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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3130 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Most of the research of cyberpredation and unwelcome advances on the Internet makes the point that young people are infinitely more vulnerable to attack or manipulation by people in their own families and by friends of the family. The issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse are the ones that have the strongest destructive impact on young people's lives and need to be addressed through social service, community and political support at a much higher level.

Unwelcome approaches on the Internet may be quite disturbing to young people, so it is important to help Net users develop strategies for dealing with such approaches and building a public awareness that the Net is not entirely safe and we must all be cautious of the personal information we make available to people. It is, however, easy to overdramatise the problem of strangers rather than looking closer to home.

If we proceed to the detail stage today, I am proposing amendments to proposed new section 92NC to ensure that the defence against charges of acts of indecency against a young person-section 92K of the Crimes Act-will also apply in these instances. This amendment picks up on concerns expressed in Scrutiny of Bills Report No 12 about the absolute liability.

The defence that the person charged would reasonably believe that the young person was over 16 years, for example, would obviously protect people from entrapment but provide no defence for older people joining in young people's chat rooms and passing themselves off as someone young.

Similarly, the amendment would ensure that young people engaged in the usual exploratory communication of youth would not be trapped by a side effect of this legislation. We would rather see this bill given more time and would support an adjournment of the debate or referral of the bill to a committee.

MR OSBORNE (11.19), in reply: I thank members for their support for the bill. I have agreed to the adjournment, because there are a couple of issues that we do need to resolve in the detail stage, but it is my intention to bring it back today. I look forward to working with Mr Wood, Mr Stefaniak and other crossbench members on amendments.

Mr Stefaniak mentioned the self-government act. My office had a discussion with the legal adviser to the scrutiny of bills committee a short time ago, and he is of the view that the concerns raised by Mr Stefaniak are not valid. I hope to get something from him prior to the legislation coming back on this afternoon.

Some concerns about the bill have emerged. Members will recall that I referred in my tabling speech to the Australian Institute of Criminology report No 166, entitled Cyberstalking. This report deals with these points of concern. I will take a few moments to cover them briefly.

The proposed amendments to section 34A, including a specific mention of electronic communication, are unnecessary as section 34A is already adequate. This is one of the concerns raised by the department.

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