Australia’s guidelines for adult films could be reformed after the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recommended an overhaul of classification laws.

This could result in the legalisation of X-rated films nationwide and the legalisation of films containing fetish material.

Currently the federal Government classifies media while the states and territories legislate to enforce those classifications, resulting in the situation where X-rated material is legal to sell in the ACT and the Northern Territory but technically illegal in the states — although the laws are rarely enforced.

The ALRC has recommended that the federal Government take over responsibility for enforcing classifications and that laws be harmonised under a new national Classification of Media Content Act.

It has also recommended a review of current guidelines which cause films deemed to contain fetish material to be rated Refused Classification (RC) and banned.

Under these guidelines, films containing legal consensual behaviour including bondage, spanking, fisting, watersports and hot wax dripping have been rated RC and banned.

“The ALRC considers that this is an area where the Government could consider narrowing the scope of the RC classification category,” the ALRC’s report reads.

“Prior to 2000, the X 18+ classification category for films accommodated ‘mild fetishes’. It may be that Australians are open to the X18+ classification category accommodating ‘mild fetishes’. The results of the ALRC’s pilot study on community attitudes to higher level media content are not incompatible with such a suggestion.”

The ALRC also plans to rename the RC classification “Prohibited” to clarify its meaning.

The ALRC recommended that the focus on adult material should shift from making sure all material in Australia has been classified by a Government body to ensuring children are not able to view adult content.

“Requiring Australian classifiers to watch and classify all R 18+ and X 18+ content is not an effective or viable means of regulating adult content,” the report reads.

“Imposing a classification requirement that will be widely ignored, and would … have a very limited effect on content hosted outside Australia, may lower respect for the law, and waste limited regulatory resources.

“Regulating content sold on some platforms, but not others, is fast becoming unworkable. The ALRC considers that there should not be one set of laws for pornography on the internet, and another for pornography on DVDs and magazines.”

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