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Minister Fails in Board Appointment Process

Minister Fails in Board Appointment Process

Tuesday 2 May 2006.

Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc.

The Society is calling on the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. Rick Barker, to replace eight members of the Film and Literature Board of Review because: (1) Their terms of office expired over 23 months ago, (2) the Minister made a commitment last year, in answer to a written parliamentary question, that "the process [of filling the eight vacancies] should be completed by April 2006" (Q 11043), and (3) all the Board members have failed to fulfill their statutory duties as laid down in the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 ("the Act").

Following serious concerns over the performance of this board, raised with the Minister by the Society and later reported in the media, he called for nominations for the eight "vacant" board positions in early December 2005, setting a deadline for receipt of nominations of 21 December 2005. The Society understands today that a good number of highly qualified nominees were referred to the Minister before this deadline.

Board members whose term of office expired almost two years ago include Rotorua-based barrister Claudia Elliott (President), Greg Presland (Deputy President), Peter Cartwright (the Governor-General's husband), Mark Anderson, Dr Brian McDonnell, Marion Orme, Dr Lalita Rajasinghe and Stephen Stehlin. They have all continued to meet regularly as a board, issue highly controversial classification decisions and have been paid fees and allowances since 31 May 2004 when their terms of office expired. The Society understands the Board convened a meeting just last week.

The Minister has claimed that all these Board members, who were first appointed on 1 June 2001, have remained in office despite the expiry date having well passed, because the former Minister, the Hon. George Hawkins, requested that they remain in office. This is a lame-duck excuse for the current Minister's inability to fulfill his statutory duties under the law and ensure that the appointment process is completed.

Society president Mike Petrus says: "The Society strongly opposes the reappointment of any of the current Board members, whose classification decisions reflect an extremely liberal mindset.

For example, this board unanimously approved the following films for adult viewing for the purpose of "entertainment" in cinemas and/or for home viewing and/or for study by students in tertiary film and media courses, following reviews: the brutal and sexually explicit rape films "Baise-Moi" and "Irreversible"; the sexually explicit film "9 Songs", the sexually degrading film "Anatomy of Hell" and video "Sinners No Doctor, Yes Doctor", and the gratuitous Japanese sex-violence film "Visitor Q", depicting necrophilia, sex acts involving human excrement, incest and corpse mutilation.

The board issued these decisions well aware that it is parliament's intentions, as embodied in section 3 of the Act, that such obscene content matter should be strictly off limits for the public (e.g. lengthy, gratuitous and explicit depictions of rape)."

The Society contends that Board members such as Peter Cartwright, husband of the Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, have issued decisions that have at the very least "tended to promote and support criminal activities such as rape, the sexual violation of corpses (necrophilia), and other sexually degrading, demeaning and deehumanising acts - all directed against young women.

It holds such members of the Board, along with the Chief Censor Bill Hastings and his deputy, Nicola McCully, to account for the ever-increasing volumes of sexually degrading garbage that is being cleared for release into mainstream cinema and the home-'entertainment' industry.

Petrus says: "The government should support those nominated to the Board who will uphold the law, oppose and stop the current unlawful regime that clears films for public cinemas that contain gratuitous depictions of objectionable content defined clearly in the Classification Act. The current Board has never sought to tighten the classification restrictions on any publication in the review process, following the release of the classification decision issued by the Office of Film and Literature Classification."


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