Monday, 1 September 2008
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008
Debate resumed from 20 March, on motion by Ms Macklin:
That this bill be now read a second time.
upon which Mr Abbott moved by way of amendment:
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “the House questions the approach reflected in this bill and:
- calls on the Federal Government to impose a blanket ban on all pornographic material in prescribed areas;
- calls on the Federal Government to prohibit the transport of pornographic material through any prescribed area; and
- urges the Federal Government to leave in place the permit system amendments that have enabled access to public land.”
I rise today to speak on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008. The amendments proposed by the Rudd Labor government to the bill relate to the viewing of R18+ programs, the transportation of prohibited material, access to Aboriginal land and community stores.
The 2007 bill introduced by the coalition government was a result of the outcomes of the Little children are sacred report that followed an inquiry which involved regional mass meetings and extensive submissions. The bill was introduced to ensure the survival and development of children by protecting them from abuse and exploitation—a protection which is part of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. At no time was the bill introduced as a way of separating rights for different racial groups, as some are alluding. The bill presented to the House in 2007 was about protecting children irrespective of race or creed. The inquiry listened, learned and drew on the knowledge of others to find ways to better support the families and protect the children.
I would like to congratulate the board on their handling of the inquiry and the way they created an environment which enabled people to feel safe, enabling the very painful and confronting truth to be exposed. A lot was learnt from 45 community visits, 65 written submissions and over 260 individual meetings. Let me say again that this is about protecting children, children who are powerless to defend or protect themselves.
I find it incomprehensible that the Rudd Labor government has made amendments to the 2007 bill which will make it possible for communities in prescribed areas to have access again to R18+ material. The Little children are sacred report clearly stated that subscription based R18+ pornography provided through pay TV suppliers appeared to be easily accessible to minors.
An article in the Age on Thursday, 20 September, last year stated that complaints were made by Indigenous women about adult programs on cable and free-to-air television. According to the report, it appears that the availability of pornography is a way to groom children for sex. Having worked with many families, children and adult survivors impacted by sexual abuse, let me make it clear that, if a strong stand is not taken, this is exactly what will continue to happen.
The amendments to the bill mean a ban would only be considered at the request of the community and, following that, there must be adequate community consultation. I support community consultation but, when this consultation has the potential to put children and women further at risk and the potential to remove protections, I have concerns. The safety of a child is far more important, and that should be the priority.
I have concerns about the term ‘adequate community consultation’ under the proposed new section 127B. What percentage of the community must come forward for a request for a ban to be granted? What happens if key leaders in the community who are enabling children to have access to pornographic material and grooming the children for sex threaten and bully other community members, including children, who want to come forward but cannot for fear of retribution? How long would the consultation take before an outcome regarding the ban request could be determined? Is there an appeals process? How many children will be affected because of the delay in having the ban put in place as a result of the proposed changes by the government?
The damage done to these children will be significant. Part of the discussion paper entitled Youth and pornography in Australia looked at the effects on young people of being exposed to pornography. This discussion paper concluded that, when exposed to sexual content, young people had greater acceptance of pre-, extra- and non-marital and recreational sexual relations, greater factual knowledge of sex and increased belief that one’s peers are sexually active. When exposed to pornography, young children showed increased attitudinal support for sexual aggression, particularly in the context of the use of violent pornography; increased likelihood of sexually aggressive, coercive or harassing behaviour, particularly in the context of high-frequency consumption of pornography or exposure to violent pornography; emotional disturbance associated with seeing non-mainstream sexual behaviours; and inappropriate acceptance of non-mainstream sexual practices. Is this what the new Labor government want for the children and young people in Indigenous communities? The next generation in these communities and their potential future will be lost. Not placing value on children and young people will have a generational impact.
Also included in this discussion paper is the principle of the obscenity law which was based on the notion of harm to minors, which expressed the idea that young and impressionable minds are vulnerable to harmful thoughts which can lead to harmful acts. What is the Labor government thinking? A ban on X-rated material goes beyond subscription TV. We need to look broader than that. We need to look at future-proofing technological advancements and changes which see many pay-per-view style formats already on mobile phones or access to various X-rated material on mobile phones with internet access.
Many studies have been undertaken on the commonality between children exposed to child pornography and the child’s link to being sexually abused. However, there is minimal empirical research which explores the commonality between a child’s exposure to adult pornography and abuse. Research must be conducted in order for us to fully understand the commonality between a child exposed to any type of pornographic material and the link to sexual abuse. It is only when research such as this is done that we as a community can truly understand the long-term effects this has on a vulnerable child and what needs to be done to prevent abuse. I would suggest that such research be supported by the new government, with specific targeted funding. I strongly support the recommendation by the alternative government to amend the bill in line with the original blanket ban on all R+ rated pornography.
I also call on the Australian government to support the alternative government’s recommendation to amend the bill in line with the coalition’s original policy, which prohibits the transportation of all pornographic material through prescribed areas. There is nothing to stop a person who does not care about what is in the best interests of children stopping off in a prescribed area and providing prohibited material and then continuing on their way to an area outside the prescribed area.
The inquiry of the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs also found that drugs and alcohol played a major role in the abuse of children. Allowing any type of prohibited material into a prescribed area indeed opens the door for abuse. This is a risk that cannot be taken. I say again: this is about protecting children and if it means a total ban then that is what needs to happen.
Over the years I have observed what I call gutless behaviour. Many families have walked through my door with children who have observed behaviour that one could not mention in this place. Other professionals have felt sympathy for the perpetrator, with no understanding of the impact of confronting unacceptable behaviour and of protecting women and children.
The government wants to reinstate the permit system for major Indigenous communities and to give power to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to provide certain people with access to Aboriginal land. How will the minister know who is and who is not safe? The minister may think she has a crystal ball or some capacity to be omnipresent. I think not. Warren Mundine, a well-respected Aboriginal leader, was quoted in the Weekend Australian as saying:
The permit system didn’t stop crime. In fact, if you look at all of the reports that have come out in the last few years, crime has flourished under the permit system, so it’s a fallacy to say that it helps law-and-order problems.
He further stated, ‘It actually embedded, and will continue to embed, these problems because some powerful people were able to get away with things without being watched.’ This amending legislation will not reduce crime. It will enable criminal behaviour to be hidden.
Many isolated communities rely on one central location for all their goods, often referred to as community stores. A number of these communities are located alongside or close to what are commonly known as roadhouses. They provide grocery items, drinks and often petrol. The Australian government has recognised the coalition government’s policy on community stores. I am pleased that this policy, which formed part of the coalition’s initial policy of 2007 and which ensured that a roadhouse which substantially provides a community with groceries and drinks may be licensed as a community store, is to remain.
Mr Deputy Speaker, 38 per cent of the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal population is under the age of 15. These children are our future and we cannot neglect them or let them down. As a nation we have a responsibility to protect our children, irrespective of race or creed. I have to question how genuine the Labor government are when it comes to having the best interests of children at heart. This so-called new policy will result in behaviour currently being engaged in flowing through to the next generation. I fear that if the bill proceeds in its current form the women and children of Indigenous communities will experience another decade or longer in pain and their voices will not be heard and their tears will not be seen.
The Australian dated Friday, 21 September 2007 focused on the Northern Territory intervention. Former Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunupingu, one of the nation’s most prominent Indigenous leaders, was noted as saying that he agreed to support the then government’s approach, following a discussion with the then Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough. During the discussion, it was acknowledged that the aim of the government was to improve people’s lives.
I have grave concerns about the proposed amendments. Instead of moving forward to improve people’s lives, behaviour already hindering next generations from reaching their full potential will be systemically entrenched in communities by the failure of this Labor government to take a stand. I would like to state again the amendment put forward by the alternative government:
- calls on the Federal Government to impose a blanket ban on all pornographic material in prescribed areas;
- calls on the Federal Government to prohibit the transport of pornographic material through any prescribed area; and
- urges the Federal Government to leave in place the permit system amendments that have enabled access to public land.
The additional recommendations proposed by the opposition need to be included in this bill. The welfare of these children and the future of Indigenous communities depend on doing what is right.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I am able to sum up for the government at this stage, but I believe that there are a couple of opposition members who are also keen to make some comments. I am not sure how strict the provision is that a quorum is not possible at this time.
Having had only a few minutes notice that a government member is now not speaking, we are attempting to summon opposition speakers to attend the chamber. We need to organise a few minutes grace until they arrive.
I thank you for that opportunity, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am very mindful of the challenges confronting the nation with respect to meeting the very serious needs of our Indigenous communities. Mallee, of course, has a huge number of Indigenous constituents on its roll and there are equal challenges confronting us in meeting their needs. The situation is nowhere near as serious as it is in the remote communities we see in the Northern Territory, in Queensland and in Western Australia, but it very much assists me to be mindful of their needs—particularly in the community of Robinvale. That is a community of around 4,000 people and it has a very cosmopolitan population. Its main economic activity is associated with horticulture. We have a very strong table grape industry associated with Robinvale. I would thank you for any assistance with regard to being relevant, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Thank you very much. It is a community that I am immensely proud of, but the challenges are immense. Even in a community like Robinvale, which has access to all the support services that a bill like this addresses, the associated difficulties are very much the same. I watched with interest the discussion that the former government had with regard to the intervention and activity, and I am very pleased that the new government has taken it up in a non-partisan way. It was complemented by the very momentous events we saw in this chamber, with the apology to Aboriginal Australians. What that has done for my own communities is to remove what used to be an excuse—that mainstream Australia had not recognised the real root of their many social challenges and they tended to lean on that to some extent. I now say to my Aboriginal communities, whose leadership I do admire, that there is no longer an excuse. We are now in genuine partnership. That particular difficulty we had as a nation is now behind us, and I challenge the Indigenous leadership within my own constituency now to work together and not make excuses.
For example, the government recently announced that it would introduce a guest worker program associated with the Polynesian nations. I know that Robinvale and all the other horticultural communities along the Murray Valley strongly support that concept because of their need for labour. It was suggested by Warren Mundine, a very strong Aboriginal leader, on my local radio station that we should include a program similar to this for Indigenous Australians. I immediately agreed with him, live on radio, and invited him to come and see me so that we could work together. There is no better way to lift the esteem of any individual—no matter what their circumstances—than to give them full-time employment. They feel that they are making a contribution, that they are accepting their mutual obligation and, whilst they might still need other measures of support to assist them, there is no better way to lift a person’s self-esteem. I will be looking forward to where this new legislation takes us. I am hoping that all the errors of the past can now be forgiven and put behind us and that we can work in a determined way towards a program to meet these enormous challenges.
The Indigenous constituents I represent have my respect and admiration. I remember when I was a local government councillor on the Swan Hill City Council, in my formative political years, I was the portfolio councillor for Aboriginal affairs. At that time Swan Hill’s Indigenous population would have been close to 800. If they are listening now, I hope that I have earned their respect and that they will be willing to work with me as their local member to make sure their needs are met. I do thank you for your considerable indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I thank the member for Sydney for that question. Yes, I have. I remember at the election of the coalition into government in 1996 I was nominated as Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs. At that time the former government had been conducting an inquiry into Aboriginal health and we as a new government wanted to continue that inquiry. In fact, it continued over another term of government, because it was like a work in progress. I was deeply struck by those visits to those remote communities.
I can remember the member for Scullin and I—I think at that stage he may have been deputy chair—were in a remote Aboriginal community in northern South Australia. We had our accommodation organised and early in the morning I went for a walk and I found the member for Scullin, who is now the Speaker of this great debating chamber. We were both deeply moved by what we were seeing and we made a determined effort to do what we could to progress the issues, like health issues that are eminently preventable, based on very simple concepts of hygiene, emotional status and so forth.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I have managed to pad out the time. The relevant member to speak is now present in the chamber.
I extend my congratulations to the member for Mallee. His is a contribution with which I associate myself fully and I commend his words. In rising to speak on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008, I wish to start with some of my own experiences in the Northern Territory and in Indigenous communities around Australia. These are communities for which the old Dickensian line ‘these are the best of times and these are the worst of times’ is the prime model.
In my former role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, I was fortunate to have had responsibility for Indigenous protected areas. As I visited these Indigenous protected areas, as well as the community surrounding Uluru, which is the Mutitjulu community, I saw Indigenous communities which were successful—albeit imperfect but which were models for community development, models for the way in which we would hope an Indigenous society could progress—and I also saw examples of societies which represented many of the great disappointments which people on both sides of this chamber share in relation to Indigenous communities.
Let me start on the positive side. In Arnhem Land, in particular the Gove or Nhulunbuy area, I visited Yirrkala and, near to Yirrkala, the Indigenous protected areas of Dhimurru and Laynhapuy. What I saw in those communities was a model of self-help. In these communities there was a level of discipline and purpose which was in part derived from the Indigenous rangers programs that accompanied Indigenous protected areas. These programs represent the best of what we seek to achieve in working with Indigenous communities in Australia.
At the time I wrote pieces for the Australian and other forums where I set out the notion that the Indigenous protected areas model—in particular, the Indigenous ranger model—is a way forward for giving Indigenous communities a sense of purpose, meaningful work through connection with the land, training which is relevant to young children in those communities from an early age and a way forward right from the outset. I think that is a model that must be long term and that accompanies all of the elements which we sought to implement through the intervention in the Northern Territory.
On the other hand, at Mutitjulu, for example—and I say this with a heavy heart, not with any condemnation—on the edge of Uluru, the community there has suffered. I say this because the women of that community asked me to speak up at the time and asked me to speak up on subsequent occasions. They said to me that, yes, there were positive examples but, more importantly, there was a systemic flaw in that community. That was the systemic flaw which, in many cases, saw alcohol abuse, petrol sniffing, ganja and other forms of illicit drugs as the staples of day-to-day existence for young people and, in large part, for the adult male community. There were many, many dysfunctional males and the impact on that community and on each of those individual lives was tragic.
They talked to me about the problems of not only drugs but also pornography and, most importantly, the sexual abuse of young children, of minors and even of young women of age. This was said with a great and heavy heart. Of course, through the parks authority at the time, all steps were taken for immediate action, but it was an example of the very reason behind the intervention in the Northern Territory. It is why I supported the intervention wholeheartedly and with every fibre of my being.
The intervention was not about some sort of heavy-handed colonialism, as some would present it, but about the chance for these communities to break out of a stunningly vicious cycle. It was about the chance for many of these Indigenous communities to move away from a failed and, in my view, catastrophic system. Perhaps most importantly, it was about giving a chance to younger people who, as reported in the Little children are sacred report, had been made vulnerable to the most horrific of circumstances. That situation, of course, has the universal condemnation of everybody within this House and all right-minded and right-thinking people within Australia. There is no question or debate about that. Some will question the approach—and that is their right, their duty and their responsibility—but it is an approach which, having met with the women of Mutitjulu and having met with those in other communities which were more successful, I believe was the right approach.
I believe that, to the extent that this bill waters down many of those elements, it is making a mistake. I am not some great moralist in relation to many of these issues. I try to recognise that there are different views within our society and people have a right to take different approaches, even on things with which I personally disagree. But in relation, firstly, to the question of pornographic materials, I think that this bill sadly and misguidedly waters down the protections which were put in place in the initial intervention. That was a careful approach. It was a considered approach. I believe that this bill puts in the hands of those who are most likely to perpetuate the abuse the ability to ride roughshod over a community and to reinforce that abuse.
That, I believe, is a fundamental flaw. It is a reason why we must have serious reservations, because it empowers the very people, in my view, who have previously misused that power. It perpetuates a structure within a community which of itself is dangerous and damaging, given the nature and vulnerability of the community, and it perpetuates a power imbalance and reinforces that imbalance within that community. So I respectfully take issue and disagree with some of the changes made there. In my view, they are inappropriate.
There are many other elements, but I wanted to speak firstly about the broad concept of the intervention and secondly about a way forward. For me the positive way forward is about the expansion and development of Indigenous protected areas—or, as some have called them, Indigenous national parks—and in addition to that the allied principle of Indigenous ranger programs. I mentioned those at the outset, but for me these programs are a fundamentally important part of the next five, 10, 20 and 30 years within the Indigenous landscape. My view is that the Indigenous ranger program teaches respect for the land and respect for the culture and gives people hard-work skills.
Let me give an example. In Dhimurru and Laynhapuy in the Nhulunbuy area, south-west of Yirrkala in the Blue Mud Bay area, there are turtle recovery programs, dugong recovery programs, feral animal eradication programs and landscape protection programs. This is real and meaningful work which begins with junior rangers, moves through those programs, gives people training and certification and ultimately, I believe, gives people the full status and the opportunity to have a lifelong career as practical land managers—as fully equipped, coached, trained and prepared park rangers—but over their own land. That long-term approach is not the answer in and of itself. It is no substitute for law or for health, but it provides a fundamental sense of community development.
One of the other areas of discussion and concern is urban communities. Let me deal for a little while, because I have been looking for the opportunity to speak on this, with urban Indigenous communities in Australia. Having spent some time in my own area of Flinders with the Bunurong people, and in particular those folks who have lived on the Mornington Peninsula and in towns such as Hastings and Rosebud, there is a sense that Indigenous identity is lost in these urban communities. Of course, there is an age-old debate with regard to assimilation versus identity. I am one who strongly believes that, where Indigenous people are either forced or caused to lose their identity, there is a great sense of resentment. So we need to twin mainstream education in the urban environment with a sense of pride in Indigenous origin and heritage.
On that front, I want to commend two programs to this House. The first is in relation to the developments which are ongoing at Point Nepean on the Mornington Peninsula. I put this in the context of protecting families through the objectives, goals and aspirations within this bill. At Point Nepean on the Mornington Peninsula, we have set up on what was formerly Defence and quarantine land a long-term program to work firstly on marine education but secondly on Indigenous education. The former government funded students, in particular primary and secondary students, to do heritage training on land which it is believed has some of the most significant artefacts in all of Victoria. This land has become an iconic site. It is a unique opportunity to twin the needs of Indigenous communities with those of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria and Australia more generally. I say that because what we have here is a parallel program in which there is an interchange. On the one hand you have the National Centre for Coasts and Climate, which is to be run by the University of Melbourne to engage in the study of the land and the coast. On the other hand you have a long-term objective of an Indigenous studies centre, alongside and in collaboration and cooperation.
What does that mean in practice? It means that young people who are from the Indigenous community will come from the Mornington Peninsula to do training and study in Indigenous heritage on their own lands, in their own area, with pride in what they are doing. This bill is primarily about the Indigenous communities of remote and rural Australia, but it is only part of the story. The second part, of course, is the urban communities. The first of the ideas around the urban communities is, as I say, this notion of parallel study and development that we have seen at Point Nepean.
Carolyn Briggs of the Bunurong has been an extremely important person in driving forward this project. Why has she been important? She was one of the first to identify the absolutely critical historical artefacts and the relevance of Point Nepean to the Indigenous people not just of the Mornington Peninsula but of Victoria and Australia more generally. I commend her work. She drove the establishment of an Indigenous studies centre as part of the work at Point Nepean. I say to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Glyn Davis: if you take the work that Melbourne university is doing and provide specific places for Indigenous primary and secondary students, in conjunction with the tertiary students, so as to help train and teach and use the honour that has been given to the university, if you give that same opportunity to the primary and secondary Indigenous students of the Mornington Peninsula, that will be a great service in terms of training and also in building identity and pride.
I also mentioned that there is a second urban element in my own area on the Mornington Peninsula that is providing a way forward by giving Indigenous students a sense of pride in their culture through what they do with their communities. We have to move away from the situation that I have seen in Hastings, Rosebud and Tootgarook, where, in some circumstances, there is a downwards spiral of alienation and disenfranchisement which comes about from a lack of work. This lack of work for the parents has been perpetuated through the generations. We need to focus very closely on the idea of targeted work and education programs over two generations simultaneously. For the parents, we have to focus on the work now in the Indigenous urban environment, and we have to give the children a sense of culture. I want to give an example that I have seen of the training of young kids on the New South Wales coast. They are going through an urban junior rangers program, giving them Indigenous education coupled with a sense of pride and a sense that they could have lifelong work.
I thank the House for this opportunity to talk about what I have been working on for a reasonable period now—the urban work, which is the corollary to the rural work. I commend the communities of the Bunurong people on the Mornington Peninsula. I recognise the challenge. They have made great strides, and I am delighted that they will be able to participate in the Point Nepean program. But I do know that we need to help with work opportunities and with the sense, for young people still at primary and secondary school, that they cannot be caught in a cycle of lifelong unemployment.
It is obvious in 2008 that, regardless of one’s ethnic origin, one ought to be entitled to certain basic rights. The LNP, when in office prior to the last election, took a very important step forward with respect to intervening in the Northern Territory to guarantee Indigenous Australians who live in the Territory rights that other Australians regularly have. I am pleased tonight to have the opportunity of joining in the debate on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008. This bill makes amendments to two pieces of legislation that were introduced last year for the purpose of affording improved protection for Indigenous children in the Northern Territory of Australia.
The Liberal-National Party government introduced restrictions and tougher guidelines to act as an improved safety barrier against the exploitation of Indigenous people and, specifically, Indigenous children. These measures were designed to assist the communities of the Northern Territory, but, sadly, the changes in this bill proposed by the government tend to undermine those very important reforms. The bill suggests a watering down of the strict conditions proposed by the Liberal-National Party government in relation to the broadcasting into these communities of pay TV programming that has an R18+ classification. The LNP team introduced legislation that banned pay TV pornography—an important restriction that aimed to help to prevent situations that we have read about in the media in which young children are exposed to sexually explicit programming in order to desensitise them and to groom them for sexual abuse. No-one on any side of the parliament would support such action. It is well known that those who are mistreated in this way when they are young are highly likely to have problems when they are older and quite often become abusers themselves.
The widespread ban on pornographic programming has a sensible and long-reaching benefit, a benefit that would actually reach through time and offer protection to potential victims who may not even have been born yet by helping to break the chain of abuse that is often handed down from one generation to the next, often through explicit videos and TV programs. However, this bill which we are debating tonight—the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008—modifies that ban so that it becomes only a partial ban. The changes in this bill mean that pornographic pay TV programming will only be restricted to the community at its request. Unfortunately, this opens the doors for communities to allow pornography, with decisions on this issue quite possibly to be made by those who have little regard for the safety and health of the children.
The Liberal-National Party is concerned that there is little detail about any appeals processes that are available to those members of the community who are opposed to any decision to allow the R18+ programming. The bill goes further, sadly, in that it removes a total ban on the transporting of banned material through certain prescribed areas. This is a ban that could be regarded as the ultimate of safeguards against pornography and other banned products in that it helps prevent such items falling off the back of a truck in an area in which they are deemed to be unwanted and unhelpful. I would argue strongly that that would be in all areas. The provisions of this bill allow certain items to be transported through a restricted area if they are proven to have as their final destination a location that is not within the restricted, prescribed area. The change is akin to introducing a physical loophole that may result in restricted and banned material in fact finding its way into communities that would otherwise have bans in place. These two changes outlined above do not assist in the overall aim of affording protection to the most vulnerable in Indigenous communities.
Thirdly, this bill reintroduces a requirement for permits to be acquired before access can be gained for certain areas of significant land. The previous Liberal-National Party government had reduced the restrictions for access for some 0.2 per cent of Aboriginal land, or about 1/500th of that land. Permits were no longer required for larger public townships, connecting road corridors and common land in the community. The list of people who were allowed into and allowed to remain on Aboriginal land was increased, and the Liberal-National Party government introduced a ministerial power to allow authority to be given to a specified person. The legislation also ensured that sacred sites and those covered by leases remained protected and that cultural ceremonies were afforded appropriate restrictions and safeguards.
Sadly, the changes provided for in the bill before the chamber repeal that permit system and reintroduce the restrictions for access to the land. This comes in the light of a discussion paper released by Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs that suggests that the restricted access supported by the permit system has not prevented abuse, violence and drug trafficking in these communities. There are suggestions that the permit system helped to close the communities to certain levels of outside scrutiny.
Finally, the bill enacts an initiative that mirrors exactly a policy initiative of the LNP government of last year, in which roadhouses could be recognised as community stores in those areas in which local community members rely substantially on the roadhouse for groceries, drinks and other essential items. This is a sensible initiative in that it improves the convenience for those who live in remote regions and do not have the same ready access to shopping centres and grocery stores that is taken for granted in other parts of Australia.
The LNP suggest a second reading amendment to this bill to maintain the blanket ban on pornographic pay TV programming, keep the blanket ban on the transport of prohibited items through restricted areas and maintain the LNP initiative regarding permits. We do, however, support the provisions to recognise roadhouses as community stores. We cannot support the bill, Mr Deputy Speaker Adams—as you yourself would understand—unless this amendment is accepted.
I will be speaking on a matter similar to this later on tonight in the Main Committee, but in a wider context. As many of you will know, I have 8,000 Indigenous people on the electoral roll in my electorate, and I have moved very widely in the Indigenous community. I have Palm Island, which is in the Guinness book of records as the world’s most dangerous place, in my electorate. It does not deserve that title, but it has it nevertheless.
Over the years I have come to despair about Indigenous Australia. I applaud what the Howard government has done and what the Rudd government is continuing on with as an effort to make a difference, because, if we do not make a difference, we will come back here in 100 years time and find that nothing has changed in Indigenous Australia. That would be a crying shame. I was somewhat distressed by some comments made yesterday by the retiring Governor-General, because I do not quite agree with what he has said in relation to the status of Indigenous communities. I do not agree that we are doing enough, and I do not agree that Indigenous Australia is doing enough to help itself. I will outline my views on that later this evening.
I support the opposition’s second reading amendment on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008. It is made for the right reasons. It is made in the interests of Indigenous Australia. I would hope that the government would find its way to be able to support that amendment as well.
I am here representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, summing up the debate on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008. I would comment that, in the contributions that I have listened to this evening, I am very happy with the generally bipartisan attitude that most speakers have taken.
I would particularly like to reassure the member for Flinders, who mentioned Indigenous rangers, that in fact there is a $90 million measure in the May budget for employing 300 additional Indigenous rangers to protect and manage the environment as part of the $2.2 billion Caring for our Country initiative. There has also been a tripling of funding for Indigenous protected areas, investing $50 million over the next five years, also through the Caring for our Country initiative.
I thought I had also better reassure the members for Greenway and Fisher that their concerns are unwarranted when it comes to rolling back protections against R18+ material. In fact, this legislation strengthens protections in those communities. This consolidation bill makes changes to the legislative framework of the Northern Territory emergency response. In particular, it implements the government’s election commitment in relation to the permit system for major communities in the Northern Territory and extends the pornography measure.
Whereas the previous government enacted provisions to abolish the requirement for people to obtain permits before they visited Aboriginal communities, the Rudd government believes that these provisions do not in fact contribute to the emergency response. Those provisions would actually make it easier for drugs and alcohol to enter communities, a view supported by the Northern Territory Police Association. The government believes that Indigenous people, like other Australians, should be able to decide who can enter their land. We made an election commitment to revoke the public access permit changes legislated by the previous government, and this bill gives effect to that commitment.
The power of the minister to authorise people to enter Aboriginal land will also be clarified by this bill. After the bill is passed, the government will, through a ministerial authorisation, ensure that journalists can access communities for the purpose of reporting on events in local communities. We have been liaising with land councils and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance on the conditions which will apply. The government has tabled two further amendments to the permit scheme. Following a suggestion by the minor parties in the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs inquiry into the bill, the government has agreed to make explicit in the legislation that the minister may not authorise entry to a sacred site under the ministerial authorisation power.
The government has also agreed with a request from the Northern Territory government to extend the existing exemption from permit requirements for candidates for federal and Northern Territory Legislative Assembly elections to include candidates for local government elections. This amendment will facilitate the upcoming elections for the new shire arrangements in the Northern Territory.
The 2007 legislation included prohibitions on the possession, control and supply of certain pornographic material in prescribed areas. The Little children are sacred report mentioned a further area of concern expressed by Aboriginal people in this area. This related to R-rated material that is available through pay television subscriptions. This bill now amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 to address that concern. A new class licence condition will be established to prevent 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. Only services that transmit more than 35 per cent of R18+ program-hours over a seven-day period can be declared for this purpose. 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, following proper consultation, that it would be appropriate for the service to be restricted. Consistent with the 2007 pornography amendments, this arrangement will include a five-year sunset provision. The government has tabled amendments to the banning of R-rated pay television to make minor workability improvements recommended by the industry and raised by the Senate community affairs committee. The amendments cut red tape by allowing industry to self-declare an R-rated service and improve the record-keeping requirements.
A further measure in the bill will amend the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to permit the transportation of prohibited pornographic material through a prescribed area to a destination outside the prescribed area. These amendments ensure greater consistency with the alcohol bans and are intended to allow industry members to transport goods lawfully in the conduct of their business to areas that are not prescribed. 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 in the pornography prohibition legislation. These amendments will provide 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 the prescribed area.
The last measure in the bill refines the new community stores and licensing regime which is designed to ensure that community stores meet minimum standards and to provide assurance that stores have the capacity to participate in income management. If a community substantially relies on a roadhouse in a remote area for grocery items and drinks, the roadhouse should be able to be part of the scheme applying to community stores. This will enable the roadhouse to be properly treated as a community store in having to meet the new licensing standards. Otherwise, roadhouses will continue not to be regarded as community stores.
Finally, I make some observations about aspects of the 2007 legislation. As has been made clear, notably by the Prime Minister at the beginning of the new parliament, the government is committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities. 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.
We are also committed to evidence based policy. We have commissioned an independent review of the Northern Territory emergency response for completion by the end of September 2008, to determine whether the response is improving education, health and employment outcomes. The existing legislation for the Northern Territory emergency response contains provisions for income management, 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.
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. We will give further consideration to the racial discrimination provisions in the legislation enacted by the previous government following the independent and transparent review of the Northern Territory emergency response.
The opposition’s decision to oppose the legislation is further evidence of their continuing subjugation to ideology over clear-headed analysis. In contrast, we are committed to evidence based policy which focuses clearly on what works. We are committed to the fundamental objective of the emergency response, which is improving the life chances of residents in remote communities, particularly women and children. This bill is designed to advance those objectives.
Order! The original question was that the bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Warringah has moved as an amendment that the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question. There being more than one voice calling for a division, in accordance with standing order 133 the division is deferred until after 8 pm.