The Australian government says it will enact a far-reaching law to ban films, literature and games advocating terrorist acts.
Attorney General Phillip Ruddock announced Friday the federal government will unilaterally amend classification laws.Ruddock failed to reach agreements with the state and territorial attorneys general.
"The commonwealth will legislate to put in place an amendment to the Classification Act, given we were not able to obtain a unanimous agreement from the states and territories to the proposed changes," said Ruddock on Friday.
Advocates for freedom of expression have castigated the government's proposals to broaden the country's censorship laws.
Rob Hulls, the Attorney General for the state of Victoria, accused the federal government of "trying to bully the states and territories into accepting laws he hasn't even demonstrated we need."
Hulls said the rights of Australians to freedom of speech will be jeopardized.
"Any changes to censorship laws need to be very carefully considered and drafted."
Ruddock released a discussion paper in the spring, which required responses from lawyers, advocacy groups and authors by the end of May.
Anti-violence law already in place
Australia already has a law which suppresses any works that "promote, incite or instruct in the matters of crime and violence." Decisions are made by the review board of the Office of Film and Literature Classification.
Alex Byrne, head of the International Federation of Library Associationsand Institutions, argued the changes amount to censorship.
"They're censoring political views which they believe may incite terrorism.… Thatis political censorship," Byrne told the Inter Press Service in May.
Ruddock has indicated he will develop a ways to allow academics and students to be granted limited access to banned works.
'Terrorism itself is a subjective term.'—Jeremy Fisher, Australian Society of Authors
Critics say that would make it easy for the government's security service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, to scrutinize who is accessing the banned works.
"If you've got difficulty with the ideas that are put forward in [a] book, then you should refute those ideas, not ban the book," said Jeremy Fisher, the executive director of the Australian Society of Authors.
In a response posted on the society's website, Fisher points out that "terrorism itself is a subjective term."
"History is littered with this type of subjectivity masquerading as the voice of reason. So-called terrorists have been criminals one day and revered leaders the next. For example, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were both labelled as terrorists in their pursuit of the freedom of their peoples."