Media Release 24/10/07
The Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. Rick Barker, has failed to replace three members of the nine-member Film and Literature Board of Review (“the Board”), whose positions expired on 31 March 2007, almost seven months ago. The Society, which has raised numerous concerns with the Minister and his predecessor, the Hon. George Hawkins, over their respective failures to comply with their statutory duties regarding Board appointments; says that these three lame- duck members – Peter Cartwright, Dr Lalita Rajasingham and Stephen Stehlin – have played no active role in Board proceedings since 27 April 2007. However, it points out that the Board is required by law to have NINE fully-functioning members (not just six), each fully capable of participating in all review processes, who reflect the breadth of cultural, ethical and standards-based concerns found in New Zealand Society in the area of censorship (safeguarding the “public good”) .
The Board has continued this year to convene hearings, deliberate on critical reviews and issue decisions, but has done so since the end of April without any input from the three lame-duck members concerned. While it is true that the Board can operate with full authority and carry out its functions in law as a quorum of five , the non-participation of three members due to their positions having expired, is not sanctioned in law, says the Society. The quorum provision is only there for pragmatic reasons – to overcome genuine unavailability (sickness, family commitments, work conflicts etc) of members. It is not a provision put in place to assist a tardy Minister, unable or refusing to carry out his statutory duties.In early November 2005 the Society wrote to Mr Barker requesting that he replace seven of the current board members whose terms of Office had expired 15 months earlier, on 31 May 2004. It set out its reasons for the request in detail. The Minister did nothing. It was not until May the following year that he finally did something – he reappointed the entire Board, much to the disgust of the Society, even though he had received a large number of quality nominations for the seven Board vacancies.
The Minister’s seeming inability to comply with his statutory duties over a range of his portfolios has led to speculation that he will be ousted from Cabinet in next week’s Cabinet reshuffle. The Minister’s predecessor, the Hon. George Hawkins, had a much worse track record relating to Board of Review appointments. He allowed the term of Office of the Deputy Chief Censor, to remain vacant for almost two years before dealing with the problem. He only acted after the Society filed a writ of mandamus against him in the High Court in 2002, for his failure to apply the law. He lost the case. Many say that Hawkins is another lame-duck who should leave politics and “get a life!”
Cartwright, Rajasingham and Stehlin, were all first appointed to the Board on 12 June 2001 and their positions all expired on 31 May 2004. Then on the 8th of May 2006 they were all reappointed, effective from 20 April 2006 until 31 March 2007. All three have been Board members for a total of six years and four months. However, the law states that a Board member can only be appointed for two successive 3-year terms and no more. All three are well and truly passed their used-by-date and the Minister has allowed the spirit of the law to be flouted through his apparent indolence. (Meanwhile he has allowed the Board President, Claudia Elliott and her Deputy, Greg Presland, to hold office for 8 years and 7 years respectively ).
One Board member in particular must be urgently put out to pasture – Peter Cartwright, husband of the former Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright. He has been involved in censorship for over 20 years. He was formerly Chair of the Indecent Publications Tribunal and Chair of the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), and has demonstrated a consistently liberal approach to the censorship of publications containing degrading sexually explicit content and extreme graphic violence involving women. He served on the Tribunal with the current Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, from 1990-1994. The morally corrosive and toxic impact of their liberal decisions on New Zealand Society will be one of the sad and enduring legacies of both men. Under Cartwright’s leadership of the Tribunal, the authority set about radically liberalising magazine censorship in the 1990s allowing degrading hardcore porn to be widely available legally for sale in New Zealand – in local bookshops, corner dairies etc and via mail order catalogues.
Cartwright’s liberal mindset on pornography was well known before he ever got involved in any statutory roles in censoring hard-core pornography in the 1990s. As chairman and member of the executive committee of the Auckland Council for Civil Liberties, he stood for strong opposition to any form of censorship. For him, any pictorial representations of non-violent, consensual, sexual intimacy between adult models – including all forms of hard-core – could not be indecent – “indecent” meaning, in the Indecent Publications Act. Dealt with in a way injurious to the public good .
Desensitisation of mind through over-exposure to hard-core porn, lack of moral discernment and inability to function with the concerns of young persons and children in mind, continue to prevent Board members like Cartwright, as well as the Chief Censor and his deputy, from playing any further useful role in censorship decisions. How could a men like Cartwright and Hastings, answerable to the Governor-General, the Minister and the public, approve the public screening of films like Baise-Moi, Visitor Q and Irreversible in New Zealand cinemas – featuring explicit, gratuitous and incendiary scenes of brutal rape, sodomy, necrophilia, corpse mutilation for sexual gratification, sex involving human faeces and incest etc. – for adult entertainment (sexual titillation)?
By law the Film and Literature Board of Review must consist of NINE independent members, part-time members of the community appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Internal Affairs with the concurrence of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Women’s Affairs. At present there are effectively only six members. Only five members attended the Board hearing on 20 August to consider the important classification decision on the horror film Hostel II II. The Minister has failed to fulfil his statutory obligations in dealing with the current vacancies.
References:  Details on current Board members and their terms of appointment.
 Section 100(2) of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 states: “…every review shall be conducted by the President and at least 4 other members of the Board.”
 A Stand for Decency: Patricia Bartlett & the Society for Promotion of Community Standards 1970-1995 by Carolyn Moynihan (1995) pp. 160, 174-175, 185, 188, 197.