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Child access to Internet porn points to a failure of government policy: Harradine.

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Brian Harradine, Senator for Tasmania

Child access to Internet porn points to a failure of Government policy: Harradine

The Australia Institute report “Youth and Pornography in Australia”, indicated a failure of Government policy in the regulation of online content, Senator Brian Harradine said today. The report found that 84% of boys and 60% of girls in the 16-17 year old age group have had accidental exposure to Internet sex sites.

Senator Harradine said Government agencies, in particular the Australian Broadcasting Authority, had failed to protect children from the predatory porn industry.

Senator Harradine will raise the issue in Senate question time tomorrow.

“Government policy in this area is obviously not working. The Australian Broadcasting Authority and NetAlert are not making an impact when as many as 84% of 16-17 year olds are being exposed to Internet sex sites”, Senator Harradine said.

“How many children under 16 are also having their childhood violated?

“The pornography industry uses a range of strategies and tricks, such as spam emails and manipulating search engine results to entice users to view their site.

“Many people feel harassed by these tricks.

“The fact that the report reveals that 10% of 16-17 year-old boys view Internet sex sites every month raises real concerns about how the pornography industry exploits the addictive nature of this material.

“In February I asked questions in Senate Estimates about the effectiveness of the ABA’s Internet safety brochures and whether this vital information is reaching parents. [These questions are on the reverse of this release]

The report also highlights the degradation of women in Internet pornography.

“… one can easily find portrayals in Internet pornography that embody forms of violence and themes of subordination and degradation. Perhaps the most pervasive form of degradation of women is the common use of derogatory language to describe the women pictured and the sexual acts done to them.”

“Given the failure of these measures to protect children, the Government should legislate for a range of measures including the compulsory installation of filtering software by all Internet service providers (ISPs)”, Senator Harradine said. “It should be a criminal offence to allow underage children to access Internet pornography.”

3 March 2003

Senator Brian Harradine, tel 02 6277 3735

Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee Communications, Information Technology and the Arts portfolio Questions on Notice Senator Brian Harradine 11 February 2003

Australian Broadcasting Authority Outcome: 2

1. I refer to the Australian Broadcasting Authority’s Internet safety brochures. I have a number of questions that go to the effectiveness of these brochures:

(a) Were they market-tested to ensure that the message they contain is effective? If so, can I please have a copy of the results of the market testing?

(b) The brochures appear to be targeted at children as they have the slogan “smart net surfing for kids and their grown ups” and employ graphic design that appears to be aimed at children. Is this appropriate as those concerned about Internet content would generally be parents rather than children?

(c) How many brochures were printed and how many have been distributed?

(d) How are the brochures being distributed to ensure that they get to parents?

2. I note that you have also established the Cybersmartkids website.

(a) Did you undertake usability testing to ensure that the site was accessible to the greatest number of Australians, including Australians with a disability?

(b) How many hits has your site had each month over the time since it was launched?

(c) Have you undertaken an analysis of what areas of your Internet site are of the most interest to people accessing it? If so, could you please provide me with some details.

(d) Have you undertaken an analysis of the people who access your site - their age, geographic location, interest in the site etc? If so, could you please provide me with some details of the results.

(e) The site appears to be targeted at children, with most of the content aimed at them. Given parental supervision of Internet use is essential, shouldn’t there be more focus on giving information to parents?

(f) What is your general assessment of the effectiveness of the site in getting information to parents and children? Please provide reasons for your claims.