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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6793

Mr CHEESEMAN (9:45 PM) —Tonight I rise to draw the parliament’s attention to a website that is causing considerable harm in my region, and which I believe could be breaching sections of the Criminal Code relating to menacing behaviour and causing offence. The website is The postings regularly publish photographs and addresses of young women in the western Victorian region, along with threats, degrading comments, tirades of abuse and denigration. The internet site has a feeble policy of removing addresses, but often only after a period of time and after the damage is done to those young women. I believe this is a deliberate act on behalf of the website authors. I also believe the language often used on it is intimidating and menacing and it should be looked at within the context of menacing behaviour and/or causing offence under the Criminal Code.

I understand that we have to provide a balance between freedom of speech and other rights, but I believe this sort of material is a gross violation of people’s rights and nobody should be subject to these sorts of threats, abuse or intimidation. While I understand there might be a mixture of responsibilities between the website host and those posting the comments, I believe a case should be investigated against both. I understand that considerable police resources would be required to unveil the people who have posted such comments. I believe it is important to pursue this matter and to set precedents against these sorts of forums and these sorts of behaviours into the future.

As the local federal member that represents large parts of western Victoria, I have written to the Federal Police and I await a response from them. I believe this conduct is bullying and should be punished under the Criminal Code. I have also sought an explanation from the Federal Police as to why this should not be prosecuted under such a code, particularly under the menacing behaviour and causing offence sections within this legislation.

Young women should not be bullied or intimidated or violated in this way. As legislators, we often follow the developments of the internet, often all too slowly. That is the case in other areas of rapid technological advancement. Nevertheless, I believe that these offensive behaviours do possibly breach certain sections of the Criminal Code and I certainly await a response from the Federal Police as to why these people should not be prosecuted. If the Criminal Code does not enable prosecution, I will be taking these matters further with the Australian government to ensure that, wherever possible, we do put in place responsible legislation that protects the rights of young women, particularly those at high school who have regularly been subject to all sorts of abuse via this internet site and others as well.