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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1051

Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (19:43): I rise to support the motion and raise a couple of issues of concern to me. Particularly as a mother of two young preschool girls and a step-mother of two teenage girls, I see that what we have in our society is a very harmful toxin. It is not tangible but it is like a thousand cuts to very small children—that is, the overt sexual advertising out there on the wallpaper of our society.

The debate at times is couched in very superficial terms. It is about the right of advertisers to sell in the easiest way, which is to sell using sex, and the right of one adult not to be offended by it. This is not about that; this is about our responsibility as adults, as legislators and as parents to look at the very real harm—the physical emotional and mental harm that is well documented—that can result from the premature sexualisation of children. That is the toxin. If there were a physical toxin harming our children, there would be people marching in the streets; there would be people knocking down the doors of their local members of parliament. But this toxin of early sexualisation of children is just as harmful. There is an increasing weight of research and evidence that shows that exposure to sexualised imagery can be linked to childhood anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders. The threat of premature sexualisation includes exposure to STDs as children become sexually active at an even younger age. We know that young children cannot process these images and this information. They are children, and they are our responsibility.

It is no longer as easy as just switching off the television, because we are surrounded by it. You can take your child down the street on the way to school, driving them or walking them, and you will see these big billboards. You take them to the supermarket and at their eye level they can see highly sexualised images on magazines, or there are the near-pornographic clips playing at the local bowling alley. A child—for example, a six-year-old or a seven-year-old—does not possess the ability to recognise that the sexually explicit pose of the woman wearing next to nothing is not a representation of reality but an unfair female stereotype designed to sell a product. Children are not small adults, and we are sending messages. We are sending out messages—in my view, particularly to those who engage in the heinous crime of paedophilia. The more sexualisation is out there and the more children are sexualised in advertising, which is well documented, the more justification paedophiles seek for their behaviour.

I was very disappointed in a report by this parliament not that long ago, from a committee chaired by the member for Moreton, called Reclaiming public space. It squibbed on facing up to these facts.

Honourable members interjecting

Mrs MIRABELLA: I spoke on that motion, and you were there and you heard me. It was a report that did not address the very serious issues. It is time we did something real. It is time we said to the Advertising Standards Board, 'Don't mock us.' Self-regulation does not work; we know that. If you have ignored the welfare of children just to make a quick, easy buck through advertising, perhaps it is time to tighten regulation on advertising. Perhaps it is time to discuss a statutory body with real powers, including issuing serious fines to offenders, because if all you get is a slap with a wet lettuce then you are going to continue taking the easy way out. We need to reclaim our public spaces in a very real way. They are the wallpaper around which our children grow up. Let us recognise the sexualisation of women and children as the toxin it is, and let us be adults and recognise our responsibility to protect the children of this country.