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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14869

Ms ROXON (3:05 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister explain to Australian parents his comments from February last year that an adult having sexual relations with a 14-year-old child could be excused from a legal perspective? Prime Minister, what sort of message is being sent to child predators and paedophiles when the Prime Minister himself argues a defence of this behaviour and suggests the onus of proof must be placed on the victim?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I have not in the time available—but I will—retrieved a full transcript of that press conference, but to suggest for a moment that I was implying that the onus of proof should be suggested, when I was merely repeating my recollection of what the law said, is grossly unfair. It is quite wrong and really does go beyond the bounds of reasonable debate. Those who sit opposite have got a perfect right to attack me politically on this, but do not in the name of trying to advance your political advantage misrepresent what I said. I will go back to that transcript, and I will look over it very carefully, and I think I will find, as is my clear recollection, that I was merely stating what the law was.

The SPEAKER —The member for Lyons is warned!

Mr HOWARD —During that press conference, I think I would have used words to the effect that child abuse made my flesh creep. The member for Gellibrand does not quote that, because it does not suit her advantage to do that.

This is the sort of base level to which the Australian Labor Party have sunk. Once again, this genius who sits opposite me as Leader of the Opposition has blown it. Instead of trying to construct an argument based on an error of judgment by the Prime Minister, you start dragging in questions, which he must have authorised, implying that in some way the Prime Minister is soft on child sex abuse. That is what he has done. He is responsible for this and nobody else. Let the Australian public make a judgment today, not on me, not on the Governor-General, but on the Leader of the Opposition.