National List MP based in Hutt South Chris Bishop's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Interim Restriction Orders Classification) Amendment Bill unanimously passed its first reading in Parliament last night.
"My bill will help avoid a repeat of the banning of author Ted Dawe’s award-winning Into the River," Mr Bishop said.
“The unfortunate banning of Into the River for six weeks in 2015 revealed an anomaly in the law around ‘interim restriction orders’ made under the Film, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993.
“Interim restriction orders can be made by either the President of the Film and Literature Board of Review (or the High Court) when a classification decision is appealed to a higher review body.
“Into the River was the first time an interim restriction had been ordered on a book. In making the order, the President of the Board of Review had only two options – to leave the book unrestricted, or to ban the book entirely before the Board of Review met. What was not available to him, under existing law, was the power to reinstate either of the two original classifications (unrestricted M or R14).
“The President chose to ban the book entirely, even though three separate classification decisions had ruled the book should be legal - including the President himself arguing for a R18 restriction.
“My bill will provide the President of the Board of Review (and the High Court) an expanded toolkit that can be used when considering whether to restrict a publication. The Bill will allow the President to restrict a publication based on age, or specified classes of people – the same powers available to the Classification Office and Board of Review.
“In the case of Into the River it would have meant the President could have reverted the book to its R14 status, rather than banning it outright, while the review was considered.
“It is quite plain that Into the River should not have been banned. This small but useful change will help ensure such a situation does not happen again."
The bill, which unanimously passed its first reading, will be examined by a select committee with the public able to make submissions.