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Monday, 30 August 2004
Page: 26707

Senator GREIG (7:44 PM) —I move Democrat amendment (2) on sheet 4386:

(2) Schedule 1, item 1, page 30 (lines 15 to 17), omit “that has been approved by the Minister in writing for the purposes of this section”.

The amendment relates to the public benefit defence that applies with respect to child pornography offences and in particular the part of that defence which relates to genuine research. As I said in my second reading contribution, we Democrats acknowledge that this has been a difficult issue for the Attorney-General's office and we do understand that the government's intention in requiring ministerial approval of research is to prevent an abuse of this defence and a plethora of people suddenly claiming that they are conducting research into child pornography.

However, we Democrats do maintain our real concern that independent research should never be subject to ministerial vetting. We are concerned that the minister, whoever they may be now or in future, may have a tendency to approve research conducted by some organisations but might be reluctant to do so if it is conducted by other organisations. The bill contains no specific criteria that the minister is to take into account in determining whether or not to approve proposed research other than, presumably, whether or not that research will be of public benefit. The Democrats consider it is much more appropriate for a court to determine whether research is genuine and of public benefit than to leave that decision to a minister, which perhaps brings with it the tainting of political influence and interference. The amendment goes to the heart of that and removes the requirement for research to be approved by the minister. Rather, it places it in the hands of courts, where we feel it is better located.