Macquarie University
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Arts-media censorship in Australia: doing the right thing the wrong way

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:03 authored by Robert John Ryan
This study of arts-media censorship in Australia covers the period 1997 to 2012. The main aim of the thesis is to demonstrate that if arts-media censorship is necessary, the current system is neither the best nor most efficient means of achieving its ends. Two suggestions for change are offered: (1) sufficient and informative labelling, undertaken by the entertainment industry, would dispense with publicly-funded classification; (2) child sexual abuse images are evidence of crimes and, as such, should be left to the police to investigate as with any other evidence of crimes. It is demonstrated that Australia’s censorship apparatus is inefficient, expensive and, because it cannot entirely control the Internet, all but impotent in preventing access to censorable and banned material. (There is reliable evidence that Australians download more uncensored movies in a week than the censors review in several years). Of material submitted by the entertainment industry for classification, about 99% is found to be acceptable and what remains is most often either government control of the individual’s expression of sexual preferences or evidence of crimes against children. The protection of minors remains the prime reason for arts-media censorship in Australia. Other reasons are gleaned from the wording of the relevant legislation. Those reasons are: (1) to maintain community standards of morality, decency and propriety, (2) to prevent offence to others, and harm to others and the self. It is demonstrated that: (1) the standards are illusory; there never have been, nor are there now, any such generally accepted standards; (2) while there is no substantial evidence that access to arts-media causes harm, many other activities known to be harmful are either not government regulated (e.g. sports), or allowable (e.g. tobacco use). The reason for the one, and not the other, relates to the governance of morals; for example, the use of tobacco, although deadly, is not immoral. The thesis concludes that arts-media are consumables and as such should fall within consumer affairs laws and regulations which require vendors to provide sufficient information as would allow consumers to make informed choices. Finally, arts-media censorship involving the making, distribution and possession of images of minors is deserving of more examination than the scope of this thesis allows; especially where child protection law conflicts with the principles of justice.


Table of Contents

Part 1. Censorship for adults -- Part 2. Censorship for minors -- Part 3. Suggestions for change.


Bibliography: pages 325-346 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Steve Collins

Additional Supervisor 1

Willa McDonald


Copyright Robert John Ryan 2015. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (346 pages) illustrations

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