House debates

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008

Second Reading

12:36 pm

Photo of Barry HaaseBarry Haase (Kalgoorlie, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure, Roads and Transport) Share this | Hansard source

There is now an attitude, it seems, whereby Indigenous people can perhaps look to the presence of state and territory police to assist them. Maybe they should believe that the once-every-six-weeks patrol into so many of these communities is going to be a solution! I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you were the perpetrator of these heinous crimes, taking advantage of children or abusing women, would you hang around in the community on the day you knew the state or territory police were to arrive to inquire into these matters? No, you would ‘go scrub’. And the victims remaining in the community would surely not be stepping up to those state and territory police officers and saying, ‘I am the victim of abuse’, because they would know all too well that in the next 24 or 48 hours that police presence would leave, the perpetrators would come back in from the scrub and, if there were even a whisper that the perpetrator had been ‘dobbed’, there would be even more frequent abuse and even more violent acts.

So this is not just a solution that has been proposed by a federal government and is hoped to be successful. I know very, very well that what is required additionally here is the greater intervention of state and territory police. They are in abysmally small numbers, on the ground, in permanent residency, within these communities. The levels of permanent police force in these communities is abysmal—absolutely abysmal. And we all expected that—with the introduction of a Labor government federally, this new-found abolition of the blame game and the support of Labor state colleagues—we were going to see an increased police presence in communities, because that is what it is all about. If perpetrators in isolated communities know that they will have no heavy hand of the law curtailing their heinous activities, those heinous acts will simply keep on happening. And if the agencies that go out from these state and territory governments into communities do nothing more than tick boxes, as they have done in the past, where do the victims turn to?

In case there is any doubt about whether the people who know what is going on have a point of view about the permit system, for instance, I will quote from the Australian today. I will quote extensively from the article by James Madden because the people of Australia need to know just what is going on under this new Labor government:

AWARD-WINNING journalist Paul Toohey has handed back his prestigious Walkley Award to protest against a push by the journalists’ union to make media representatives outline their intentions to authorities before being granted access to Aboriginal communities.

In other words, it’s: ‘Tell us what you’re going to expose in our community and what you’re going to report on and if we think it’s going to allow us to continue with what we are doing now we’ll give you a permit. If we think you’re going to be critical and if we think you’re going to tell the wider community of Australia what’s going on in our community, we won’t give you a permit.’ I quote further:

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, led by federal secretary Christopher Warren, last week released an additional “code of conduct” for journalists entering and reporting on Aboriginal communities.

The article continues:

Toohey, who was named Australian Journalist of the Year in 2000 for his reporting from northern Australia and won a Walkley Award in 2002 for a magazine article on petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities, said yesterday that the MEAA “was now actively working against media freedom in favour of what it mistakenly believes are the interests of Aborigines”. “It shows, surprisingly, a profound ignorance of how journalists work. And of how Aboriginal communities work,” said Toohey, The Australian’s chief Darwin correspondent.

“Would the MEAA suggest to correspondents in China that they should first consult authorities before seeking out Tibetan dissidents? What if the journalist wants to do a story about the local police, or corruption in the local council? Since when does the independent media announce its intentions to the state?”

The whole crux of the removal of the permit system is to allow greater transparency to allow the public of Australia to have a greater knowledge of and understanding about what is going in part of their nation. The article continues:

Central Australian Aboriginal Labor politician—

a Labor politician—

Alison Anderson yesterday described the MEAA’s proposed “code of conduct” as a sham.

Ms Anderson, who favours the removal of the permit system for Aboriginal communities because she believes it works towards shielding predators and exposes women and children to abuse, said the code was “absurd”. “Communities have to be opened up like every other town. And we have to be treated like equals. Journalists don’t ask police in country Victoria for permission to speak to someone in that town,” Ms Anderson said.

The MEAA, which runs the Walkley Awards, developed this revised code of conduct for journalists following the Rudd Government’s decision to wind back the previous government’s changes to the Northern Territory Land Rights Act ...

This is a woman who represents Indigenous people. She is not some blow-in from some capital city on the coast, and she knows what is going on. I know what is going on, and I was very confident that the interception moves made by the last minister for Aboriginal affairs, the Hon. Mal Brough, were going to be effective in the long term. I do accept, as the member for Bonner said, that additional work was required, but we were on the right track and for the first time the women and children that are currently being abused—and not just them—had some hope. That hope will be dashed with the introduction of this legislation without amendment.

The whole issue of community life is so poorly understood by the Australian public. Sure, we had the Little children are sacred report, which made so many people aware of what was going on. The government of the day acted because of that report. The opposition of the day cooperated and agreed broadly to the content of the legislation. Then we had a change of government and now, as I have just said, hope is dashed.

This government is now going to make it legal for the transportation of R18+ material through the Northern Territory. Why? Is it so that those who are found in possession of this material in communities can simply suggest it was in transit? I just do not know where the legislators are coming from. They are supposing that a community can request to opt out if it does not want material with a greater than 35 per cent R18+ content coming in on, for instance, pay-TV. I wonder if those opposite understand the leadership structure of communities. I wonder if they understand just how any request to opt out would be formulated, how it would ferment in the community and eventually lead to a position whereby that material was banned from the community. Given their belief in that—as they do believe—in formulating this legislation, I think I can infer from that that the tooth fairy and the other one at the bottom of the garden are very real. That is said with apologies to the legislation staff, by the way. They are led by this Rudd government and they have no option but to come up with these crazy ideas that will now see this loophole abused ad nauseam and without interruption. If there is going to be some sort of opt-in/opt-out arrangement, why not maintain the ban for R18+ material and have communities opt in? Let the community leaders of today put their hand up and go through the formal process of opting in for the broadcast of this material in their communities.

Is it perhaps that the opposition, contrary to their constant publicity about overcrowding in housing and the lack of opportunity for children to be segregated from adults—even believing that those circumstances exist—have an idea that this R18+ material will be viewed exclusively by those who are over the age of 18? Maybe they figure that, with the introduction of this legislation, all of the housing problems—the overcrowding and so on—will change. For the life of me I cannot understand how they can possibly believe that in reality—and we are talking about the reality of practical outcomes, as quoted by other speakers. Do they really believe that this material, which is designed and legal for viewing by persons over the age of 18, will only be seen by people over the age of 18?

There is a lot of evidence that says that pornographic material is deleterious. The Anderson-Wild report concluded that pornography was one of the main factors that led absolutely to family and other violence and then on to sexual abuse of men and women and finally of children. The report noted further that children in Aboriginal communities are widely exposed to inappropriate sexual activity, such as pornography, adult films and adults having sex within the child’s view, and this exposure can produce a number of effects, particularly resulting in the sexualisation of childhood and the creation of normalcy around sexual activity that may be used to engage children in sexual activity. It may also result in sexual acting out and actual offending by children and young people against others. In the Northern Territory we have had numerous cases of such action going before the courts. As a result, we have had accusations made and all manner of payback and disruption within the community.

Why not keep the pornography out? Why not accept legislation? Why not write legislation, in the first place, that bans 18+ material, because of the nature of community living, and allows communities to opt in if they are brave enough to put their hand up and say, ‘We need a regular diet of pornography, 18+ material’? That would make a little bit of sense. But creating this blanket acceptance of the existence of pornography in communities and then suggesting that communities should go through the process—believing that they possibly could go through the process effectively—to opt out is a nonsense. That is why I cannot accept this legislation and why I support the amendment. We need to show the Indigenous people of Australia that we as a parliament respect the women and young children in these communities. We need to be seen by Australia as doing something that will give hope and a future for these people so they can enjoy additional educational facilities. The last speaker spoke of an increased number of teachers in boarding schools. That is a wonderful initiative, but until such time as kids have a future and they know that they will get a job as a result of education and that they have the support of the people of Australia, and specifically this parliament, they despair. (Time expired)


No comments