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Memento : Issue 17
In fact, we have a whole group of files that deal with just that. The files come from the Department of Customs and Excise in the 1960s. One of the department's functions was to decide whether books should be banned from import into Australia under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. The files contain detailed analyses, by the department's Literature section, of publications that had been imported or seized from people arriving in Australia. Government Ministers, police and members of the public also referred publications to Customs. A file was opened on each publication and these records (but not the publications themselves) are now held in our Canberra office as part of series A425. Ginger, You're Barmy was a novel on the life of conscripts in the British Army by David Lodge. It survived a brush with Customs in 1963 because its use of 'coarse' language was considered realistic. Many of the publications relate to sex and the examiners dutifully worked their way through hundreds of publications with titles like Sexbound, Perverted Orgy and Carnal Cage. Their comments were often scathing: 'This is a weak story of a seductive lass who disrupts the uninteresting lives of some American swamp dwellers'. The most interesting files deal with widely known works, which came to Customs' attention because they were considered to include obscene language or depraved imagery. In 1963 the Penguin Book of Modern Australian Verse was referred to Customs by the Queensland Police on the grounds that the poem 'Imperial Adam' by AD Hope was obscene. After police inquiries, the book was withdrawn from use by Roman Catholic schools in Queensland. But this time the Literature section was not on the side of the censors. The examining officer conceded that Hope was perhaps the 'enfant terrible' of Australian literature, but did not regard the poem as obscene. Translations of Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich also attracted Customs' attention in 1963, the book being initially withheld and then released. Debate turned on the number of occurrences of 'the FLW' (four-letter word). The examiner wrote: 'The use of the FLW in books of literary merit is becoming more and more common particularly with American editions and it is very hard to decide where the borderline in the quantity of its use should be drawn.' The records in this series are available to the public and, needless to say, make for fascinating reading! 16 When you think of government files, four-letter words and indecent language are not the first things to spring to mind. Ginger, Ginger, you're barmy you're barmy CENSORED Allegations of graft, corruption, intimidation and 'Chicago-like gangsterism' leap from the records of the Privileges Committee, released for the first time on 1 January 2001. The House of Representatives Standing Committee of Privileges was established to inquire into and report on complaints of breach of privilege -- the special rights, powers, immunities and protection granted to Federal Parliament, its committees, members and senators. One of the infamous cases investigated by the committee between 1944 and 1965 ended in the jailing of the proprietor and editor of the Bankstown Observer. In April 1955, the Bankstown Observer, owned by Raymond Fitzpatrick and edited by Frank Browne, published an article alleging that the Honourable Member for Reid, Mr Charles Morgan, had been involved in an immigration racket before World Wa r II. Morgan had earlier accused Fitzpatrick, a former business associate and political rival, of graft in connection with government and municipal contracts. in memento may 2001