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Classification Review Board Annual Report 2009-10

Classification Review Board Annual Report 2009-10

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Convenor’s letter of transmittal

Classification Review Board crest 

The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Home Affiars
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

In accordance with subsection 85(1) of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games Act) 1995, I am pleased to submit a report on the management of the administrative affairs of the Classification Review Board for the period 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010.

Yours sincerely

Victoria Rubensohn AM (signed)

Victoria Rubensohn AM
Convenor
1 September 2010

 

 

Locked Bag 3, HAYMARKET NSW 1240
Telephone 02 9289 7100 Facsimile 02 9289 7101 www.classification.gov.au

Introduction

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) is an independent statutory body that reviews, on application, decisions of the Classification Board. The Review Board makes its decisions in accordance with the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), the National Classification Code and the classification guidelines.

This report includes an overview of the work of the Review Board in 2009–10, profiles of Review Board members, a table of decisions, information on applications withdrawn, a table of attendance at meetings, a table showing the composition of Review Board panels, and complaints to the Review Board.

The Review Board receives secretariat support from the Classification Operations Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department.

Convenor’s overview

Victoria Rubensohn 

This is my second report as Convenor of the Classification Review Board (the Review Board). The year 2009–10 has seen a number of complex and challenging products being referred to the Review Board. In total, nine applications for review were made to the Review Board, with one application being withdrawn. The Review Board convened for seven days and made eight decisions in the reporting period.

In three cases, the Review Board assigned the same classification as the Classification Board. In four cases the classification was lowered and in one instance the classification was the same but the consumer advice was amended. Consumer advice is particularly useful in assisting consumers to make informed choices about the type of material that is present in the film or computer game and what they choose to view.

The Minister for Home Affairs made three applications for review during this reporting period. These included the films Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo), Stone Bros and Hydro Lord – The Game (a publication).

Three applications were made by distributors of the films Julie & Julia, The Loved Ones and The Karate Kid.

A further two applications were received from distributors of the computer games Left 4 Dead 2 and Aliens vs Predator. The Review Board assigned the same classification as the Classification Board for the game Left 4 Dead 2, which was classified Refused Classification (RC) due to the level and high impact of violence. The Review Board decided to lower the classification of the game Aliens vs Predator from RC to MA 15+ with the consumer advice ‘Strong science fiction violence’.

I note that the public consultation process on the issue of an R 18+ classification for computer games that was conducted during the reporting period resulted in approximately 60,000 submissions being received. Following consideration by Ministers at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting of 7 May 2010, and in light of community interest in this issue, the Minister for Home Affairs publicly released a status report on the progress of the public consultation on 7 May 2010. Ministers also requested further analysis of community and expert views to assist them in the decision making process.

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

The Review Board lowered the classification for the film The Karate Kid from M ‘Martial arts violence’ to PG ‘Action violence, bullying violence and themes’. The Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) was granted ‘interested party’ status and their submission and that of the applicant, Sony Pictures, were considered by the Review Board.

I was pleased to be able to attend the European Film Classifiers Conference in the Netherlands on 19-21 May 2010 which I found to be useful and informative. Whilst in Europe, I also met with the Director of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in London, and in Paris I met with the President and panel of the Centre national du cinema et de l’image animee (CNC) and participated in a viewing session with that body. I found these meetings and experiences to be most worthwhile and productive. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the Hon Trevor Griffin, Deputy Convenor of the Review Board, for acting in the position of Convenor while I was away.

During the reporting period, I was pleased to be able to welcome three new members to the Review Board Helena Blundell, Alan Wu and Melissa de Zwart. Members whose terms expired during the period were Brook Hely and Irina Kolodizner.

Finally, I would like to thank all the members of the Review Board for their hard work and dedication throughout this reporting period. I would also like to extend my thanks to the staff of the Classification Operations Branch, Attorney-General’s Department, who provide excellent secretariat support to the Review Board.

Victoria Rubensohn AM
Convenor

Classification Review Board profiles

Victoria Rubensohn 

Victoria Rubensohn AM

Convenor
Appointed 6 February 2009
Appointment expires 5 February 2012

Victoria Rubensohn holds a Master of Arts Degree, a Master of Human Rights Degree and a Bachelor of Laws degree, and has been a Member of the Order of Australia since 2004. She has worked in radio and television in Australia and the USA, and more generally in communications, especially communications regulatory policy for most of her professional life. Victoria has been a Member of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, a Member of the Immigration Review Tribunal and Chairman of the National Film and Sound Archive. She has chaired Federal Government committees in the communications and intellectual property areas. Victoria chairs the Telephone Information Services Standards Council and runs an international communications consultancy, specialising in regulatory policy. She has been Convenor of the Classification Review Board since February 2009.

Trevor Griffin 

The Hon Trevor Griffin

Deputy Convenor
Appointed 22 April 2004
Reappointed 26 April 2007
Appointment Expires 25 April 2011

The Hon K Trevor Griffin is married with two adult children and holds a Master of Laws from the University of Adelaide.

Admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1963, Trevor retired from the South Australian Parliament in 2002, after almost 24 years as a member of the Legislative Council. For a considerable period of that time, Trevor was the State Attorney-General, and also held a number of other ministerial offices.

Trevor lives in South Australia.

Ann Stark 

Ann Stark

Appointed 26 April 2006
Reappointed 26 April 2009
Appointment Expires 25 April 2012

Ann Stark is a registered psychologist and mother of two adult children, residing in Hobart. Ann currently works in private practice specialising in couple and family therapy and the aftermath of trauma. She has served as an expert reporter in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court on issues relating to the welfare of children. She is currently the Chairperson of the Tasmanian Psychologists Registration Board and a member of the Psychology Board of Australia. Ann is an Honorary Associate of the School of Psychology, University of Tasmania where she has lectured in counsellor education, grief and trauma, and family and couple therapy. She has extensive involvement in a number of community organisations.

Helena Blundell 

Helena Blundell

Appointed 17 September 2009
Appointment Expires 16 September 2013

Helena Blundell has a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws awarded by the University of Queensland. She has worked as a Senior Investigation Officer for the Commonwealth Ombudsman in both Sydney and Darwin. She spent a number of years as an adventure tour guide in the Northern Territory’s Top End. Ms Blundell has worked for the North Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service as a policy lawyer and is currently employed with the NT Legal Aid Commission as a Criminal Barrister and Solicitor. Helena is in her third year as a board member of the Darwin YWCA and is on the Youth Justice Advisory Committee, which is a body set up pursuant to the Youth Justice Act in the Northern Territory.

Alan Wu 

Alan Wu

Appointed 17 September 2009
Appointment Expires 16 September 2013

Born in Shanghai, Alan Wu is completing a Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Laws course at the University of Melbourne. He has previously served as the youngest and longest-serving Chair of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, and with a variety of other community organisations, including the ABC Advisory Council and the Melbourne Journal of International Law. Internationally, Alan has served as Special Envoy for Young People to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and as the only young person on the Australian National Commission for UNESCO.

Alan was amongst the youngest invitees to the Prime Minister’s Australia 2020 Summit, and is a recipient of a Young People’s Human Rights Commendation, awarded by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Melissa De Zwart 

Melissa De Zwart

Appointed 17 September 2009
Appointment Expires 16 September 2013

Melissa de Zwart is an Associate Professor in Law at the University of South Australia. She has a PhD in law (which examined the law of fair dealing) and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons). Melissa has practised as a lawyer in both private practice and government, having been Legal Manager at CSIRO. She has published numerous articles on legal and social issues affecting copyright, particularly in the digital and popular culture context, convergence technologies, social networking and virtual worlds. In 2008 she contributed to the ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency) Virtual Group of Experts on Security Issues in Virtual Worlds and Gaming (EU).

As the mother of two small children, Melissa has served as the president of a community childcare centre and has a keen interest in children’s entertainment as both a parent and consumer. In her recreational time, she enjoys books, manga, movies and computer games, and exchanging views on these with her students, extended family and friends both face-to-face and via social networking. Melissa lives in Adelaide.

Members who left the Review Board in 2009–10

Brook Hely

Appointed 1 September 2008
Appointment Expired 31 August 2009

While he was with the Review Board, Brook Hely was a senior lawyer with the Australian Human Rights Commission and also a part-time lecturer with the University of New South Wales in discrimination law. Brook holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Bachelor of Laws (Hons), as well as a Master of Laws with a specialisation in human rights and social justice.

Brook also volunteered for several years with a number of community legal services, is a former Board member of the Victorian Council to Homeless Persons and has written several articles and papers on issues relating to discrimination and human rights. He also has a keen interest in film-making and has written and directed several short-films. Brook has lived most of his life in Melbourne.

Irina Kolodizner

Appointed 1 September 2008
Appointment Expired 31 August 2009

While she was with the Review Board, Irina Kolodizner was an undergraduate student completing a combined Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences (Hons)/Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at the University of Sydney. While undertaking her studies, she worked as a part-time paralegal and tutored in the field of labour law and industrial relations at the University of Sydney. Irina has strong community links, having coached and adjudicated high school debating for a number of years and volunteered for a number of charitable organisations.

Legislative base

The Review Board is established under the Classification Act. The Classification Act provides that the Review Board is to consist of a Convenor, a Deputy Convenor and at least three, but no more than eight, other members.

The Governor-General appoints members of the Review Board. Under the Classification Act, the Minister must, before recommending an appointment, consult with State and Territory Ministers with responsibility for classification. The Classification Act also requires that regard is to be had to the desirability of ensuring that membership of the Review Board is broadly representative of the Australian community.

Decisions of the Review Board

Between 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2010, the Review Board received nine applications and classified four films for public exhibition, one film not for public exhibition, two computer games and one publication. One application for review of the classification of a film for public exhibition was withdrawn.

In 2009–10, the Review Board determined a lower classification than that reached by the Classification Board for one computer game and three of the films for public exhibition. The Review Board made the same classification as the Classification Board for one of the films for public exhibition (although it varied the consumer advice), the only film not for public exhibition, the only publication and one of the computer games.

The Review Board did not determine a higher classification than the Classification Board for any of the items submitted for review.

All reviews were completed within the statutory timeframe.

The written reasons for the Review Board’s decisions are published on www.classification.gov.au.

Table 18 Decisions of the Review Board

Title

Media

Review applicant

Date of review decision

Original classification

Review classification

Stone Bros

Film – public exhibition

Minister for Home Affairs

14 September 2009

MA 15+: Strong drug use

MA 15+: Drug use with strong impact

Julie & Julia

Film – public exhibition

Sony Pictures Releasing

14 September 2009

M: Infrequent coarse language

PG: Infrequent coarse language

Left 4 Dead 2

Computer game

Electronic Arts Pty Ltd

23 October 2009

RC

RC

Hydro Lord – The Game

Publication

Minister for Home Affairs

1 December 2009

Unrestricted: M- not recommended for readers under 15 years

Unrestricted: M- not recommended for readers under 15 years

The Loved Ones

Film – public exhibition

Madman Entertainment

9 December 2009

R 18+: High impact violence

MA15+: Strong horror violence; strong themes

Aliens vs Predator

Computer game

Sega Australia

18 December 2009

RC

MA 15+: Strong science fiction violence

Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo)

Film – not for public exhibition (DVD)

Minister for Home Affairs

6 May 2010

R 18+: Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity

R 18+: Scenes of torture and degradation, sexual violence and nudity

The Karate Kid

Film – public exhibition

Sony Pictures Releasing

18 June 2010

M: Martial arts violence

PG: Action violence, bullying violence and themes


Applications withdrawn

During the reporting period, an application for review of the classification of a public exhibition film, The Time Traveller’s Wife, was submitted and subsequently withdrawn by Roadshow Films. The film was classified M by the Classification Board with consumer advice ‘Infrequent violence’ on 10 July 2009.

Attendance at Review Board meetings

The Review Board convened for seven days in 2009–10 to deal with eight applications. Six of these days were meetings in person and one day was via teleconference.

Table 19 Attendance at Review Board Meetings

Review Board member

Meetings 2009–10*

Number of meeting days 2009–10

Meetings 2008–09

Victoria Rubensohn (VR), Convenor, NSW

6

7

0

Trevor Griffin (TG), Deputy Convenor, SA

6

7

10

Ann Stark (AS), Tas

5

6

10

Melissa de Zwart (MDZ), SA

5

6

n/a

Alan Wu, (AW), Vic

5

6

n/a

Helena Blundell (HB), NT

2

2

n/a

* If more than one meeting is held on the same meeting day, the number of meetings will be greater than the number of meeting days.

Table 20 Composition of panels in 2009–10

Title

Number of meeting days

Panel members

Stone Bros

1

VR, TG, AS

Julie & Julia

1

VR, TG, AS

Left 4 Dead 2

1

VR, TG, AS

Hydro Lord – The Game

1

VR, TG, MDZ, AW

The Loved Ones

1

TG, HB, MDZ, AW

Aliens vs Predator

1

MDZ, HB, AW

Salo

2

VR, TG, AS, MDZ, AW

The Karate Kid

1

VR, AS, AW, MDZ


Complaints

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

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