ANDREW DENTON: When you were Minister for Customs and Excise, you were in charge of censorship in this country and at that time, late 60s, early 70s, you’ve described Australia as censorship crazy. In what way?
DON CHIPP: The list was banned. You couldn’t publish it.
ANDREW DENTON: The list?
DON CHIPP: You didn’t know what was banned and what wasn’t. Intolerable. I published the list and the reasons why it was banned.
ANDREW DENTON: Were there some stupid bannings? Were these all sensual books, or…
DON CHIPP: ‘Noddy’ was banned once.
ANDREW DENTON: ‘Noddy’.
DON CHIPP: Enid Blyton, because there is a place on page 84 which says “And Noddy walked down a country lane and felt a little queer.”
ANDREW DENTON: And that was banned in this country?
DON CHIPP: Yeah.
ANDREW DENTON: What did you keep in your office, was it books and magazines?
DON CHIPP: No. I allowed all members of Parliament and the press to take the banned books of literary merit home, but I didn’t let them take the porn home. I said if you want to see the porn we ban, come to my office and see my hapless secretary Trevor who will show it to you. He had regular visits from 12 members, mostly, all members of the Liberal and Country parties… They used to turn it over and “Isn’t this a dreadful book?” “Trevor, that’s dreadful.” Trevor would say, “What are you looking at it for?” “We’ve got a duty to our constituents.” They were the blokes who were criticising me in public allowing the pornography and depraving our young.
ANDREW DENTON: So they knew what was good for people, better than people themselves did?
DON CHIPP: Yeah. I think censorship is evil, Andrew. It’s the beginning of the Big Brother state, and if you start censoring matters and facts from people, it’s an easy step to censor all sorts of things and they don’t know what is going on. The ‘Tampa’ incident, the children overboard incident, there was censorship and lies in my view.
ANDREW DENTON: What you are talking about with Tampa is effectively freedom of information. How do we enshrine it so that there can be no censorship of material that people need to judge?
DON CHIPP: Only with the goodwill of politicians and I don’t think either party will agree with that.
ANDREW DENTON: Why not?
DON CHIPP: It is against their interests, they love having secrets.
You should read the rest of the interview – it’s not so much about censorship, but it is fascinating nonetheless. And a little sad, too – Australia really could use a politician like Don today…