By Fiona Patten on August 2, 2010 at 9:30 AM

When was the last time someone went to jail in Australia for a censorship crime? 1870? 1926? 1947?

Try… May 2010.

That’s right. In May of this year, the NSW Labor government sent a 40-year-old gay adult-shop owner to jail for selling non-violent, erotic X-rated films. He has just been released and from all reports is a broken man.

Make no mistake about what really happened here. This man went to jail for selling films that had been classified by a federal Labor government as legal to sell, legal to purchase and legal to possess at a Commonwealth level. They were legal to bring into the country through Customs in Sydney and they were legal tender in western democracies around the world. But in the moral backwater that Australia has become since the mid 1980s, politicians are in our bedrooms like never before. The religious right have quietly transformed this once free nation into a country of censors and moral puritans.

Last week a 40-year-old Sydney woman who ran an adult shop in Sydney’s southern suburbs was hauled before a magistrate and fined $5000 for selling adult films that were legal at a federal level and was told by the magistrate that if she was convicted again she would immediately go to jail. This happened in a state where the Police Commissioner is a regular Hillsong Church worshipper and who recently ordered bibles to be printed with NSW Police monograms on them. Whatever happened to the notion of separation of church and state in Australia?

Last month, Australia’s largest producer of non violent erotica, a Gen Y Melbourne website operator called, was convicted and fined for making X rated films by a state Labor government. He used Gen Y models who often filmed themselves in their own homes and many of these 18 -25 year old men and women received visits from the police in trying to convict the website operator. Rather than wait around for a jail sentence on a second offence and for proceeds of ‘crime’ legislation to bankrupt him, he packed up his entire business and staff and migrated to the Netherlands where his business is perfectly legal.

A couple of months ago the federal Labor government changed the Customs regulations to force people to declare whether they had any ‘pornography’ when returning to Australia. It didn’t matter if the material was legal. If you had anything that could possibly fit the definition of ‘pornography’ such as a Playboy magazine, a lesbian journal, a photo of your partner naked or, worse still, an image of the two of you making love on a mobile or a laptop, you had to declare it or risk prosecution. Customs officers now have the right to search your browsing history and iPhoto for the catch-all reason of investigating ‘pornography’.

Suddenly the tide has turned. Morals groups and religious bigots have infiltrated both the Labor and Liberal parties to such a degree that they are now jailing people for censorship crimes and forcing companies to leave the country. Even the Greens have chosen not to make an issue of this increasingly alarming situation.

It is against this backdrop of the most sinister censorship regime in years, that the federal Labor government has launched its new internet filtering regime and now an equally sinister online data retention proposal. Although the Coalition have hedged their bets on these proposals they unequivocally back the moral agenda behind them even more than Labor. The Greens, through Scott Ludlam, have strenuously and publicly opposed these on line proposals but have done nothing to address the creeping censorship that underpins these crazy schemes. The fact that they preselected Clive Hamilton, the architect of the government’s online filtering proposals, to contest the by election for the seat that Peter Costello vacated in December last year, meant that they were, at best, confused about their approaches to censorship in general.

Full article here

Fiona Patten has over 20 years experience in the adult goods and services industry as a lobbyist and advocate. She has been the CEO of Australia’s national adult retail and entertainment industry association – the Eros Association – since 1992. In 2008 she launched the Australian Sex Party in an attempt to win Senate and state Upper House seats and to challenge the balance of power positions that Steve Fielding’s Family First and the Rev Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats, currently hold.

She started her career as an AIDS educator with ACT sex workers through the local advocacy group, WISE. Since then she has held positions on the Board of the AIDS Action Council, AFAO, ACT Attorney General’s Sex Industry Consultative Group and the National Sex Worker organisation the Scarlet Alliance.

In 2007 she was a consultant to Foxtel’s Showtime, advising on the making of the brothel industry program, Satisfaction. In 2002 she was a regular sexual health commentator on Channel 10’s Beauty and the Beast.

Her work frequently sees her meeting with state and federal Ministers over a range of adult industry issues from immigration to censorship.