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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1049

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (19:33): I am very happy to rise and speak on this motion that has been brought forward by the member for Kingston and commend all those who have participated in this debate tonight and will participate over the next couple of speeches. This motion is very important because it highlights a critical issue that concerns many parents and should concern us as a society: the commercialisation and sexualisation of children. When we think of our nation's most precious asset, some people may be inclined to talk about our mineral assets. My view, of course, is that our most precious assets are our children, and we need to make sure that we do all that we can for them. We have a responsibility to care for them, educate them, protect them from harm and give them an opportunity to flourish and be all that they can be.

Tonight I particularly want to focus on protecting children from harm. There can be no question that parents ultimately have the responsibility for raising their own children. That is not a task that can be taken on by anyone else. It is not a task to be delegated to teachers, to church leaders or to other members of the community. But increasingly parents are concerned about the adult content to which their children are exposed in public places. What do I mean by that? I am talking about billboards; advertising in magazines; the highly sexualised images of young adults on television; and of course the new technologies, the fact that so many children these days are the owners of iPhones and iPads and that virtually all of them are very actively involved on social networking sites such as Facebook.

I will give one example that is personal to me, because it involves my sister. It is to do with the billboard ad that she had a number of concerns with. My sister is seven years younger than me and was a young adult at the time she made the complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau. She complained about a billboard that depicted a woman whose head was cut off, whose legs and buttocks were emphasised and who was leaning forward in a very sexually provocative way into a young man. It had a slogan that said something like, 'Come along for the ride.' Of course, it was advertising something completely unrelated; it was advertising shoes. My sister objected to this image, and brought it to the attention of the Advertising Standards Bureau. The response that she got back was highly unsatisfactory. The response suggested that perhaps it was she who had the problem with this particular image and that she should not be too concerned. The point I am making here is that I think the public standards that we set for these sorts of images should be incredibly high, because these images are viewed by young adults and by children. They have an impact, particularly on young women, who can potentially start to view themselves simply as sexual objects. They have a very unhealthy impact on young men as well, who also, with these sorts of images constantly bombarding them, can start to view women in this light. We need to respect our young women and men. We need to set significant standards. I most certainly would like to see much more stringent standards in the advertising world, such that community standards other than simple self-regulation are applied.

Finally, I would like to highlight a coalition initiative. We are very concerned about cybersecurity and social networking and their impact on children. We have recently formed a review of online safety for children with a task force headed by my good friend and colleague Paul Fletcher. I look forward to being able to report back to the House on this.