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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 11. 1963.

Censorship Bill Aids Secrecy

Censorship Bill Aids Secrecy

The new Indecent Publications Bill introduced in Parliament by Mr. Hanan several weeks ago is substantially the same as the one that lapsed last year. This bill was reported in detail in Salient 6.

Nevertheless, there is at least one provision in this year's version, the whole concept of censorship apart, which should give cause for alarm.

In the previous version, the Court or Tribunal before which a matter was being argued would have been able to restrict publication of the proceedings to the official Gazette. It could not, however, exclude the public from its hearings. There was, therefore, a slight concession to the idea of justice being seen done.

That concession has now been removed. Under certain circumstances, which are left to it to decide, the Court or Tribunal will be able to exclude the public if it believes that this would be "in the interests of public morality."

It is quite easy to visualise a tribunal, equipped with these powers of secret censorship, holding proceedings in camera at the slightest opportunity, especially as the evidence introduced is likely to be embarrassing for some. Public bodies in New Zealand are too prone to hold proceedings in secret, and in view of the present Government's recent legislation on the meetings of public bodies, the proprising.

Most of the discussion in the House assumed that members wanted to ban "the trash" that is generally available now. This view was not seriously challenged.

The secrecy provision, however, was challenged by Mr. Shand. Minister of Labour, who was concerned about the principle of a free press. Unfortunately, his views were not shared by a majority of members.

These provisions apart, the Bill is probably the most enlightened we will get for a long time, though it is not adequate. But it is interesting to reflect that since there has not been a major indecent Publications Act for 50 years, at the present rate of change, it is unlikely that a Labour Government will alter things in the near future.

When we consider Mr. Nash's desire to ban shooting on TV, and Mr. Mason's wish to ban ungrammatical books, we can see that we should be thankful that they are not likely to get the chance.