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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4572 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I think it is also fair to say that probably nobody in this chamber likes this material very much. It is certainly not to my taste. After long experience in the Assembly, I think I can say with confidence that it is probably not to any of our tastes. Nevertheless, there is a demand for it in the ACT and elsewhere. It is a demand which I find quite inexplicable, but while the product is legally available I have no objection to that demand being met in a legal and regulated fashion.

We have seen a number of schemes come and go. The most recent, of course, was the regulatory and revenue scheme put in place by the former Alliance Government, which was effectively struck down in the High Court in the Capital Duplicators case. The striking down of that previous regime meant a great deal of lost revenue for this Territory, because until that point we had had a thriving industry, I am led to believe, and an industry which was paying a considerable amount to the Territory by way of revenue. It is important that we attempt both to regulate that industry in our Territory and to extract an appropriate contribution towards the Territory's coffers from that industry. The Opposition will be supporting the Government's legislation.

The Bill which the Attorney-General has brought forward actually widens the definition of X material to include films and CD-ROMs as well as videos in the licensing scheme. That is a move which I think is very timely. We have to keep up with new technology in this area, as in all other areas. The Bill also makes tighter provisions for the inspection of premises to ensure that the laws are being complied with. Unfortunately, we know only too well from recent events that those provisions are extremely necessary and that even while this industry enjoys a relatively privileged position in this Territory there are some - a small number - who would seek even to flout the legislation which we have here. I welcome the tighter provisions for the inspection of premises.

The Bill also restricts and puts conditions on the sale of films, publications and computer games, and at the same time it imposes the new revenue regime. The revenue regime, at first blush, might seem to be a very severe imposition, because it increases a $50 per month licence fee to $10,000 per year - a fairly massive increase. I think that when you take into account the previous legislation which was struck down, which was a tax on the retail side of X videos, then you can well understand that the Government needs to take additional measures to make up for the income from what the High Court has regarded as unacceptable - in fact, an excise. We will be supporting the Bill, particularly as it is a revenue Bill and is expected to raise some $450,000 in a full year of operation. I believe that that is income which the Territory needs, and it is an appropriate contribution by this industry to the welfare of our Territory.

I was a little bit alarmed to see the Government, again at the eleventh hour, drop a whole range of amendments on members. In fact, I received them last Friday afternoon. This imposes a considerable difficulty upon private members who do not have the kind of staff or resources who can consider large changes at such a late hour. Nevertheless, I have now had an opportunity to examine those amendments in some detail, and they do not give me any difficulty.

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