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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3129 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

The Assembly's power to make laws for the purpose of censorship is also constrained by the self-government act and by various other pieces of Commonwealth legislation. Accordingly, there would need to be some amendments to ensure that we are not inconsistent with those acts.

It might well be important to define electronic stalking. At present, it could include television and radio broadcasts as well as video and CD recordings. Again, there could be potential inconsistencies with Commonwealth legislation governing those areas.

Whilst the government is very happy to support the bill at the in-principle stage, we would indicate that there need to be some further amendments to it. I would hope that they could be made expeditiously. Hopefully, then we will end up with legislation that does what it is intended to do without having any other adverse effects, which I am sure no-one would want to see.

MS TUCKER (11.15): This bill appears to address child predation and pornography on the Internet. We are supportive of the general concerns, but we have some concerns with the structure of the legislation.

The bill addresses two distinct concerns. One is the growing use of the Internet as an adjunct to, or substitute for, more conventional stalking. Clearly, it is possible to use the communication and publishing potential of the Internet to incite fear and apprehension, and it makes sense to ensure that legislation, as it pertains to stalking, encompasses Internet-based activities in the same way as it encompasses post, phone messages and the distribution of offensive material.

I would have thought that one could have drafted the definition of behaviour or activity that would constitute stalking a little more narrowly and use some of the language regarding offensive material that already exists in the act under section 34A (2) (e), at least in regard to web sites.

It is also arguable that such Internet-based harassment is already covered by other law. Nonetheless, the stalking provisions in the Crimes Act focus on a person intending to cause serious harm or the apprehension or fear of serious harm, and in that context the inclusion of Internet communication in the list of activities which can provide evidence of stalking is not unreasonable.

This act also seeks to address concerns of cyberpredation on young people, by making it illegal that anyone suggest that a young person engage in acts of a sexual nature or that anyone distribute sexually explicit material to a young person. Again, it strikes me that this bill is intended to demonstrate a strong stance against paedophiles, but with inadequate analysis of the actual impact.

If passed unamended, the bill would make any suggestion of any sexual kind to a young person under 16 illegal, even if that suggestion came from a friend the same age. It would also mean that anyone would be vulnerable to entrapment by a young person masquerading as an adult and could be found guilty of using the Internet to deprave a young person.

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