IN A move designed to tighten censorship guidelines surrounding art exhibitions, the NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, will ask censorship ministers to clarify and streamline the National Classification Scheme as it applies to artworks depicting children.
After controversy in May over a Bill Henson photographic exhibition that included naked underage children, Mr Hatzistergos will ask a meeting of the ministers today to consider strengthening procedures under which publications can be the subject of "calling in". Publications include art exhibitions.
State and territory censorship ministers are meeting in Brisbane today as part of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
It is the third proposal arising from the Henson affair. NSW laws regulating child pornography and art are set to be overhauled and about 50 responses to the Federal Government’s proposed children-in-art protocols have been received. From the new year, the Australia Council will provide new protocols for artists who depict children in their work.
The Classification Board can "call in" publications it believes may breach relevant classification guidelines and vet them.
After NSW police shut the Henson exhibition and seized 32 pictures following public uproar over a picture of a naked 12-year-old girl on the exhibition invitation, the board declared that the images were not pornography. The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, also declined to prosecute the artist.
"Recent events have indicated that the community could benefit from greater certainty and consistency in the application of the National Classification Scheme, particularly to art works," Mr Hatzistergos said yesterday.
He is expected to propose that censorship ministers prepare a paper on the feasibility of harmonising calling-in provisions and other options.