House debates

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

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

Consideration in Detail

5:35 pm

Photo of Tony AbbottTony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and the Voluntary Sector) Share this | Hansard source

I do not wish to long detain the House on this matter and I am not going to do what some members did in the recent MPI debate and impugn the motives of people on the other side of the parliament. I accept that the minister is doing her best. She is in a difficult position. That is why you are a minister, I suppose—to deal with difficult issues. But I do wish to make some further observations in response to her contribution.

Sure, the Howard government’s legislation on this matter did not fully proceed through the parliament. That is absolutely right. But the Howard government’s legislation on this matter was to implement the announced intention of the intervention—expressed very forcefully by the then government and supported, we thought, by the then opposition, now the government—to totally ban pornography in these communities. To make that ban real and effective, we proposed the legislation and put it to the parliament; the election intervened and it did not go through. But let’s not have word games here. The intervention is about a full and complete ban on pornography in these remote Northern Territory towns, and that is what the amendments that I moved seek to do.

If I may just briefly respond to the minister: how can it be in the interests of these remote communities to continue to have access to pay TV porn? What remote beneficial purpose does it serve these communities ravaged by domestic violence and, tragically, child abuse to continue to have access to sexually explicit, degrading material? It can serve no conceivable beneficial interest of these communities to continue to have access to this material. What circumstances might the minister come across that could possibly justify the continued access of people in these places to this material? She says that, in the end, it is her decision, but she is going to find that either it is acceptable or it is not. I challenge her to say when it might be acceptable to continue to have access to pay TV porn in these places. And if she does not think it is ever going to be acceptable to have access to pay TV porn in these places, surely the consultation exercise is just a charade. I think an honest government would simply ban the stuff, if that were its intention. It would not go through a sham consultation exercise, which is what I suspect the minister is hinting at.

The minister made the point in her contribution a moment ago that the Police Association wants the permit system to stay. I would take the Police Association more seriously on this matter if the Northern Territory police had done a better job in keeping the booze, the pornography and the violence out of these places. I know individual police have done the best they could under difficult circumstances, but there has been a complete, utter and total failure of policing in these places for years. One of the reasons it has gone on for years is that it has not been written about. It has been hidden from the Australian public by these permits. That is why the permits should go—not because we want all sorts of undesirable people to be flooding into these places but because if they do flood in we want to know about it. And the only way we are going to know about it is if we can visit and if journalists have complete access to these places, as they properly do to everywhere else in a liberal, free and open society. I commend these amendments to the House and, having heard the debate, I think we had better divide on it.


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