Australia, once a country of rather basic mien, has made great strides in the direction of culture. It makes wine that can mostly be ingested without indigestion. It even occasionally qualifies for the World Cup.
However, I wonder whether a newly noticed Australian cultural wrinkle might set the country back in the perceptions of many international travelers.
The national barometer, the Sydney Morning Herald, is alerting visitors to Australia that their laptops, and indeed the rest of their luggage, might now be searched for porn.
It seems to have taken the Australian Sex Party, which does much sterling work--including promoting green sex toys--to first notice a change to those little cards that aliens must sign before entering one of the jewels of Pacific Rim exploration.
Since September of last year, visitors have been required to answer whether they are carrying "pornography" on their person, place, or thing. This seems a something of a hoary question, as my dim knowledge of such things suggests that some pornography is, indeed, legal.
Perhaps some will be changing their travel plans when they hear that Australian customs officials confirmed to the Herald that they do now have the power to peek inside your laptop, iPhone, or even iPad and check whether you might have some naughty images or, even better, movies.
Others will be relieved that the customs officials declared that they will apply "tact and discretion." Which, presumably would mean no loud exclamations including the words "Cor!" "Blimey!" and "Sheila!"
The customs spokesperson helpfully explained to the Herald: "Including an express reference to pornography is intended to enhance the interception of prohibited pornography at the border, by making passengers aware that some forms of pornography may be a prohibited import."
Oh, they mean farmyard animals and the like. Or do they? How is any visitor to Australia supposed to know what the Australian pornography laws might be?
How is anyone supposed to know whether that little film they made with a fellow consenting adult after a tipsily consenting bar encounter might be discovered by peeping (cus)toms and declared illegal? Will the film merely be wiped from your laptop? Will the Australian government promise to take a copy and e-mail it back to you once they've thoroughly examined it and once you've left the country?
Will anyone with intact right and left brains really tick the box that says "Yup, I'm carrying me some porn, mate"? And what exactly is meant by the Australian tourist board's recent encouragement to "unleash your inner adventurer"?