A couple of times I've challenged those criticising the Labor Party's Internet filtering plan that they really sound like they should be mounting a campaign against existing censorship and classification laws, not filtering as such. At least my regular commentator Bob Bain seems to have a genuine interest here, and makes lots of valid points about the inconsistency of various State Laws - but the hotch potch of our Federation isn't easy to solve.
In the context of the Internet filtering controversy it is the Federal law that matters. And that law as it applies to other content does have the feature that content classifications can be appealed.
But before the current round of campaigners get too carried away I thought we should think about the anti-censorship campaigns of the past. The death of John Mortimer gave the opportunity for Felix Dennis, one of the three he defended in the Oz trial, to write a new short recount of that trial.
The interesting thing about it was that the trial was pursued as a conspiracy trial with potentially open-ended penalties. The editors found it hard to find legal representation, a fact that Dennis attributes to political machinations. Subsequent investigations revealed corruption in Scotland Yard in policing pornography and the fact that Oz was singled out for political reasons rather than moral ones (as it represented the "alternative society").
Despite the fact that Oz had its origins down-under our own censorship battles waged into the 70s. The SMH published a story under the titleThe Filth and the Fury in 2004 to coincide with an exhibition on censorship. It recounts some of the the tales of our other counter culture publishers.
[Wendy] Bacon admits she and her supporters - anarchists, libertarians and non-authoritarian socialists - were primarily interested in publishing anything that was forbidden. Whether a poem or article had any literary merit was irrelevant; adults should be free to read or see whatever "turned them on". Challenging authority through an attack on censorship was a form of "direct action". In the end it became the only raison d'etre of Tharunka (and its later forms, Thorunka and Thor).
it goes on
Though the immediate reaction of most people gazing at the innocuous exhibits in the exhibition will be one of bafflement - why would a censor be looking at that? - it's also a timely reminder that Government restrictions on what adults can and cannot see is still a sensitive issue in Australian politics, though formal censorship has been replaced by a classification system.
I don't think the current battle matches that battle at all. However, it does remind us that we should never relax and never be satisfied that "the Government" is acting appropriately.
But they are things that can be addressed through scheme design. It would be nice if the sound and the fury can be directed at that rather than notional point scoring about who said what when.