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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1050

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (19:38): I congratulate the member for Kingston on bringing this important motion to the House. From the previous contribution I heard I can see that both sides of politics are embracing this issue and are looking at the impact that sexualisation and commercialisation have on children.

I do not think that I am saying anything that is new to anyone when I say that it tends to be young girls who are targeted by this commercialisation and sexualisation. I agree wholeheartedly with what the member for Higgins said: I do not think that self-regulation is working. The example that she gave of the impact on her sister of that advertisement is a similar response that many people have to that type of advertising. But I think this issue goes a little further than just reacting to the advertising. It goes a little bit further than the impact that this commercialisation and sexualisation has on young people and the community as a whole. Through the constant portrayal of this as the norm we come to accept it; it is seen as being something that is not unusual. We are tacitly promoting sexual behaviour in very young children.

There has been an inquiry here in Australia in the Senate. I believe that one of the recommendations from that inquiry was that the onus should be on broadcasters, publishers, advertisers, retailers and manufacturers to take into account these community concerns about the sexualisation of young people.

There has been a lot of research done into this issue. The UK has taken a lead on this issue in the report that they have brought down. Following that report the Prime Minister, David Cameron, argued that what should happen was that parents should have single websites. It recommended that there should be an age restriction on music videos and buying sexually explicit videos, that there should be screening guides for broadcasters and that it should be made easier for parents to block age restricted material.

The report recommended that retailers should offer age-appropriate clothing for children. I think that that is one aspect that is very important. Young girls—and boys, for that matter—should be able to dress as children. They should be able to be children and enjoy the activities of childhood rather than strive to portray themselves as younger versions of adults. They should not be portrayed in sexual contexts.

I think that the long-term impacts for our society will be considerable. Child development authorities, child psychologists and children's advocate groups are very strong in their criticism of the commercialisation and sexualisation of children. It is a widely-known fact that sexualisation harms children. It is about body image concerns, eating disorders, gender stereotypes and premature sexualisation. It erases the lines between who is and who is not sexually mature. As well, it may increase the risk of childhood sexual abuse.

This is a very important issue. Young people are very concerned with their body image. The commercialisation and sexualisation of children is about portraying negative body images. I wholeheartedly support the motion that has been put before this parliament by the member for Kingston and I hope all other contributors to this debate can see the worthiness of the motion.