House debates

Thursday, 20 March 2008

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

Second Reading

1:53 pm

Photo of Sophie MirabellaSophie Mirabella (Indi, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008. This bill amends the 2007 legislation of the same name which was introduced by the former coalition government. Whilst the name of the bill is the same, there are some important points of difference which highlight the importance of holding firm on all aspects of the Northern Territory intervention and not succumbing to the lure of watering down aspects of the intervention that suit the whims of the left wing of the Labor Party.

The four schedules of this bill are focused on amending various acts in the areas of pay TV services throughout the Northern Territory, the transmission of pornographic material in communities in the Northern Territory, the reintroduction of elements of the permit system and allowing the community stores’ services to be extended to some roadhouses. Clearly the most important aspects of this bill relate to the provisions that water down previous aims of cracking down on access to pornography and, disturbingly, the creeping reintroduction of the permit system.

Sadly, it has been well documented that internet pornography is a means of encouraging children for sex that we know today as grooming. This is an insidious practice and, sadly, one that is not uncommon in today’s society. The Little children are sacred report clearly highlights the nature of the problem and I implore those who have not read the section on pornography in this heartbreaking report to do so. It seems that, in the aftermath of the parliamentary apology to Indigenous Australians, everyone was an apparent expert on the decade-old Bringing them home report which Noel Pearson stated ‘does not represent a defensible history’. Yet very few had bothered to confront the harsh realities contained in the much heavier and disturbing Little children are sacred report dealing with issues of the here and now. This report condemns the stream of freely available pornographic material in Indigenous communities and the report states:

... that pornography was a major factor in communities and that it should be stopped. The daily diet of sexually explicit material has had a major impact, presenting young and adolescent Aboriginals with a view of mainstream sexual practice and behaviour which is jaundiced. It encourages them to act out the fantasies they see on screen or in magazines. Exposure to pornography was also blamed for the sexualised behaviour evident in quite young children. It was recommended that possible strategies to restrict access to this material, generally and by children in particular, be investigated.

So, with significant guts and determination displayed by the former Prime Minister and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the previous government’s bill prohibited the provision of all R18+ television in the prescribed areas of the Northern Territory intervention. Some members would be aware that, as part of the Little children are sacred report, it was noted that Austar pay TV services were readily available and, sadly, they were readily available to children. Customers could contact Austar and receive the service of sexually explicit programs unhindered. This particular bill imposes restrictions to pay TV broadcasters who allocate only more than 35 per cent of total broadcast hours to R18+ rated programs and those which are subject to a written declaration by the minister. I have looked hard and deep but I cannot find any reference to the Labor Party saying this would be their policy prior to the last election. I am happy to be enlightened on this matter, but I very much doubt that I will be.

I have to say that the push to water down the Howard government’s ban is a matter of great disappointment. I also remain concerned about Labor’s so-called endorsement of the ground-breaking intervention into the Northern Territory. Yes, Labor did say that they would review the intervention one year after its inception, and I accept that, but that should not give the new government licence to water down aspects of the intervention that they have previously purported to support and support very strongly on a bipartisan basis. The opposition will move a number of important amendments. We vigorously oppose the reintroduction of the permit system, which the current Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs seems to want to bring back. Surely, she has read the comments of Warren Mundine, the most senior Aboriginal in the Labor Party, when he said:

The permit system didn't stop crime. In fact, if you look at all of the reports that have come out in the last few years, crime has flourished under the permit system, so it’s a fallacy to say that it helps law-and-order problems. It really embedded these problems because some powerful people were able to get away with things without being watched.

The opposition seeks to retain its blanket ban on all R18+ pornography. This is not a paternalistic return to past practices but an absolutely modern necessity and a necessary move to complete the suite of policies to ensure that Indigenous Australians are given the best chance we can give them in creating a very safe environment which is far from the reality in many remote Aboriginal communities. Cleaning up the main social contributors to Aboriginal disadvantage is the best way we can go in achieving these aims. The objectives of the previous government’s intervention into the Northern Territory were noble and they were purportedly supported by both sides of the House. This extraordinary about-face is not only disturbing to many Australians who supported and welcomed the intervention but also a disappointment to many women in the Aboriginal community—many women elders who said thank goodness someone has finally done something to stop the destruction of lives of young children and the sexualisation of young children as young as two and three. I condemn this bill and urge those on the other side to reconsider their position in supporting the watering down of the measures contained in the intervention.


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