A BILL designed to regulate the geographical placement of billboard advertising in Queensland based on classification ratings was recently voted down after a heated debate in State Parliament that saw a campaign supporting LGBTI rights being compared to a banned bestiality advert.
The bill that was drafted by KAP aimed to give the government a regulatory framework for billboard advertisement using a geographical classification zoning policy in an effort to protect children from being exposed to sexualised material in areas where they frequent.
Amendments to the Classification of Publications Act 1991 put forward by KAP proposed that 15 and 20 kilometre zones be placed around “facilities frequented by children and families” for what they considered only G-rated advertising. Facilities mentioned included schools, shopping centres and bus stops.
This condition, along with several other disagreements over the way in which the regulation would be governed, costed for and carried out was mentioned by Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie who voted against the bill, along with all other members of the Liberal-National and Labor parties.
“Based on the zones proposed, it would be almost impossible for zones other than G-classification zones to be established due to the proximity of locations to schools and other areas ‘frequented by children and families’,” Bleijie told the parliament.
He also argued that the idea of establishing zones was pointless as children were not just isolated to areas like schools and hospitals, but were everywhere within the state.
“Even if children do not access a particular area on a frequent basis, they may still attend the area or drive through an area — for example, on their way to school. It is clear… that the concept of geographical classification zones has been poorly considered, with no thought as to the practical implementation of such a scheme,” he said.
Members of KAP and the Palmer United Party (PUP) spoke in favour of the bill and all voted subsequently.
KAP leader and son of the party’s founder, Robert ‘Robbie’ Katter, argued that the harm done by early sexualisation of children by exposure to “adult sexual behaviour” could damage the “foundation they need to become adults who are capable of forming positive, caring sexual relationships”.
Other LNP members referred to KAP and PUP MPs as “cats and dogs” as they spoke and agreed that the model being proposed was unworkable and ineffective.
Condamine state KAP MP Ray Hopper argued that the model that already existed for advertising standards — self-regulation — was useless and that the Advertising Standard’s Bureau (ASB) was a “failure”.
He also noted the efforts of Australian Christian Lobby’s Queensland director Wendy Francis in pushing for advertising regulation and supporting their amendments.
“Wendy has worked hard on these G-rated billboard advertisements across Queensland, and everyone in this House has to back her,” Hopper said.
Francis has been a vocal opponent to several moves made to bring about LGBTI equality, especially during the 2011 Rip ‘N Roll safe sex ad campaign.
The Rip ‘N Roll campaign along with another LGBTI advert from PFLAG in 2013 – “Congratulations, you’re having a lesbian” – were highlighted by proponents of the bill as examples where the ASB had failed.
The PFLAG billboard was mentioned alongside what Knuth considered another failure of the ASB — a 2013 Foxtel “bestiality” ad in Sydney’s Kings Cross that was taken down in one day following complaints.
Plans to regulate outdoor advertising in Queensland is still on the government’s agenda after referring the issue to the parliament’s Health and Community Services Committee last year, prior to the KAP bill.
“This committee considered whether the outdoor and billboard advertising industry in Queensland should be reformed, including whether legislative reform is needed to protect children from being exposed to sexually explicit and inappropriate advertising,” Bleijie said during the debate.
Some recommendations following a report from the committee in January this year included establishing a co-regulatory approach to outdoor advertising using a code of ethics that is given effect by regulation.
It also suggested an industry adjudication board be established to determine whether outdoor advertisements breach the code of ethics. Noncompliance matters would be referred to the Attorney-General and Department of Justice and to consider penalties and enforcement.