PORNOGRAPHY AND THE TOBACCO DEFENCE
John Miller


The main arguments put forward by government and industry in defence of pornography is typified by a former Attorney-General who wrote not so long ago:

"The Government does not believe that the portrayal of explicit, but lawful adult sex on film where there is no coercion or sexualised violence of any kind falls within   (the harmful) category."

"It is sometimes suggested that there is evidence of a link between "pornography" and sex crimes I have been advised that, in overview, the research on this subject is inconclusive. Most researchers in this field agree that there is insufficient scientific evidence to conclude that there is a direct link between watching sexually explicit material and the commission of crime "

This argument can be described as the Tobacco Defence. It is even more difficult to establish a direct scientific link where the harm caused is psychological, which is the case with pornography, rather than physical, which is the case with smoking tobacco. Presumably, the scientific evidence that is being demanded can only be obtained from scientific laboratory studies.

What this defence demands is proof beyond reasonable doubt that sexually explicit material causes harm to those who view it. Such proof beyond reasonable doubt is normally required in the case of proving a criminal offence. However, in the case of child abuse, where the perpetrators are other children or adults who have viewed "the portrayal of lawful adult sex on film where there is no coercion or sexualised violence",  in civil proceedings and administrative matters, state and territory laws only require proof on the balance of probability.

There is a mountain of evidence in regard to harm, from Australian sources and from around the world. It has been submitted to this Parliament time and again over recent decades. The evidence is sourced from police investigations, evidence presented in courts, judicial opinion, and clinical experience. If this evidence is considered on the balance of probability the link between sexually explicit material and child abuse would, without any doubt, be proved. However, in the past, all this evidence has been rejected by government because of "insufficient scientific evidence" - the tobacco defence.

Classification policy and laws should be changed to reflect the balance of probability in proving the link between exposure to pornography and sexual assaults upon children.


John Miller
Canberra 2005