In April 2012, customs in Melbourne inspected a parcel containing 27 manga and hentai comic books. Fifteen of these were seized because they contained
"…stylised images of sexual fetishes containing non consent or physical harm"
The confiscated titles were:
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
11 May 2012
To: Bruno Marques
On 28 April 2012, an Express Mail Service (EMS) parcel containing twenty seven (27) comic books was examined by Customs and Border Protection, addressed to you at ...
Fifteen (15) comic books were identified as contravening the Customs Act 1901, by depicting stylised images of sexual fetishes containing non consent or physical harm.
Included with this letter is a seizure notice for the above goods. Please note that it is in your interests to read the "Important Note" on the seizure notice.
Although seizure action only will be taken in this instance, you should be aware that it is an offence to import these goods without a permit under Section 233 (1) (b) of the Customs Act 1901. The maximum penalty for the importation of these goods is $110,000.
Information relating to what you can and can't bring into Australia can be obtained by contacting the Customs Information Centre on 1300 363 263 or at www.customs.gov.au
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Mr Marques contacted Fiona Patten from the Australian Sex Party for advice. She recommended him to take the matter to court, which would force customs to have them rated.
With the help of Greg Barnes, a Victorian civil liberties barrister, Mr Marques challenged the confiscation.
In October 2013, the seized comic books were submitted to the Classification Board by Australian Customs and Border Protection. They were rated as follows.
Reason: Pubs 1(a) The publication is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Publications Table, 1. (a) as publications that "describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified."
Reason: Pubs 1(b) The publication is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Publications Table, 1. (b) as publications that "describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not)."
Australian Government Solicitor
Your ref. Z 00949794
Our ref. 12062972^
18 January 2013
Melbourne Magistrates' Court
233 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000.
CEO of Customs v Mr Bruno Alves MARQUES; Condemnation Application Melbourne Magistrates' Court Proceeding: Z00949794
1. We act for the CEO of Customs in the above proceeding, which proceeded by way of a mention on 10 December 2012.
2. At the mention, the parties indicated to the magistrate that the matter was likely to settle without the need to proceed to final orders. The Court was asked to adjourn the matter sine die, on the basis that the proceeding would be withdrawn by our client if settlement was reached. The Court acceded to the request and the proceeding was adjourned.
3. As anticipated the matter has settled. Our client now seeks to formally withdraw the proceeding.
4. Please confirm when this request has been attended to and please do not hesitate to contact the writer if you have any query.
Customs Seizure of Japanese Manga Ruled Invalid
Australian Sex Party
February 23, 2013
The Australian Customs Service has been forced to return a private collection of Japanese manga comics recently seized from a Melbourne collector. The case has set a new benchmark for the importation of manga and also raised questions about the ability of Customs officers to properly evaluate adult material. Manga is a very widely used media and entertainment format by many young Australians.
Eros Association and Sex Party President, Fiona Patten, coordinated the classification issues around the decision and Victorian civil liberties barrister, Greg Barnes, ran the legal case.
Bruno Marques is a member of the Melbourne-based Manga Appreciation Society and last April ordered 15 manga comics on line, including The Melancholy of Marisa Chan, Satori Cannot Make Any Friends and AKI MOMO: Autumn Peach. Australian Customs Investigations Branch manager, Sean Quinn, wrote to Marques advising him that "fifteen (15) comic books were identified as contravening the Customs Act 1901 by depicting stylised images of sexual fetishes containing non consent or physical harm”.
Fiona Patten said that all the material Customs had seized was freely and legally available to view online. "When I saw what they had taken, I advised Mr Marques to object and take the matter to court, thereby forcing Customs to have the material classified by the Classification Board (CB). The CB ruled that 30% of the material was quite legal to bring into the country and last week, Mr Marques went and picked them up from Customs House”.
In November of last year Mr Marques purchased the same publications again in Bali and presented them at Melbourne Customs for inspection and was allowed to bring all of them in.
Ms Patten said this raised serious issues around the uniformity of decision-making in Customs and the education levels of ordinary officers at the coal-face. "In our negotiations with Customs they claimed that they didn’t need to have the Japanese publications translated to classify them. In fact the only translations that were put forward were provided by Bruno Marques. Customs even used the translations that he provided, against him. How reliable can decisions on foreign material be if no official translations are made”, she said? "These were cartoon drawings of Japanese fantasies like 200 year old fairies having consenting sex with giant frogs, so why would Customs even consider them as illegal imports? The characters are not even human.”
She said the initial decision was out of touch and culturally arrogant. " The material was never illegal to possess in Australia which begs the question as to why Customs are seizing legal material under the Regulations. Mr Marques’ interest was for his personal use and the only way he could challenge the Customs’ decision was to take it to court.
Ms Patten said that even though possession of the material was legal in Australia, Customs’ actions could now mean that if someone were to draw the images in any Australian state that that would be considered a ‘production’ and leave the artist liable to a jail sentence. "I would advise all Australians who now get a seizure notice for any media to immediately appeal the decision and allow the courts and the CB to assess the material”, she said.
Ms Patten said that she had written to the new Customs Reform Board and the Minister to request that the Customs Import Regulations be urgently amended so that they did not contradict or work against the Classification Act. "Material that is legal to posses in Australia should be legal to import for one’s own personal use”, she said. "Since 2004 it has been an offence to import media that would be Refused Classification (RC) but the RC classification under the Act has always been about commercial use not private use. Customs have deliberately misinterpreted the Classification Act for what seems to be their own empire-building purposes and in so doing have trashed the civil rights of many Australians.
Media Enquiries, Fiona Patten: 0413 734 613
In June 2008, AC Circulation was awarded a Category 1 rating for a 24-month serial-classification of MATURE 50 magazine.
In May 2010, a 100-page edition of MATURE 50 Volume 5 #1 was banned by the Classification Board. A censored 100-page edition was passed with a Category 1 rating in August 2010. Gordon and Gotch was the applicant.