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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26278

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (9:55 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


This Bill introduces important new measures that will criminalise use of the Internet, where the intention of that use is to counsel or incite suicide, or promote or provide instruction on a particular method of committing suicide.

The offences will cover use of a carriage service, including the Internet, to access, transmit or make available material that counsels or incites suicide, or promotes or provides instruction on a particular method of committing suicide. The possession, production or supply of such material, with intent to make it available on the Internet will also be covered.

Currently there are a range of easily accessible Internet sites and Internet chat rooms that provide explicit instructions on methods of committing suicide and, in the case of Internet chat rooms, sometimes contain actual discussions where one person or even a group of persons urge another to commit suicide. Studies have shown that in some cases such Internet chat room discussions have lead to a person attempting suicide, sometimes successfully.

The proposed offences reflect the harm that can be done by those who use the Internet with destructive intent and they will assist in preventing the use of the Internet in this way to encourage vulnerable individuals to take their own lives.

Advocacy of, or debate about, law reform on voluntary euthanasia or suicide related issues that takes place on the Internet will in no way be affected by the proposed offences, because these types of communications would not carry the requisite intention. For the same reason the offences are unlikely to capture material such as research papers dealing with suicide related issues, or suicide prevention or support material.

These offences are intended to complement existing Customs regulations prohibiting the physical importation and exportation of suicide kits and information related to those kits. They will carry the same maximum penalty as the Customs offences of $110,000 for an individual.

The offences will also complement the proposed new telecommunications offences in the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Telecommunications Offences and Other Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2004 (the Telecommunications Offences Bill No. 2). Amongst the range of measures in the Telecommunications Offences Bill No. 2 are new offences addressing Internet child pornography, use of the Internet to `groom' or procure children for sexual activity, and menacing, harassing or offensive use of a carriage service.

This Bill contains important measures that will protect our most vulnerable and help to prevent the Internet from being used for destructive purposes towards those individuals.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.