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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1046


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (19:18): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion again in conjunction with other members. Although I am the only male speaking on this, my claim to association with this very fine motion comes from being the father of two daughters, aged 13 and nine, who has the same concerns that all other fathers in this place have. I take my responsibilities as a parent very seriously. When you are out there and you start looking at what is on the magazine racks, particular magazines targeted at young females, and you look at some of the clothes that are around and some of the images that you can see, whether they are in music videos or in a range of other mediums, you can see there are great causes for concern out there. I read through this report and looked at the recommendations and the other points that were so clearly made. It is very easy to understand that the same issues that face the United Kingdom most certainly face Australia.

Very recently I was at a function in my electorate and a dance troupe came to entertain the crowd. There were three young ladies participating in this event. The eldest was 19, the next sister was probably around 15 or 16 and the youngest would have been anywhere from 10 to about 12 years old. They were outstanding singers and dancers. However, there were times when I guess I was struggling to watch the choreography because I felt somewhat uncomfortable with it. Certainly the amount of lycra in most of the costumes and the make-up were of note but some of the moves—in many ways, sexual moves—that were part of this dance or choreography made me feel uncomfortable. And some of the other people I was there with also said that they were somewhat uncomfortable.

So it is most definitely the case that the sexualisation of children does not just come through the mediums that we are used to discussing—through the magazines and the music videos. It does not just come from that; there are expectations that pervade other parts of society as well. Again, as a father of a couple of daughters, I am greatly concerned about this. I heard recently about the seven-year-old daughter of some people I know. I have seen her wearing lipstick and make-up and she is even apparently wearing a padded bra at seven years old. Again, these are concerning developments in our society. Whilst retail outlets like Kmart and Big W might choose these sorts of products, and they might be useful for helping the older kids—girls around puberty—fit in, I think that it is still somewhat disturbing that these sorts of products are being sold and come in the sizes for those who are well and truly prepubescent. That is another cause of some concern.

I think it is particularly girls who are facing these sorts of marketing issues and the contact through various mediums—the internet et cetera. Girls are certainly facing those sorts of problems and expectations upon them to be more sexual than they really should be before ages such as 16. It is a disturbing thing. But, at the same time, we should not neglect talking about boys and the impact that the increasing marketing of sexual imagery has on boys as well. Internet pornography is a major problem, and I will talk about the internet soon. We know that children's minds are often fairly well hardwired at the outset. When they see imagery of pornography and hardcore pornography when they are young those images, unfortunately, are written hard onto their brains. That is not the sort of balanced view of the world that young children need or should have, and I think it can seriously affect the rest of their lives when they have that sort of exposure.

That really brings me to the matter of the internet. I was talking to friends recently specifically about the internet, and I guess there is a feeling in the community that there is a greater problem with paedophiles and people who are interested in children for entirely the wrong reasons. There is a great deal being thought about at the moment as if this is a bigger problem. I think that the ability of people to access the internet is not helping in these lines. I think with the internet enabling people to access pornography and even child pornography with a degree of anonymity is helping to undermine our society. More people who might have been able to suppress their problems in the past can find access to these sort of images. Fortunately, I understand that the Federal Police is doing a fabulous job in trying to intercept people that have these sort of issues and that are trying to access that sort of pornography. I think that that is a very positive step forward.

With regard to the internet, obviously how they deal with that is a major problem. It has been mentioned before as part of this debate for the motion that the previous government provided free filters for parents. That is most definitely a positive thing that needs to occur; that always should be one of the first lines of defence with the internet. Parents have to accept the responsibility that, no matter whether Facebook says that children can only be 13 before they can have a Facebook page, there will always be a way they can get around it. It will always fall back to the fact that the parents have to know what is going on. Things like having passwords to get onto the internet and the computer being out in the family room are important things. This is one of the best ways of keeping our children as safe as possible.

I will also mention a little bit more about shop displays,. A couple of years ago I had a bit of a war with a local retailers not far from my office. They thought it was fine to display provocative t-shirts on a t-shirt rack at about child height. In particular, there were t-shirts with stick figures in various forms of sexual activity. I asked them, quite nicely, 'I think maybe you should put that back inside the shop.' They said, 'No, we don't think there is a problem.' Then I wrote to them and said similar things. Again, I got rebuffed on that one. The final thing that did get them to pay attention was when I provided them with a photo of a little boy walking along holding his mother's arm and looking straight at that t-shirt. Faced with that photograph, they finally fixed it up—they moved the t-shirts inside, higher up and to a little more obscure place. Sometimes you have just got to get out there and have a go at these people and try to do something about it. Mr Deputy Speaker, I have clearly run out of time, but I do appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate, and I commend all members involved for participating.