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Annual Report 2008-09 Output 1.3

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Classification, copyright and human rights

Summary

Significant progress in Output 1.3 was made in all the three key areas—copyright, classification and human rights. As well as continuing to actively contribute to international work on copyright, the Department made key progress on a number of initiatives in the classification area. These include an industry-based authorised assessor scheme for television series that are released for sale or hire, which commenced on 1 January 2009, and a new scheme that will commence on 1 July 2009 permitting unclassified films and computer games to be advertised, subject to certain conditions.

The Department played an integral role in progressing key protocols attached to international conventions and briefing around the relationship between domestic anti-discrimination provisions and international covenants. A major initiative was the National Human Rights Consultation for which the Department provided secretariat support.

Major achievements

The Department progressed the whole-of-government approach to policies for enforcing intellectual property rights. The Department chairs the Interdepartmental Committee on Intellectual Property Enforcement and also participated in meetings of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Consultative Group, chaired by the Australian Federal Police.

We continued to provide copyright expertise and participate in Australia’s Free Trade Agreement negotiations as well as negotiations of the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

The Department participated in the APEC Intellectual Property Experts Group meetings, and contributed to initiatives on copyright-related capacity building, enforcement and public education.

The Department and Crime Stoppers Australia developed a campaign to raise awareness among school-aged children about copyright, see http://www.frankhardcase.com.au. The campaign included a competition that encouraged children to gain an appreciation of the creative process (for example, by developing a poster, short story, script or production of a news report or short film).

In 2008–09, the Commonwealth Copyright Administration responded to 2,040 written requests to reproduce Commonwealth copyright material.

A symposium on Crown copyright was held on 28 November 2008; Australian, State and Territory Government officials discussed government ownership and use of copyright material. A Crown copyright working group has been established as a result.

The Department, in consultation with the States and Territories, released a consultation paper on proposed amendments to update uniform electronic transactions legislation in light of the proposal to accede to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts 2005. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General subsequently agreed that amendments to the uniform electronic transactions legislation should be prepared.

National Classification Scheme

The Department, in consultation with State and Territory censorship officers, the Classification Board and peak industry bodies, developed an industry-based authorised assessor scheme for films that are compilations of episodes of a television series. The scheme started on 1 January 2009, with details in the Classification (Authorised Television Series Assessor Scheme) Determination 2008.

From 1 July 2009, a new scheme for advertising unclassified films and computer games subject to conditions will commence. This has been made possible through amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, State and Territory classification enforcement legislation and creation of the Classification (Advertising of Unclassified Films and Computer Games Scheme) Determination 2009.

The Department worked closely with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to develop proposals for amending the pornography restrictions that are part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) so they comply with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. On 21 May 2009, the Government released a discussion paper outlining proposed amendments to aid consultations with residents of prescribed areas in the Northern Territory.

In 2008–09, five new members were appointed to the Classification Board and two existing members were reappointed. A new convenor and two new members were appointed to the Classification Review Board and one existing member was reappointed.

Classification of publications, films and computer games

The Department provided a range of industry training programs. Industry sectors continued to access the various assessor schemes through training their people. Officers from Commonwealth, State and Territory law enforcement agencies and from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service were also trained.

The Classification Liaison Scheme is a joint State, Territory and Australian Government initiative aimed at improving industry compliance with classification laws. The scheme staff conducted 732 compliance checks across a range of restricted and non-restricted premises in capital cities, regional and rural centres.

The Business Operations Support System, integral to administering the National Classification Scheme, was replaced in 2008–09.

A review of classification fees began in 2008–09 and should conclude in 2009–10. The review involves analysis of each classification fee and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

Same-sex law reforms

The Department developed legislation to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. The same-sex reform package successfully passed through Parliament on 26 and 27 November 2008. The reforms amend 84 Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their families in areas such as taxation, superannuation, social security, health, aged care, veterans’ entitlements, workers’ compensation, employment entitlements, immigration, child support and family law.

National Human Rights Consultation

The Department provided secretariat support to the National Human Rights Consultation Committee. Work has ranged from organising community consultation meetings across Australia, to undertaking research and developing internet and blogging resources to facilitate engagement with stakeholders. The committee has undertaken broad and extensive consultations, receiving around 40,000 written submissions and conducting 66 community roundtables in 52 locations across Australia. The committee will report to the Government on a range of options for protecting and promoting human rights in Australia by 30 September 2009.

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

On 19 May 2009, Australia signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and is currently working towards ratification. The Department is consulting with relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies on necessary steps to implement the Optional Protocol obligations. Following consultation, the Department will prepare a National Interest Analysis, which will be tabled in Parliament and referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Australia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 17 July 2008. The convention aims to remove barriers faced by people with disabilities and reinforce their civil, political, social and economic rights. The Department worked to fast-track consideration of whether to ratify the convention.

Purchaser/provider arrangements

The Department provides operational and financial support for the Classification Board and Classification Review Board. The Classification Board operates on a cost recovery basis, the Classification Review Board on a partial recovery basis.

In 2008–09 the Boards finalised 7,032 applications. The estimated revenue for 2008–09 was $8.017 million and actual revenue was $6.888 million.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority may apply to the Classification Board for classification of content under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Commonwealth agencies and authorities are not liable to pay classification fees. Each State and Territory enforcement agency is provided with up to 100 free ‘eligible documents’ each calendar year if the request relates to enforcement of a law of the State or Territory that complements the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.

Outlook

Upon completion, and subject to the approval of the Prime Minister and endorsement from the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, the Model Electronic Transactions Amendment Bill will be released as an exposure draft. The amendments will need to be passed by each jurisdiction before the Government can consider accession to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts 2005.

The Crown copyright working group will meet again to progress a number of possible reforms for Government copyright matters. Options will be developed for Government to respond to the Productivity Commission’s report on the parallel importation of books.

An ongoing challenge for the National Classification Scheme will be how to ensure the scheme remains relevant in the face of increasingly rapid technological change. At their April 2009 meeting, Censorship Ministers asked their officers to develop a fact sheet on classification requirements in relation to online computer games and to consider any anomalies in coverage and consult with industry. The Department is leading work with the States and Territories on this issue.

In 2008–09, non-compliance with classification requirements and State and Territory enforcement laws arose as a serious issue and was brought to the attention of Censorship Ministers by the Minister for Home Affairs. The Department is chairing a Commonwealth, State and Territory Working Group that is developing proposals to improve compliance with the National Classification Scheme. The Department will also continue to work cooperatively with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to improve compliance for offensive material imported into Australia.

The Classification Operations Branch will finalise its review of classification fees and will implement a new fee structure accordingly.

The National Human Rights Consultation has been very successful in eliciting community views. This has given rise to significant expectations of a tangible outcome for the community, and heightened interest in human rights issues. The Government’s social inclusion agenda is also raising awareness of the need to address disadvantage and prevent discrimination. Distilling the essence of the consultation outcomes and developing a report that delivers on community expectations will be a major challenge in 2009–10, particularly with resource constraints.

Performance indicators

Table 6: Performance indicators, Output 1.3—Classification, copyright and human rights

Key performance indicators 2008–09 target Result

Support is provided to the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board as and when required in a responsive manner

The Director and the Convenor of the Boards express satisfaction with support provided

Director and Convenor indicated they are highly satisfied with quality of support provided.

The Director of the Classification Board commented that cooperation between the Department and the Board continued in a highly productive and effective way. Departmental support has enabled the Board to successfully manage a number of important developments such as changes in Board membership and high profile issues. Work on the new computerised information system was completed to everyone’s satisfaction and it should further enhance productivity in the year ahead.

The Convenor of the Classification Review Board indicated that she has had no problems with support and the Department has been very helpful.

Administrative support that enables classification decisions to be made within the statutory timeframe

Achieved

Provision of ancillary services which support the National Classification Scheme

Provision of training to enable industry to access assessor schemes

Achieved

Industry is regularly using the assessor schemes.

Classification liaison site visits across jurisdictions

Achieved

Advice provided in relation to classification, human rights, copyright (domestic and international), discrimination law, and electronic transactions issues is accurate, timely and efficient

Ministers and key agencies express a high degree of satisfaction as to the quality, effectiveness and timeliness of advice as measured by periodic feedback

Achieved

Feedback indicates satisfaction with the timeliness and quality of responses.

Papers and conduct of meetings of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (Censorship) comply with the committee’s procedural requirements

Required timeframes for circulation of papers and other procedural requirements are met

Substantially achieved

Procedural requirements met. Timeframes for circulating papers were generally met. Final papers can only be circulated once all censorship officers have agreed on their content.

Requests to use Commonwealth copyright are dealt with in a timely and efficient manner

Positive feedback from stakeholders

Substantially achieved

The Commonwealth Copyright Administration often receives emails from clients expressing gratitude for efficient response times.

 

Administered items Results

National consultation into human rights and responsibilities

Substantially achieved

The Committee has undertaken broad and extensive consultation, receiving around 40,000 written submissions and conducting 66 community roundtables in 52 locations across Australia. The Committee will report to Government on a range of options for protecting and promoting human rights in Australia by 30 September 2009.

Budget price: $1.899 million

Actual price: $1.488 million

Administration of National Classification Scheme

Achieved

Administration of payments to the States and Territories under the 1995 Intergovernmental Agreement (relating to revised cooperative legislative scheme for censorship in Australia) became a Treasury responsibility from 1 January 2009 under the new Federal Financial Relations Framework.

This will be the last year the Attorney-General’s Department will report on payments to States and Territories under the National Classification Scheme.

Budget price: $0.274 million

Actual price: $0.249 million


Our people

National public consultation on human rights

 Kimberley Evans, Diana Rahman, Kim Farrant and Fiona Hamilton, Human Rights Branch, <br/>Social Inclusion Division

Kimberley Evans, Diana Rahman, Kim Farrant and
Fiona Hamilton, Human Rights Branch,
Social Inclusion Division
.

Protecting and promoting human rights is a central concern

The National Human Rights Consultation began on 10 December 2008 – the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The consultation has attracted the largest number of public submissions ever received for a project of this kind and more than 6,000 people have attended community roundtables held nationally.

Kim Farrant heads the Consultation Secretariat and staff from across the Department have contributed their many skills and expertise to the project.

‘The Australian Government is committed to a social inclusion agenda that focuses on homelessness, mental health and disability, joblessness, children at risk, and closing the gap for Indigenous Australians.’

‘At the heart of these initiatives are the vulnerable groups who often don’t know what
their rights are, or the options available to them
if those rights are breached,’ Kim explained.

The consultation has provided the opportunity to hear from the most marginalised people in our community about the human rights issues they face, as well as from non-government organisations, academics and politicians from across the country. These views will be synthesised and provided to the Australian Government as the basis upon which to develop human rights policies, laws and institutions.

‘For me the highlight has been engaging with individuals from communities around Australia and listening to their stories. For example, we have talked to elderly people in care, children in immigration detention centres, people with disabilities, Muslim women, and Indigenous Australians seeking to preserve their culture. Their stories have provided a human face to the consultation and have revealed why this project is about so much more than a technical discussion about laws, policies and democratic institutions,’ Kim said.

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