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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2740

Senator MACKLIN(6.13) —I do not wish to spend long on the amendment that has been moved. As honourable senators have correctly pointed out, the amendment would retain the status quo. Under those circumstances I think those of us who would support this amendment-I would be amongst them-believe that there is some debate as to where one draws the line, as both Senator Hill and Senator Collins have quite correctly pointed out.

At the second reading stage I spoke at length on the analogy with the drug trade. I think it is appropriate today to raise that issue again, because the report to which I was referring was introduced into this chamber by Senator Alston this afternoon. The report of the Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority mentioned a number of issues with regard to the problem of drugs in Australia. In that circumstance it is probably relatively clear, unlike in this circumstance, that an enormous amount of damage is being done to the community. But what is not clear is the correct public policy stance to take with regard to that. Senator Walters's response to my comments on that were again of a simplistic kind: did I want this, that or something else. I do not intend getting into a slanging match with Senator Walters if she wants to carry on that type of hysterical debate. The debate was not about who could be more holier than thou but what in fact is the correct public policy to deal with a serious issue.

I was explaining that in the drug situation there are two legs-the supply and the demand. We spend most of our time trying to interdict the supply of drugs but very little both in time and resources in trying to do anything about demand. In this area Senator Walters is again taking on the supply exercise. The supply is there because there is a demand. I would prefer us to spend the short time that we have in this place on trying to look at why our society is demanding these types of things, including drugs. Hence, in that report on drugs, I but not everyone on the Committee recommended banning the advertising of tobacco and alcohol. I remind Senator Walters-she should have a look at that report-that we could not get everybody on the Committee to sign that, and they put in a minority report. The reason I signed that recommendation to ban the advertising of tobacco and alcohol was that last year tobacco killed 17,000 people in this country. I think the very least we can do is ban the advertising of that lethal drug, but we could not even get the agreement of everybody on the Committee for that single proposition. I am not casting any aspersions on those people. They argued their case in their minority report. However, I am saying that people with goodwill, who are trying to approach serious issues, will differ on what might be the correct public stance to take on how to deal with them.

I thought Senator Collins was spot on in his contribution, because he was talking about the type of thing I want to talk about; that is, what is the reason for people wanting these types of materials? Where should we be directing our attention if we feel that is wrong? We will be having other debates in this place, including presumably about abortion, and I am sure the same type of argument will occur. They are not easy ones to deal with. We may all agree that there is something we do not like. In fact I took Senator Collins's point that he does not agree with these videos. We do not have them in my home. I do not permit my children to watch even most of the R-rated movies. I do not permit them to attend many of the M-rated movies. I may be old-fashioned and very hard, but there is a rating provided for the guidance of the community that I take seriously, as does my wife, and our children respect that. In fact we do that even with regard to television at home. Many people in the community do the same thing. But I am not saying that such movies should be banned. They are there, and if other people wish to view them, that is their prerogative. If they wish to send their children along, I do not like that idea but that is their choice. As time goes on my children will view more of those things. We will discuss them and I hope, if our family remains the way it is and we can still talk to one another, their ideas will develop as they grow older. I am not holding that up as though I am better than anybody else, but that is what we do in my family. I do not want to go around dictating what other people should do in their families or how they should deal with these matters.

I have often said that I am not particularly interested in sex education being taught in schools. I am quite happy-and I have done this from the earliest days of my children-to conduct sex education lessons at home, for my children, as is my wife. But I am also a realist, having been in education all my life, and I know that is not something that is done by everybody in the community. Hence, I have supported sex education in schools, to provide for those children who do not have the opportunity to get that knowledge and understanding at home to get it elsewhere so that they are then able, hopefully, to react responsibly on the basis of knowledge. I find it very odd that time and time again people attack a variety of issues, and I say, `In that case, will you stand shoulder to shoulder with me? I am trying to get sex education into Queensland schools'. Then they say, `No way'. There ought to be a consistency of approach. I think a consistency of approach in terms of a liberal stance-Senator Walters is in a party which calls itself liberal-means that one needs an overwhelming reason before imposing a state directive with regard to any personal activity. We have mentioned some of those and I agree there are quite a number. Senator Walters mentioned some of them, for example, child pornography. Not one person in this place has disagreed on that. There are a whole host of others, but obviously Senator Walters would not want tomorrow's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald to be banned. She too draws the line somewhere. She is drawing it on one side on this issue and other people are drawing it on the other.

On this particular issue I think it is sensible and reasonable to do two things. The first is to allow adults to make up their own minds and to have a series of controls, which hopefully will restrict this material to adults; and secondly, with regard to the Australian Capital Territory-because a lot of this revolves around that issue-if the elected representatives of the ACT wish to prevent the sale of this material in the ACT, then they should have the power to do so. In other States the elected representatives have made that choice. Presumably, the elected representatives in the Australian Capital Territory will follow that. That will solve Senator Walters's problem. It seems to me that at the moment, due to the coming together of the Legislative Assembly in the Australian Capital Territory, and our Constitution which allows free trade between the States other States can receive the material by mail. If the Australian Capital Territory follows the States it will prevent that activity. On a number of occasions this chamber has expressed its view with regard to the general issue. I do not think that will change. However, the circumstances in Australia may very well change. That will depend upon the elected representatives in the Australian Capital Territory, not upon us.