com
by post: Attn: Kerri-Ann Smith Classification Review Classification Policy Branch Australian Attorney-General’s Department Robert Garran Offices 2-4 National Circuit BARTON ACT 2600
Contact officer: Kerri-Ann Smith (02) 6250 6708
Status of the Discussion Paper
This discussion paper does not necessarily represent the views of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General or any individual Attorney-General.
All submissions will be treated as public unless the author clearly indicates to the contrary. A request made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 for access to a submission marked confidential will be determined in accordance with that Act.
2 PROPOSAL SUMMARY
The proposal is to amend the Classification Code and guidelines so that publications, films and computer games that advocate terrorist acts are refused classification.
The proposal is to amend the National Classification Code to include the requirement that publications, films and computer games that ‘advocate terrorist acts’ be refused classification. This would be done by adding, ‘advocates terrorist acts’, in Item 1 (RC Classification) of each table (publications, films and computer games).
The meaning of the terms ‘advocate’ and ‘terrorist act’ would be explained in the amendments – by using terms similar to the provisions in the Criminal Code definitions – as either definitions in the Code or part of the List of Terms in the guidelines. In addition, the Explanatory Statement would provide further explanation and discussion of the terms and the types of material that would be unlikely to be considered to advocate terrorist acts such as bona fide articles by investigative journalists, satirical pieces or patriotic battle movies. It is intended that only material that advocates terrorist acts as strictly described would be refused classification.
Attachment 1 provides an indication of how the Code and guidelines might look should these proposals be agreed to by State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers.
The Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 and Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 prevent the import or export of some material. The Regulations repeat the language of item 1 of the Classification Code. To ensure consistency between restrictions on material distributed within the country and material entering or leaving the country, it would also be necessary to amend these regulations to include as a prohibited import or export material that advocates terrorist acts.
3 LACK OF CERTAINTY
Doubts exist as to the extent to which the present law ensures all material that advocates terrorist acts is refused classification. The lack of clarity is illustrated by a combination of public concern about various material available as books, DVDs or on the internet; the differences of interpretation in Board and Review Board review decisions which overturn Board decisions applying the same criteria to the same material; and litigation in the Federal Court (for which judgment has yet to be handed down) over the interpretation of the phrase. Further litigation may result in a clearer understanding of the current law but it is doubtful that it will supply real clarity anytime soon.
The national classification scheme requires material to be refused classification if it ‘promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime or violence’. An alternative category for refusal of classification of material advocating terrorist acts is if material deals with matters of violence in such a way that it ‘offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety of a reasonable adult to the extent that [it] should not be classified’. However, this provision has not been actively used in classifying material that might be considered to encourage terrorist acts.
The elements of the term ‘promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime or violence’ are not fully explained in either the guidelines or by judicial consideration. There remains uncertainty around the classification of material which may more insidiously encourage people – whether or not they are naïve and impressionable – to commit terrorist acts. Material may be expressed in a way that does not clearly attract the operation of the provisions that would require it to be refused classification.
Arguably, terrorist acts are of sufficient concern and pose such potential danger to the community that material that advocates people commit them should be specifically identified for refusal of classification. The classification scheme should be clear enough that the impressionable and vulnerable in the community are protected from material which encourages people to carry out acts of terrorism through techniques such as praising terrorist acts or issuing calls for action based on ideological or religious duty.
It is unclear to what extent the existing term ‘promote’ would include ‘praise’. The proposed definition of ‘advocate’ would cover ‘praising’, including material that supports a particular terrorist attack or method of terrorist attack.
Example: An article published by a fundamentalist religious organisation describes the action of an individual who has detonated a suicide bomb amidst a market place of civilian shoppers, causing death and mayhem. The article directly praises the particular act, its deadly effect on ‘the enemy’ and the bomber’s consequent martyrdom. It claims that the person would be assured a place in heaven.
Under the current classification scheme, the article is about a ‘matter of crime or violence’ (which is clearly an act of terrorism) but it is not clear that the elements of ‘promotion’ or ‘incitement’ to do the same, or ‘instruction’ in how to build or detonate a suicide bomb are satisfied. However, ‘direct praise’ as in this sort of article carries the risk that a person reading such literature might be influenced to commit a similar terrorist act.
Example: A pamphlet distributed at a cultural festival, or a DVD of a speech adopts words and / or tone which indirectly advocate committing a terrorist act. It does not provide detailed step-by-step instruction on how to carry out any specific action. It does not expressly urge anyone to take action. It does not expressly praise an action.
However, through its text, tone and context, the material may indirectly counsel, urge or provide instruction in how to commit a terrorist act. It may not be a dispassionate exposé of serious issues. It may through its text or tone indirectly urge or instruct the reader to commit a terrorist act by for example causing death or serious harm to sections of the community to advance a political, ideological or religious cause.
Under the current scheme, it is about a ‘matter of crime or violence’ (terrorist act) but there would be no certainty that the element of ‘promote’ is satisfied, nor direct ‘incitement’ to act, nor direct ‘instruction’ on how to attack the weaknesses. However, it may be regarded as indirectly ‘counselling, urging or instructing’ doing a terrorist act by its inspirational tone and exhortations.
4 WHAT WILL BE THE EFFECT OF THE CHANGES?
The Classification Scheme targets the material and gets it out of circulation. It will be illegal under State and Territory legislation for the material to be sold and distributed in Australia. The Commonwealth proposes mirroring amendments to the Customs Regulations that will prevent import or export.
Criminal laws allow the prosecution of a person who commits a range of offences and crimes (including those preparatory to and/or in collusion with others) which could be part of terrorist activity. Sedition laws allow the prosecution of a person for advocating that force or violence be used against a Government. Terrorism laws allow the prosecution of a person for committing a terrorist act or training for or otherwise preparing or financing such activities. In each case the evidential burden is high and the relevant or appropriate person to be prosecuted may not be identifiable or within jurisdiction.
Criminal prosecution of terrorists does not, in and of itself, authorise police to remove terrorist material from sale in Australia. This proposal is one strategy aimed at restricting the trade in this material, regardless of whether the person who wrote, created or distributed it can be prosecuted.
5 AMENDING THE CODE AND GUIDELINES
The Board and Review Board are required to apply the Commonwealth Classification Act, the National Classification Code and the relevant Guidelines when making classification decisions. The proposal includes amendments to both the Code and guidelines but would not change the other matters to which the Boards must have regard in classifying material.
The Board and Review Board would continue to take into account the broad matters set out in s 11 of the Act such as certain standards of reasonable adults, the literary, artistic or educational merit of the material, its general character and the class of persons to whom it is intended to be published. The Act also requires material to be classified in accordance with the Code and guidelines (s 9).
The Code sets out some broad principles to which classification decisions should give effect (as far as possible), including that adults should be able to read, hear and see what they like, that everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material they find offensive, and the need to take account of community concerns about depictions that condone or incite violence (cl 1).
The Code also contains specific tables describing in greater detail the content of publications, films, and computer games that would require them to be given a particular classification (cls 2-4).
The proposal is to add another subsection for material that ‘advocates terrorist acts’ to the RC item in the Classification column for each type of material – publications films and computer games.
An alternative suggestion is to amend the existing criteria in the Code of ‘promote, incite or instruct’ so that it expressly encompasses material that advocates terrorist acts. This could be done by redrafting the criteria in each of the RC items in the Code to read:
‘promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence, including advocating terrorist acts’.
The guidelines state that material that has elements which exceed the limits of the classification categories must be refused classification. There is little further explanation of the terms related to crime and violence. In fact, in the film guidelines the word ‘incite’ is not used at all, and although ‘instruct’ is qualified by ‘detailed’ the word ‘promotion’ is repeated but not explained. Other than repeating the terms of the Code, the publications guidelines simply refer to ‘detailed instruction’ in crime or violence with no mention of ‘incite’ or ‘promote’.
It is proposed that there would be definitions of the essential terms ‘terrorist act’ and ‘advocate’ (see below).
6 ELEMENTS ‘TERRORIST ACT’ AND ‘ADVOCATE’
Explaining the terms
‘Terrorist act’ and ‘advocate’ would be explained based on definitions used in the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
The terms would be explained as follows:
‘advocate’ means action that directly or indirectly counsels or urges doing a terrorist act; or directly or indirectly provides instruction on doing a terrorist act; or directly praises doing a terrorist act where there is a risk that such praise might lead a person (regardless of his or her age or any mental impairment) to engage in a terrorist act.
‘terrorist act’ means an action or threat of action that causes serious physical harm or death to a person, or endangers a person’s life or involves serious risk to public health or safety, serious damage to property or serious interference with essential electronic systems. Such an action or threat of action must also be intended to advance a political, ideological or religious cause and to coerce or influence by intimidation an Australian or foreign government or intimidate the public or a section of the public. However, it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action which is not intended to cause serious harm, death, endangerment of life, or serious risk to the health or safety of the public.
Where the terms should be explained
Should the explanation of the terms ‘advocate’ and ‘terrorist acts’ be placed in the Code or guidelines?
If placed in the Code as definitions, they would give the explanations the status of a legislative definition. Although this would provide more detail than the other criteria set out in the Code, it would ensure clarity about the meaning of the terms. However, the Code as currently structured lists criteria only. A full definition of the meaning of those criteria in the Code itself would be inconsistent in length and style with the other elements.
Section 9 of the Commonwealth Classification Act requires classifiers to consider the Code and guidelines when classifying. Section 12(1) refers to the guidelines as assisting the Board in applying the criteria in the Code. The attached suggestion for amended Code and guidelines places definitions of the terms ‘advocate’ and ‘terrorist acts’ in the List of Terms in the guidelines. The Act would require the Board and Review Board to use the definitions in the guidelines in applying the Code.
Ensuring such material is adequately captured and balancing freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is a valued part of Australian society. A lot of material may be controversial but that alone would not attract the operation of the provisions. It is not intended to capture material that does not ‘advocate terrorist acts’ within their meaning in the Code and/or Guidelines.
The key for material to be captured by the new provisions would be that it must actually advocate someone commit a terrorist act within the concept of the expansive definition of ‘advocates’. All aspects of the elements ‘advocates’ and ‘terrorist acts’ must be present for material to be refused classification. Material would have to be specifically about advocating committing a terrorist act, not merely expressing generalised support for a cause. The Board and Review Board would need to decide that the act clearly fell within the definition of a ‘terrorist act’ and that the material clearly ‘advocates’ doing that act within the meaning of ‘advocate’ as explained in the Code or guidelines.
Examples of material not intended to be captured by the provisions include investigative journalists’ work, satirical pieces, or patriotic material that might appear to glorify war or battle. It is not intended that the proposal restrict film-makers or authors or publishers dealing with contentious subject matter in an entertaining, informative, educational, ironical or controversial way. This may include dealing with strong themes, having a shocking impact and presenting a story from alternative perspectives. The Board and Review Board are used to dealing with such material and giving appropriate classifications.
‘Terrorist act’ would not include action legitimately taken by the armed forces of a country on the international stage in accordance with what they perceive to be their national interests and international law. However, where material could be seen to advocate terrorist acts as defined, outside the framework of the internationally recognised concept of ‘war’, it should not be available in Australia.
Some concern has been expressed about the implications of using terminology from the Criminal Code in a civil context and whether this could mean that a wider range of material is captured and a greater restriction on freedom of expression than is desirable is a likely result. One advantage of using this terminology is that the language has previously been agreed by the Commonwealth, States and Territories. While it is currently used in the criminal context, the Board and Review Board do not operate within the criminal jurisdiction, but rather apply a civil standard of what represents community values. The drafting would make no direct reference to the Criminal Code but would explain the expression.
7 SCOPE OF PROPOSAL
The amendments to the Code and guidelines would apply to publications, films and computer games submitted for classification in the same way as the Act, Code and guidelines already apply to them. It would apply by application of the Broadcasting Services Act 1999 to internet pages hosted in Australia and through amendments to the Customs Regulations to imports and exports.
The normal requirements and processes for classification would apply including for applications by distributors, publishers or authorities or agencies for law enforcement purposes. The proposal imposes no additional requirements for law enforcement or policing.
8 DISTINGUISHING SO-CALLED ‘HATE’ MATERIAL FROM MATERIAL THAT ADVOCATES TERRORIST ACTS
In Australia, material that could be considered by some to be offensive, insulting, controversial, or just unpleasant is readily available. Free speech is an important tenet of our Western liberal democracy and is enshrined in the Code. This proposal is not designed to remove from circulation material that falls short of actually advocating people commit terrorist acts. Under the proposal, the Classification Board and Review Board will only be required to refuse classification to material that advocates terrorist acts as defined.
The media has given a lot of attention to so-called ‘hate’ material. This material might insult or make claims about identified groups of people on the basis of their race, religion or ethnicity. It might rail against people other than themselves and their practices and customs. Its content can vary from unpleasant to quite abhorrent. However, only ‘hate’ material that could also be considered to advocate that people commit terrorist acts would be captured by this proposal.
Some ‘hate’ material – such as that which racially vilifies someone, may be captured by other regulation. For example, Commonwealth, State and Territory anti-discrimination and/or anti-vilification laws prohibit racial vilification, which could include the distribution of material promoting racial hatred.
The Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA) prohibits offensive behaviour based on racial hatred (racial vilification), that is, public acts that are reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person or groups of people, and that are done because of a person’s or group’s race, colour or national or ethnic origin. In the landmark cases of Jones v Scully and Toben v Jones, vilification of Jewish people in leaflets and on the internet was found to be unlawful under the RDA and not to be a legitimate exercise of free speech.
Commonwealth racial vilification laws are complaints based. Complaints may be made to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission which will attempt to conciliate. If the conciliation is unsuccessful the complainant may commence legal proceedings in the Federal Magistrates Court or the Federal Court. A person may also have a ground of complaint under State or Territory racial vilification legislation and may complain to the anti-discrimination body in that State or Territory. Some State and Territory laws include offences of serious vilification on prohibited grounds of discrimination
Racial vilification on the internet is also dealt with under the Commonwealth Criminal Code. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Telecommunications Offences and Other Measures) Act 2004 extended the offence of using a telecommunications service in an offensive manner to cover material on the internet.
9 CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS TO CUSTOMS REGULATIONS
It is important to be consistent in the ability to stop material at the border as well as get it out of distribution when within the country. The Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 and Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 would be amended to identify material that advocates terrorist acts as prohibited imports and exports
The prohibitions in the Customs Regulations do not automatically pick up by reference material that is refused classification under the classification scheme. Rather, they prohibit the importation or exportation of publications (and other goods including films and computer games) in terms that replicate the grounds on which the Boards must refuse classification. These include goods that ‘promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence’.
The same lack of certainty in the coverage of these provisions is relevant to goods at the border. Therefore, the Australian Government will need to amend the regulations so that they identify material that advocates terrorist acts as prohibited imports and exports. Amendments would use the same terms and definitions as the classification scheme.– Material that Advocates Terrorist Acts Discussion Paper
Mick Keelty & the ‘terror’ DVDs
In May 2007, the AFP was questioned about the PG-rated DVDs.
May, 23, 2007
Senator LUDWIG—There is another broader matter that has been in the media, to do with Sheik Feiz’s terror DVD that was given a PG rating. The specific offence, or one of the offences that could be attracted by this, is in section 80.2(5) of the Criminal Code, to do with when a person:
… urges a group or groups (whether distinguished by race, religion, nationality, national origin or political opinion) to use force or violence against another group or other groups (as so distinguished) …
I was wondering if the matter of the DVD was investigated by the Australian Federal Police. Is there an ongoing investigation or has an investigation been concluded? If so, what specific charges or offences were looked at in respect of that?
Senator Johnston—What is the name of the sheik?
Senator LUDWIG—Sheik Feiz. I do not like to use the colloquial phrase, but it was the terror DVDs that were in the media; I think they were referred to as ‘martyr films’ in some newspaper reports—in the Sydney Morning Herald, I believe.
Mr Keelty—I can advise that you the matter was referred to the Commonwealth DPP, who subsequently advised us that no offence was made out to support a charge of sedition under the relevant legislation and that the matter has been now referred to the Office of Film and Literature Classification.
Senator LUDWIG—Are you able to say what the view of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions was as to why it did not meet the elements of the offence? The reports say that it calls for Muslims to murder non-Islamic people. I am just wondering why that would not fall under the banner of urging violence within the community.
Mr Keelty—I do not have a copy of the Commonwealth DPP’s advice with me, but in the advice I have received it states that the DVDs made by the individual were examined in the context of the old sedition laws because of when the acts were allegedly committed. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to support an offence under the old legislation.
Senator LUDWIG—So that was not tested against the new section?
Mr Keelty—No. I do not have the DPP’s advice in front of me, but I presume it was because of the date of the creation of the DVD.– Mick Keelty (Australian Federal Police)
– Joe Ludwig (Labor), David Johnston (Liberal)
– Senate estimates, Parliament of Australia
OFLC questioned about the PG-rated ‘terror’ DVDs
During the May 2007 Senate Estimates, the new Director of the OFLC, was questioned about the PG ratings.
May 24, 2007
Mr Govey—There was already some work being done on policy within the Office of Legal Services Coordination. I think it is worth making the general point that it is very hard to add up all the little bits that were working on this and then come up with where we are now. Effectively, we sat down again and looked at what structure we were going to need, taking into account the available resources. The branch has been set up in light of current needs, which are not necessarily the same as when you had policy being done from an office in Sydney and an office in Canberra.
Senator LUDWIG—Yes, Mr Govey. Sometimes it is very hard from this side of the table. If you are telling me that it is hard from your side, I will certainly accept that. Mr McDonald, I know that you are new but this was a process of policy development which might be called, if I use the general term, the hate books—that is, books promoting suicide bombing and atrocities against the West. As I understand the situation, we have a fourfold system dealing with this type of material. I am happy to be assisted here. First, there are criminal offences under section 102.1A of the Criminal Code, which proscribes counselling, praising of or instruction in a terrorist act. Second, there are sedition offences under section 80.2 of the Criminal Code. Third, there is the censorship regime. You have a role—this is already within the capacity of the Classification Review Board to take into account—to refuse classification on the basis of depictions that condone or incite violence. The fourth area involves Customs, if there is an importation. There are regulations that then deal with the importation of refused classification material or the like. Have I missed any? They are the four main ways in which we generally deal with this type of material.
Ms Davies—Yes, those are the four main ones, although I note that the sedition offences et cetera that you are talking about are not directed at the material itself.
Senator LUDWIG—That is right. Under the categories and symbols page on your website there is the classification ‘PG’ for films and computer games that contain material that need to be explained to children and, therefore, parental guidance is recommended. The PG content is mild. I refer to the specific example of the Sheik Feiz terror DVD, which was given a PG rating. As I understood it, that matter was raised in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 April 2005. The question that I have is: how is a film that calls for Muslims to murder non-Islamic people considered mild by the board?
Mr McDonald—The board considered that material on a referral that was submitted by the Australian Federal Police. It was a clear majority decision to classify the material on that basis.
Senator LUDWIG—I do not understand one issue. Perhaps you can help me with this. How can a film that calls for suicide attacks or so-called martyrdom be considered mild by the board? How on earth can the board come to the conclusion that a DVD that displays racial hatred by calling Jewish people an army of pigs is mild? I would like to know specifically why the board—which, as I understand the brief, is to be reflective of Australian community standards—considered this material appropriate for young Australian Muslim children aged, say, 10 years, to view.
Mr McDonald—I am just referring to the actual report. As you clearly understand, this decision was reached before I was appointed to the board, which is not meant to be misunderstood as any repudiation of the decision; it is just that I was not there and familiar with it. It was the board’s view that the classifiable element of the themes—which are the religious themes—was mild in its viewing impact. I am now reading from the report, which states:
The film contains religious themes that have a low sense of threat and/or menace and that are justified by context. The context is a lecture about tenets of the Islamic faith, ostensibly from a fundamentalist perspective.
Senator LUDWIG—Was the content of the DVD produced in Australia or overseas?
Mr McDonald—Yes, it was produced in Australia. It is astonishingly undramatic, Senator. A camera is simply trained on somebody who is standing there, speaking.
Senator LUDWIG—Are you able to provide to the committee the statement of reasons by the board?
Mr McDonald—I believe I have provided them in full. The report refers to various points—at minute 14 et cetera—
Senator LUDWIG—I understand the report.
Mr McDonald—The concluding remark is:
In the Board’s view, the use of the consumer advice “Religious themes” most accurately reflects the content of the classifiable element in the film.
In a minority view of the board, it was stated:
The classifiable elements contained in the film do not exceed “very mild” in impact. The themes are delivered in the manner of a modern-day sermon, and contain references and imagery generally tolerated within the wider Australian religious community.
That was the minority view, but I believe it was a minority of three.
Senator LUDWIG—It just does not seem sensible to me. How can it be justifiable when it has material or content that allows someone to murder non-believers? If you could provide that report, it would be helpful. I understand, and I am sure Mr Cornall can confirm this, that in the past those reports have been provided to the committee upon request.
Mr McDonald—Yes. We have the report, Senator. I would be happy to have it provided.
Senator LUDWIG—Could it be tabled?
CHAIR—Is it the wish of the committee that the report be tabled? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
Senator LUDWIG—Are you able to say when the decision was made? Is that demonstrated in the report?
Mr McDonald—Sorry, your question was the date—
Senator LUDWIG—The date the decision was made. I am not sure how it works. Do you review the material?
Mr McDonald—On 9 February 2007.
Senator LUDWIG—When was it referred to the OFLC by the Australian Federal Police?
Mr McDonald—I am hazarding a guess that it would have been 20 days prior to that. I will ask Mr Fenton to provide that information. He is a member of the board and a senior classifier.
Mr Fenton—We would have to take that on notice. We are not sure exactly when the material would have been received, but the director is correct in saying that it would not have been more than 20 days before the decision was made, I believe.
Senator LUDWIG—Is there a legislative requirement for the decision to be made within 20 days of receiving it?
Mr Fenton—A statutory requirement, yes.
Senator LUDWIG—I have not yet seen the decision, but does that provide the names of members who made the decision? We have heard that it was a majority decision but there was also a dissenter. Does it provide the names of the people who were in the majority and the name of the dissenter?
Mr McDonald—It provides their initials. The names could be provided to you. As you would appreciate from the legislation, the board acts as a group and it is ultimately a board decision.
Senator LUDWIG—Yes, I accept that. But it is always worth while clarifying that for the purposes of the record. Are those individuals appointed for a period of time?
Mr McDonald—Yes. They are appointed for either three years or four years.
Senator LUDWIG—How many classifiers are there at present?
Mr McDonald—The board consists of 17 members in its current establishment—that is, the director, the deputy director, two senior classifiers, of whom Mr Fenton is one, and the remaining 13 board members.
Senator LUDWIG—What is their usual term of appointment?
Mr McDonald—Three or four years.
Mr Anderson—To add to that: there is a statutory maximum of seven years for the term. It is common for the initial appointment to be for, say, three years.
Senator LUDWIG—Thank you. Who appointed the decision makers who made the decision in respect of the DVD to which we are referring? Were those appointments made under the current Attorney?
Mr Anderson—I believe that some of them would have been initially appointed under the previous Attorney, but I will just check that. Yes, a number of them were actually appointed under the previous Attorney. The current deputy director, a senior classifier and two members were appointed under the previous Attorney. The remainder have been appointed by the current—sorry, under the current Attorney; it is still an appointment by the Governor-General on advice of Executive Council.
Senator LUDWIG—Were the people who made the decision in respect of the DVD all appointed by the Attorney?
Mr McDonald—It is the mix as described by Mr Anderson.
Senator LUDWIG—I did not have the decision with me. How many people on the board made the decision? Was it the whole 17?
Mr McDonald—There were 13 who participated in that voting.
Senator LUDWIG—Hence my question. Were any of the 13 not appointed by the Attorney-General? Not all of the 17 were.
Mr McDonald—I am trying to analyse the initials. I think that we had better provide that to you on notice.
Senator LUDWIG—Thank you.
CHAIR—Will you take that on notice?
Mr McDonald—Yes. Chairman, could I correct the date that I gave earlier. I said that the classification decision was made on 9 February. That was the day of the viewing. I am sorry, I misread the report. The board classified them on 1 March 2007.
Senator LUDWIG—Thank you. I think my next question, on the proposed change, should be directed to you, Mr Cornall, or even to you, Mr Anderson. When was the proposed change to the law to address this area first mooted?
Mr AndersonBefore the videos in question, some previous publications were described in the media as books of hate. The Classification Board, and then the Classification Review Board considered eight publications. On 10 July 2006 the Classification Review Board refused a classification to two of those hate publications. At the SCAG (Censorship) meeting in July 2006, the Attorney first proposed amendments to the classification act to deal with material advocating terrorist acts.
Senator LUDWIG—So it was proposed at that meeting on 10 July 2006?
Mr Anderson—10 July was when the Classification Review Board made a decision about publications.
Senator LUDWIG—And at the next SCAG following that?
Mr Anderson—There was a SCAG meeting shortly after that.
Senator LUDWIG—Would that have been about mid-July?
Mr Anderson—Late July.
Senator LUDWIG—How time flies! So it was raised at that time. Was that when it was first proposed?
Mr Anderson—That is correct.
Senator LUDWIG—It is interesting that you say that. It seems that in 2005 it was first mentioned by Mr Philip Ruddock in a radio interview with Ray Hadley. I might have to ask the minister to check on this, but was it a matter that popped into the head of the Attorney-General back in 2005 and he did nothing with it? It was a matter that was raised in that interview but it seems to have been sitting there waiting from there on. I could provide the transcript if you want to have a look.
Mr Anderson—July 2006 was when the Classification Review Board made a decision on these eight publications. They had previously been to the Classification Board. So the issue itself had been known to the Attorney prior to proposing to state and territory ministers at SCAG (Censorship) in July 2006. It was only once the decision of the review board was known that the extent to which there was a problem became clear, as to how the terrorist material and the classification code, act and guidelines interact.
Senator LUDWIG—So the explanation is that it was a matter that Mr Ruddock first raised in July 2005 in the radio interview. The next time we hear of it is roughly in July 2006 when we learn from a media release from the Attorney that he has written to the states about the issue. I think that was sent on 9 June 2006 and it was entitled ‘Classification review to consider hate material’. So 10 July is probably a little out.
Mr Anderson—My recollection is that the Attorney referred the matter to the Classification Review Board. I cannot be sure of the exact timeframe leading up to that, in terms of the Classification Board itself considering it.
Senator LUDWIG—The media release dated 9 June 2006 goes on to state:
The Australian Government will push for censorship laws to be reviewed to assess whether they deal adequately with material which urges or advocates terrorist acts …
…Mr Ruddock also has referred eight publications and one film to the Classification Review Board in response to community concerns …
It got to the Classification Review Board by July and soon after to SCAG?
Mr Anderson—No. He referred the matter to the review board. I cannot recall the precise dates, but if the press release is dated 9 June then I am assuming that that would be when the Attorney referred the matter to the review board. However, the decision of the review board was on 10 July 2006. That was followed relatively soon after by the SCAG (Censorship) meeting at which the Attorney formally urged state and territory ministers to agree to amend the legislation and the code.
Senator LUDWIG—We still had a period from July 2005 to write the letter—about a year later. It is almost a year from the time the thought popped into the Attorney-General’s head—at the time of the radio interview—to the time when he took the action of writing a letter.
Senator Johnston—That is not necessarily surprising, given that I think the AFP had to review the evidence to see whether there was an existing offence. That does take some time. The document that you have given us indicates that there is an element of that. The brief was being reviewed, it came back and then I think the Attorney has looked at what involvement he needed from the states. The problem we have is that if you unilaterally make legislation in the Crimes Act you need to make sure it is not incompatible with existing state legislation. So there is an element of everybody being on the same page, and that does take some time, I must say.
Senator LUDWIG—He did not give the SCAG ministers that much time to get into the vote. He went to the press and announced it and then ended up in SCAG saying, ‘This is what I want you to do,’ whereas he had already considered it and thought about it 12 months earlier. He had plenty of opportunity a lot earlier to take it to SCAG and say, ‘This is my thinking on the matter.’
Senator Johnston—It is much better to compare apples with apples.
Senator LUDWIG—I am happy to hear that you have compared them. What we had in 2005 was Mr Ruddock’s thoughts on radio. It appears to me that it disappeared at that point. In 2007 we learn that a hate-filled jihad DVD was given a PG rating. The Classification Review Board then provides a PG rating, and the Attorney then writes to the states to ask them to come up with a policy in the area within two weeks.
Senator Johnston—I will take this question on notice and get a chronology of what has occurred. I am sure there is a lot more to it than simply looking at the radio interview and at the end outcome. A lot of consultation has to go on. I will get a chronology for you.
Senator LUDWIG—We also have the press release entitled ‘States should agree to new test for terrorism material’, dated 15 April 2007. The real crux of the matter is that, when you are doing your chronology, you should also plug in what consultation went to the states at that point; otherwise you have 2005 where the original thinking starts. It concertinaed right at the end where you end up with a press release on 15 April 2007 stating that the states have to agree, and they are given about two weeks to come up with a considered response about all this. If you then say that it has been developed over 2005, obviously from that point the Attorney-General, if he has also consulted with the Australian Federal Police, has had a significantly longer time to consider it, look at the issue and decide on the best course of action.
Senator Johnston—I do not think that that depiction is accurate, but I will come back to you with a formal response on the chronology.
Senator LUDWIG—All right.
Mr Anderson—I have one other thing, Senator. While the chronology will detail in particular what happened from 2005 to 2006, I can say that between the July 2006 SCAG censorship meeting and the 13 April 2007 press release a great deal of work was done by a working party of officials from the states, territories and the Commonwealth seeking to progress the case for the amendment. It was the Commonwealth’s experience that we were meeting resistance from the states and territories at every turn along the way, despite doing a great deal of work seeking to persuade them of the need for the amendments. But the chronology will make clear all of the steps.
Senator LUDWIG—That will be helpful. Mr McDonald, this is a matter that I suspect you will have to grapple with.– Donald McDonald, Director, Jeremy Fenton, Senior Classifier (OFLC)
– Joe Ludwig (Labor), David Johnston (Liberal)
– Ian Govey, Deputy Secretary, Civil Justice and Legal Services
– Alex Anderson, Assistant Secretary, Legal Policy
– Senate estimates, Parliament of Australia
NSWCCL censorship case fails
In June 2007, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties failed in their Federal Court case against the Classification Review Board.
The books JOIN THE CARAVAN and DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS remained banned in Australia.
November 3, 2006– NSW Council for Civil Liberties Inc v Classification Review Board (No. 1)  FCA 1409
The Court Orders That:
1. The motion, notice of which was filed on 20 September 2006, be dismissed.
2. Costs on the motion be reserved.
3. Each party have liberty to apply on three (3) days’ notice.
– Federal Court of Australia
– full judgement @ austlii.edu.au
June 14, 2007– NSW Council for Civil Liberties Inc v Classification Review Board (No. 2)  FCA 896
The Court Orders That:
1. The application be dismissed.
2. The issue of costs be reserved for agreement between the parties or, failing agreement, for further argument.
3. Either party have liberty to restore the matter for further directions on three days’ notice.
– Federal Court of Australia
– full judgement @ austlii.edu.au
NSW Council for Civil Liberties v Classification Review Board
June 14, 2007
The Classification Review Board notes with the interest the judgement handed down today by the Federal Court about an application lodged by New South Wales Civil Liberties Incorporated in relation to two books, JOIN THE CARAVAN and DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS.
In mid 2006, the Classification Review Board unanimously classified these books ‘Refused Classification’.
Classification Review Board Convenor, Ms Maureen Shelley said, “I am pleased that the decision of the Classification Review Board withstood the scrutiny of the Federal Court, in that the Court dismissed the application. Members of the Classification Review Board are keen to read the reasons for decision. It isn’t often that the Review Board is given guidance by the Courts on interpretation of the Classification Act and such case law can only assist the Review Board in its deliberations”.
‘Refused Classification’ means that the two books JOIN THE CARAVAN and DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS by Sheikh Abdullah Azzam cannot be legally sold, hired or advertised in Australia.– Classification Review Board
Ruddock introduces ‘terror’ censorship bill
July 8, 2007
LAURIE OAKES: Just before Parliament rose for the winter recess you snuck some legislation into the house that would make it an offence to produce or disseminate material, books, films, DVDs, computer games advocating terrorism. Now why wasn’t that voted on before the house rose?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well the bill was introduced and it’s been left on the table, one, so that the Opposition and Senate committees can have their examination of it but also because I’m trying to work with the states. The classification scheme is a combined scheme in which we require usually the states and the Commonwealth to agree on changes that should be made to the classification code. Now in 2006 I asked the states to look at the issue of advocacy of terrorism acts and it has been on the agenda all that time and I’ve had a job keeping it on the agenda because until the Sheik Fa-Mahomoud’s DVDs were given a classification which was ‘parental guidance required’ which I think is quite extraordinary in relation to a product of that type, it was quite clear that the law did not require the classifiers to look at the advocacy issue in a way which would enable a DVD of that type to be effectively prescribed and not available to the Australian community. Now we have a meeting of attorneys in July.
I hope that they will agree, particularly given the advocacy of people like the Premier of New South Wales and some of the attorneys that Sheik Fa-Mahomoud’s material ought to be looked at critically and that they will support amendments to the classification code which is the way in which we would normally deal with these issues. But if they don’t, if they don’t , I’ve made it very clear that the Commonwealth will nevertheless proceed to deal with it by amendment to the Commonwealth legislation.– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
– Laurie Oakes Sunday Program, Channel 9
Ruddock attacks Labor
In late July, the State Attorney-Generals met with Philip Ruddock in Hobart to discuss his proposed tightening of the classification laws.
July 26, 2007
The New South Wales Attorney-General says he supports federal moves toward less restrictive laws governing the classification of sensitive material in books and films.
The attorneys-general meeting in Hobart today will discuss exempting material that is for the purposes of public discussion, entertainment or satire.
John Hatzistergos says under the previous classification system, films such as the IRA movie, THE DEVILS OWN and books such as Nelson Mandela’s biography would have been refused classification.
“We believe that the original proposals were unworkable and absurd, and we’re pleased that the Commonwealth has now seen the error of its ways,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we’re happy to move forward in this way, we believe that the modifications are sensible and we’re happy to support them.”
Mr Hatzistergos says the previous system was unworkable and absurd.
“Well, I think it’s important that we have balance. No one wants material which is advocating terrorism, or which can incite or counsel, [but] that doesn’t mean that any material that may document terrorism should, by reason of that fact, be prohibited,” he said.
“There are obviously circumstances in public discussion, in entertainment, in satire, where it’s appropriate for those sorts of things to be documented.”– Hatzistergos supports classification review
– article @ abc.net.au
July 27, 2007
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock today expressed strong disappointment that agreement could not be reached with State and Territory Censorship Ministers to toughen laws that deal with materials advocating acts of terror.
Mr Ruddock said the failure of the states to recognise the need to do everything possible to stop the recruitment of the impressionable and vulnerable into terrorist activity, left him with no choice but to act independently.
“Prevention is the new terrorism battleground and I am not prepared to wait indefinitely for Labor states to ensure this kind of material is removed from circulation,” Mr Ruddock said.
“As I have said before, should an attack happen in Australia I want to be able to look into the eyes of those affected and know I did everything I could to stop terrorism and the recruitment of the impressionable and vulnerable into terrorist activity.”
“Last month I introduced legislation in Parliament to allow the Australian Government to act independently from the states given that they have refused to co-operate with me to make changes to the National Classification Code and guidelines.”
At the Standing Committee of Attorneys General meeting in Hobart today only SA and NSW agreed to support changes to classification laws as proposed by the Australian Government. The changes would have required publications, films and computer games that advocate terrorist acts to be refused classification by the Classification Board and be unavailable lawfully in Australia.
The proposal included provisions to ensure the regulation would not impinge on freedom of speech or mainstream popular culture.
“I initially sought state and territory agreement to change the classification laws in July 2006, and with no progress made on this issue, I am proceeding with the Classification Amendment (Terrorist Material) Bill 2007 already introduced in the Australian Parliament,” Mr Ruddock said.
“Once the Bill is passed, the Australian Government will be in a position to deal with material that advocates terrorist acts.”– Labor States fail to act on material advocating terrorism
– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
July 27, 2007
Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock says the Government is acting independently to amend classification laws after the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General failed to reach agreement on the change at today’s meeting in Hobart.
Mr Ruddock says it is important the definitions used in the national counter-terrorism regime are consistent across all areas of legislation.
“The Commonwealth will legislate to put in place an amendment to the Classification Act, given we were not able to obtain a unanimous agreement from the states and territories to the proposed changes,” he said.
He says it is regrettable some states are continuing to resist the Commonwealth moves, with only New South Wales and South Australia offering support.
“That’s not surprising given the vehemence of the support offered by [NSW] Premier Iemma when the DVD of Sheik Fayez Muhammed was first given a PG rating by the classification body,” he said.– Aust to ban pro-terrorist material
– article @ abc.net.au
August 28, 2007
Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls did not rule out agreeing to toughen the current laws banning materials that incite crime or violence.
But he believed there had to be more consultation before a ban was brought in, a spokeswoman said.
Mr Hulls also slammed Mr Ruddock for acting unilaterally. The federal legislation, which has already been introduced to Parliament, contains more protections than an earlier proposal by Mr Ruddock’s department.
Material that depicts terrorist acts, but whose depiction could “reasonably be considered to be done merely as part of public discussion or debate or as entertainment or satire” is not to be refused classification.
The Age believes that the protections were added to the legislation in response to concerns raised within the Coalition.– Attorney-General pushes for tougher censorship
– article @ theage.com.au
August 15, 2007
Rudd Labor has deviated from its typical refrain of ‘Amen’ to Howard Government policy and has moved to weaken terrorism legislation.
The House of Representatives passed today the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Terrorist Material) Bill 2007 which would allow the Howard Government to act quickly and decisively to remove materials that advocate terrorist acts from circulation.
However Rudd Labor has signalled its intent to water down the legislation and delay its passage in the Senate.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Opposition want to play around with this kind of issue,” Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said.
“Governments have a responsibility to do everything possible to improve security to deal with potential terrorism threats in Australia and the stance of Labor clearly demonstrates that Labor across the nation is not serious about dealing with terrorism.”
Mr Ruddock said he had been forced to introduce the legislation because most of the Labor State and Territory Governments refuse to amend the National Classification Code and Guidelines which requires unanimous agreement.
“The failure of Labor States and Territories to reach agreement that we should stop the recruitment of the impressionable and vulnerable into terrorist activity left me with no choice but to act independently,” Mr Ruddock said.
“I am disappointed that Rudd Labor sees no need to act decisively on this issue. This is a major problem with the Opposition. They are about putting in place measures that would be inadequate to protect the Australian community. It is clear that they see the bill as one that ought to be watered down.”
Mr Ruddock said if the legislation is passed in its current form, the Australian Government would be in a better position to deal with material that advocates terrorist acts. The legislation includes provisions to ensure the regulation would not impinge on freedom of speech or popular culture.
“The fact is that terrorist organisers do not respect age or mental capacity – it is those who are younger and with diminished mental capacity who are more frequently targeted,” Mr Ruddock said.
“Let me make it very clear: this measure would not be effective unless boards consider those who are more vulnerable to this sort of material.”
“I would not want to be the one who finds that somebody who was mentally impaired picked up some of these messages and set off to carry out a suicide bombing here in Australia.”– Labor on Terror: ‘Amen no more’
– Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock (Liberal)
Terror Classification amendment becomes law
In September 2007, the bill passed and the ‘Classification, (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995’ was amended. From now on, films, computer games, and publications would be Refused Classification if they promoted terrorist activity.
Full details of the progress of the bill can be found at the Parliament of Australia.
Complaints to the Censors
Following media coverage of the DVDs featuring lectures by Sheik Feiz Mohammed, 36 complaints were received that the PG classifications for both THE GRAVE and SIGNS OF THE HOUR were too low.
A total of 407 complaints were received in 2006-07 compared with a total of 669 complaints during 2005-06. When provided with contact details, the OFLC generally responded in writing or by telephone to complaints within 20 working days. The two issues that attracted the highest volume of complaints were the PG classification of the DVDs THE GRAVE and SIGNS OF THE HOUR (36 complaints) and the absence of an R 18+ classification for computer games (32 complaints).– Classification Board, Annual Report 2006-2007
In response to an application from the Attorney-General, the Review Board convened over the end of the previous reporting period and the beginning of the current reporting period to review the classification of eight Islamic books and a DVD.
After the review, two complaints were received about the Review Board’s RC decisions for two of the books, entitled DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS and JOIN THE CARAVAN. The Review Board classified the other six books ‘Unrestricted’ and the DVD, PG.
Two letters were subsequently received asking the Review Board to also refuse classification to one of those books, JIHAD IN THE QUR’AN AND SUNNAH.– Classification Review Board, Annual Report 2006-2007
Donald McDonald on the terrorism laws
July 14, 2010
In late 2005 eight ‘Islamic texts’ were submitted for classification as law enforcement applications. The Board classified them as Unrestricted. The Unrestricted category for publications encompasses a wide range of material, but is not likely to include material that offends a reasonable adult to the extent that it should be restricted.
In July 2006, the Board’s decisions were subject to review by the Classification Review Board, at the request of the Commonwealth Attorney-General at the time.
The Review Board confirmed the Unrestricted classifications for six of the eight texts, but decided that two of the texts, JOIN THE CARAVAN and DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS should be Refused Classification. In accordance with the National Classification Code, the Review Board was of the opinion that the books ‘promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence,’ specifically the crime of committing a terrorist act.
In the latter half of 2007, amendments were made to the Classification Act to require that publications, films or computer games that advocate the doing of a terrorist act must be Refused Classification.
It became clear in 2007 when these amendments were being debated in Parliament that they were being made, at least in part, to deal with the type of material that was the subject of decisions made by the Board and Review Board in the previous year.
The legislative provisions cover material that ‘directly praises the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person … to engage in a terrorist act.’ It is not designed to capture depictions or descriptions of terrorist acts ‘done merely as part of public discussion or debate or as entertainment or satire.’
Since these amendments came into effect, the Board has only Refused Classification to one item on the basis of this legislative provision. Online content was referred to the Board for classification in July 2009 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA). The film, Islamic Army in Iraq, consisted of a webpage which opened with a prayer of praise to Allah followed by a list of American losses incurred during the war. It was Refused Classification on the basis that it advocates the doing of a terrorist act and in this particular instance ‘…directly praises the doing of a terrorist act…’
Matters relating to online content and websites are the responsibility of the ACMA. I will touch on this point later in this presentation.– To Deprave and Corrupt: Forbidden, Hidden and Censored Books
– Opening speech of the BSANZ Conference
– The Australian Classification Board: History, Current Policies and Future Challenges
– Donald McDonald, Director, Classification Board