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Monday, 30 August 2004
Page: 26708


Senator LUDWIG (7:49 PM) —This was a matter that I included in my speech in the second reading debate on this bill. I cannot now recall whether you were in the chamber at that particular time but I can at least summarise part of the reason for us not supporting your amendment. It was a matter that was examined in detail during the relatively short Senate inquiry. The Attorney-General's Department gave evidence, you might recall, about the drafting of this aspect of the bill because it similarly demonstrated to us that there might be a potential for a problem to exist. If you looked at drafting this aspect of the bill to craft a general defence related to research into paedophilia and child abuse, the difficulty would be that you could end up having it misused as a general defence, which would really run counter to the whole idea of what the bill aimed to do because it would provide the ability for a defence based on more general grounds to be used.

The short answer then was that the Attorney-General's Department gave evidence that it was an issue that also came up during the exposure draft. They had consulted with the Australian Institute of Criminology on the prevalence of genuine research of this kind because, firstly, it begs the question whether there is genuine research into this area. It was determined that a mechanism involving approval of the minister was workable in those rare cases where it is demonstrated that genuine research is being sought to be done in this area. Just saying it is usually workable is not always enough, at least from our perspective. But the department also drew the committee's attention to comparable approval processes in other legislation for research into prohibited drugs. Although not comparable in a sense it is still a prohibited substance that you would want tight or at least very restrictive controls on regarding the sort of research done. On that basis the explanation by the Attorney-General's Department was sufficient to satisfy the opposition that the approval mechanism is not inappropriate in this circumstance for this limited purpose. Therefore we will not be supporting the Democrat amendment. We think the alternative would leave it too open to abuse.

Question negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.