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Thursday, 21 February 2008
Page: 1091

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) (9:53 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill introduces amendments to consolidate the special measures protecting Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, which were enacted in the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 and the Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007.

The previous government included provisions in the legislation, abolishing the requirement for people to obtain permits prior to visiting Aboriginal communities. The current government does not believe that these provisions contribute to the emergency response and has given undertakings to reinstate the permit system. This bill does that. Separately, by means of a ministerial determination, the government will ensure that journalists can access communities for the purpose of reporting on events in communities.

The 2007 legislation included prohibitions on the possession, control and supply in prescribed areas of pornographic material. This bill addresses a further area of concern expressed by Aboriginal people in the Little children are sacred report about R-rated material available through pay television subscription.

This bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 to establish a new class licence condition that prevents subscription television narrowcasting service licensees from providing subscribers in a community declared by the Indigenous affairs minister with access to a subscription television narrowcasting service declared by the communications minister. Services cannot be declared unless they transmit more than 35 per cent of R18+ program hours over a seven-day period. Communities cannot have their access to the television service restricted unless they are in prescribed areas under the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007, and the Indigenous affairs minister is satisfied that the community concerned wants the service restricted (following proper consultation) and it is appropriate to do so. Consistent with the pornography amendments already made to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, this arrangement will include a sunset provision.

To ensure greater consistency with the alcohol bans, this bill will amend the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to permit the transportation of prohibited material through a prescribed area to a destination outside the prescribed area. The amendments are intended to allow industry members to transport goods lawfully, in the conduct of their business, to areas that are not prescribed. Under the amendments, an offence for possession or supply would not apply if the person proves that the material was brought into the prescribed area for the sole purpose of transporting it to a place outside the prescribed area.

Consequential amendments are also made to the seizure provisions so that prohibited material will not be seized if the material is only being transported through a prescribed area. However, if the material is seized, it can be returned to the owner if the material is not prohibited material or is only being transported through a prescribed area.

A further measure in the bill will make sure that, if a roadhouse effectively takes the place of a community store in a remote area, it can be properly treated as a community store in having to meet the new licensing standards. Assuming the community substantially relies on the roadhouse for grocery items and drinks, the roadhouse should be able to be part of the scheme applying to community stores. Otherwise, roadhouses will continue not to be regarded as community stores.

The 2007 legislation requires the Commonwealth to pay a reasonable amount of compensation where action under the legislation results in an acquisition of property. Concerns have been raised that the term ‘reasonable’ does not provide just terms as referred to in the Constitution. The government would also be concerned if that were the situation. However, the government has received legal advice that a requirement to pay a reasonable amount of compensation gives effect to the requirement for the payment of just terms under the Constitution. The term ‘reasonable compensation’ has been commonly used in legislation for this purpose and appears in many other acts.

The package of legislation for the Northern Territory emergency response contains provisions for welfare reform, changes to land and housing arrangements, improving law and order and improving the safety and wellbeing of children and their families. The legislation also contains provisions which deem the measures to be special measures and exclude them from the operation of part II of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The government did not support the racial discrimination provisions whilst in opposition. The government is keen to work in partnership with Indigenous communities and the Northern Territory government to tackle the problems of child abuse and improve the prospects of Indigenous children and their families.

As we have made clear—most recently by the Prime Minister last week in parliament—the government is committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities.

We are also committed to evidence based policy. We have announced our intention to commission an independent review of the Northern Territory emergency response for completion in the latter part of 2008 to determine whether the response is improving education, health and employment outcomes. We will give further consideration to the racial discrimination provisions in the legislation enacted by the previous government following our proposed review later this year.

Given our commitment to maintaining the overall direction of the emergency response until the completion of the review, and to focus on effective implementation, the bill contains some amendments to existing measures which continue to be covered by the operation of the racial discrimination provisions in the legislation for the Northern Territory emergency response. Importantly, the bill contains no new provisions which exclude the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. The new R18+ measures have been designed as special measures and do not have a provision excluding the operation of part II of the Racial Discrimination Act. This bill also gives effect to our election commitment to revoke the public access permit changes legislated by the previous government.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Markus) adjourned.