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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 13871


Mr McGAURAN (Minister for Science) (9:58 PM) —That speech is a measure of the seriousness of the member for Rankin and the opposition's approach to this very important legislation. Many members on both sides of the House have taken the Communications Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2002 very seriously because it affects the access of children to pornography and other aspects of online content. The member for Rankin, who has trailed his own leadership credentials throughout the last few months, is one to talk about leadership, isn't he! What about the front-page report in the Australian on Tuesday morning that the member for Rankin had joined a coalition to attack the Leader of the Opposition?


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—I am asking the minister to come back to the point. The member for Rankin has risen to make a point of order, which I am sure is to ask the minister to come back to the bill. I ask him to do so.


Mr McGAURAN —Perhaps I should take out an FOI on Monday's shadow ministry meeting to see whether or not an alliance, led by the member for Rankin, was formed to attack the Leader of the Opposition!

Getting back to this very important legislation: the issue of FOI has been the major issue that members have concentrated on. The amendment to the Freedom of Information Act is small but important. The amendment is designed to ensure that the FOI Act cannot be used to undermine the online content regulatory framework contained in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. That is why we need the amendment to the FOI Act: because as it presently stands it has the potential to seriously restrict the provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act and therefore we would not give young people the full protection intended by the government. That is the seriousness of the issue before the parliament, and it is not to be trivialised by game-playing of the kind that the member for Rankin has displayed.

The online content framework allows the Australian Broadcasting Authority to investigate complaints from the public about material online, including information that would be refused classification or classified X by the Classification Board. In order to carry out its investigations into this potentially prohibited material, the ABA has to acquire the material. The sort of material we are talking about could include depictions of child pornography or paedophilia. That is the seriousness of the issue, but the member for Rankin and others on the other side have not approached this legislation with an appropriate degree of seriousness.

The amendment to the FOI Act will specifically exempt from disclosure, under FOI, material that is prohibited or potentially prohibited. If prohibited content in the ABA's possession was disclosed under FOI, there would be no mechanism for controlling the use or dissemination of that material once disclosed. This amendment brings Australia into line with other countries with similar mechanisms for investigating complaints about online content. For the opposition to oppose this amendment to the FOI Act means that they are not serious about restricting young people's exposure to pornography or paedophilia.

It is very disappointing for this bill to be treated in this way by the member for Rankin and others. That is yet again a measure of their inability to realise the issues that really matter to Australians and to Australian families. Who can ever forget the opposition's attacks on Senator Alston and the government's plans for controlling online content, as it affects young people, only a couple of years ago? Now they are again continuing to undermine the government's attempts to restrict pornography to young people. I commend the bill to the House.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Melbourne has moved as an amendment that all words after `That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

Question agreed to.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.