CRIMES AMENDMENT (CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AND ABUSE MATERIAL) BILL 2010
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Ms SYLVIA HALE
[5.07 p.m.]: The Child Pornography Working Party recommended that New South Wales adopt the Commonwealth provisions that child pornography or, in the terminology of this bill, child abuse material, is such if it depicts a child engaged in a sexual activity or in a sexual context, or in a situation of torture or abuse where the person depicted is a child, or appears to be or is implied to be a child, and where a reasonable person would find the material offensive. The working party, which included Legal Aid representatives as well as police, suggested that New South Wales adopt the Commonwealth provisions that require that once a court has considered arguments that certain material is art and has reached a determination that it is nevertheless unlawfully pornographic, no further defence of artistic purpose is available.
However, there are concerns about who will provide the court with advice on the artistic merit of an item. The Greens hope that an appropriately qualified body will undertake this task. The bill is in part a reaction by the Government to the photographs by Bill Henson that caused wide debate over what comprises a pornographic image. Henson's work, however, would not be caught by this legislation because the censor has now classified it. Art is about the human condition, and the portrayal of the nude has been part of art history from time immemorial. The portrayal of nudity can be about the beauty of the human form or as a metaphor for human vulnerability, and its use has been integral to art appreciation and artistic expression for centuries. We cannot legislate as to how people look upon a nude, or on a child for that matter. What we can legislate on is whether a reasonable person would consider an image to be child pornography. This is discussed in an essay by Bryn Dodson called "Censorship and Cultural Judgement", which reads in part:
The "offence to a reasonable person" requirement ensures that if a work's only or predominant appeal is to consumers of child pornography, or it is blatantly exploitative, then its production or publication is criminal. A "reasonable person" test is obviously one on which people will disagree fiercely. However, to make a judgment based on that test, there is no avoiding consideration of the merits of the work itself, however difficult it might be to achieve consensus. Whether or not this test is the best that could be devised, it has the merit that cultural judgment remains in the hands of the reasonable person, and not in the hands of the depraved.
If an individual wishes to view an image in a sexual manner, how can we stop that? Any image can be sexual if the viewer wishes to interpret it that way. How do we police such perceptions? At least the legislation attempts to strike a balance by introducing a reasonable-person test. Just what is pornography? Most definitions focus very clearly on the explicitness and intent of an image. An online dictionary describes pornography as:
The representation in books, magazines, photographs, films, and other media of scenes of sexual behaviour that are erotic or lewd and are designed to arouse sexual interest.
The film censors who considered the work of Bill Henson appear to have concluded that these conditions are absent. The images are not explicit, they are actually quite coy, and, according to Henson, the intent is to show vulnerability rather than to be sexually titillating. They are not, however, the images of sexual exploitation that we associate with child pornography. To confuse the two is to unnecessarily impede any artistic endeavour that may depict children and to seek to censor all images that a very small minority of viewers may interpret in an unreasonable way. The Greens' policy is:
Freedom of expression is fundamental to the arts and the ability of all artists to comment on the nature of our society and must be preserved as part of the structure of a just and democratic society.
In defending that freedom, it is important not to allow unscrupulous individuals to hide behind certain excuses, such as arguing that being an artist is a sufficient shield against child pornography or child abuse charges. We cannot excuse Louis Althusser from punishment for strangling his wife because he was a brilliant intellectual, nor can we excuse the rape by an artist of an underage person merely because the artist happens to be a famous film director. The danger is that personal predispositions may lead the censor to refuse to classify an image. Pressure may be brought to bear on the censors. It is possible that an artwork may be deemed to be pornographic if it depicts a child's naked form in a context that the censor deems to be sexual. Will censors who are not mindful of artistic merit condemn nudity? One can only place one's faith in the integrity and good sense of the Office of Film and Literature Censorship.
There also needs to be more clarity around the journalistic merit and the publication of images of children suffering an abuse in war zones, or descriptions of child abuse cases. Who will determine journalistic merit? Will it be up to a properly qualified panel of experts as may be the case of artistic merit, or will it be left to the discretion of the court? Challenging images are part of the nature and purpose of art. We should not underestimate the ability of the general population to deal with such images. Unfortunately, sensationalist outpourings by the shock-jock media and tabloid press do little other than to inject hysteria and moral panic into what should be a rational discussion of an artwork's qualities. We cannot legislate to stop the raincoat brigade. To try to do so is to legislate to impose restrictions on the entire community as though everyone were a consumer of pornography—an unacceptably broad-brush approach that would bring the law itself into disrepute. The artist Polixeni Papapetrou, whose photograph of her six-year-old daughter on the cover of Art Monthly caused a storm last year, did not send her work to the censors for classification. She has criticised the change to the law. When asked whether she was prepared to be prosecuted if her work were judged by authorities as child pornography, she said:
I think they're barking up the wrong tree. I really think they should be going after those people who exploit children.
On Wednesday 10 March this year in an article entitled "Art or child porn? Now censors must decide", the Sydney Morning Herald asked: Will images such as Picasso's Boy child be caught within this net? The Attorney General assures us that nudity will not, in or of itself, be grounds to constitute child pornography but the legislation refers to showing " private parts of a person who is, appears to be or is implied to be a child". This raises concerns about how rigorously this description will be applied. Here one cannot but think of all those photos of naked toddlers that are found in family albums and the like. We must ensure that this element of the offence is carefully considered in terms of the context and intent of the image. It would be deplorable to regress to the Victorian era when fig leaves proliferated. Sadly, the New South Wales Police Force have a history of ill-advised sallies into artistic censorship. Norman Lindsay, when his novel Redheap was censored in 1930, made some very disparaging remarks about a Government that "let's the lowest type of official moron wipe his boots on it. Policemen as the arbiters of our culture! Lord, what a country!"
We watched the spectacle of the New South Wales Police Force seizing 23 of Bill Henson's photographs from the Roslyn Oxley Gallery following a complaint from one person. Henson's photographs were given classification under Commonwealth law by the censors and were deemed unrestricted, except for one that was classified as PG—parental guidance recommended. The case against him collapsed and the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped it. The Government should stop taking fright every time someone complains to the tabloid media about something they find offensive. While some may dislike Henson's work, and may even think it is exploitative or unsettling, we must differentiate it from child pornography. By all means anyone can criticise and denounce an artist via the media, or stand out the front of a gallery and demonstrate, but the Government should not despatch police to raid a gallery without first seeking an informed and educated opinion as to whether the works being exhibited within the gallery are pornographic. The Greens want more clarity around the issue of journalistic merit.
The bill also amends other parts of the legislation. I will now move on to those other aspects. To reduce the amount of distressing material viewed in trials, the bill provides that only a random sample of alleged child abuse material needs to be presented to juries. Another provision doubles the maximum penalty for those found in possession of child abuse material from 5 to 10 years. The bill provides that victims in child pornography cases will be allowed to give evidence during a trial in camera or via closed-circuit television. These arrangements will be extended to witnesses. The court is empowered to protect the identity of sexual offence witnesses as well as the identity of complainants. The expression "child pornography" is being replaced with the term "child abuse material" throughout the legislation. The Greens will support the bill, but we note issues of concern. We hope that any prosecutions will be handled with great care and objectivity and not be influenced by hysteria and dubious moral outrage.
Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES
[5.18 p.m.]: On behalf of Family First I speak on the Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Abuse Material) Bill. The object of the bill is to amend the Crimes Act 1900 to change the law as it relates to child pornography so that the defence relating to material produced for child protection, scientific, medical, legal, artistic, or other public benefit purposes will no longer be available, and the law is generally more consistent with Commonwealth offences relating to child pornography. The bill also amends the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 to provide for the use of random sample evidence in proceedings for a child abuse material offence. It also seeks to amend the Criminal Procedure Act to extend to a witness in sexual offence proceedings the same protection as that afforded to a complainant in the proceedings in cases where it is alleged that the accused person has committed a sexual offence against the Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Abuse Material) Bill 2010 witness that is not the subject of the proceedings concerned.
In its 2008 report entitled "Penalties relating to Sexual Assault Offences in New South Wales" the New South Wales Sentencing Council recommended that artistic purposes be removed as a defence to child pornography charges. In addition, the Sentencing Council recommended the establishment of a Child Pornography Working Party to evaluate and report on these issues. In late 2008 the Government established its working party and appointed Judge Peter Berman, SC, as its chair. The working party included representatives across a broad range of government departments and interested parties. The working party was asked to consider a number of issues that had arisen in the prosecution of child pornography offences, and in particular how to remove the artistic purposes defence from child pornography offences in the Crimes Act 1900 without infringing upon the rights of journalists and artists to depict valid situations involving children. Under the recommendations, artistic merit can no longer be used as a defence for the use of images of children deemed to be pornographic. If the recommendations of the working party become law, any person producing, distributing or possessing such material could still argue artistic merit, but once the material is ruled to be pornographic the defence would lapse. The New South Wales Attorney General, the Hon. John Hatzistergos, said:
The working party's report suggests that once such material has been found to be unlawfully pornographic, whether or not it is intended to be art is irrelevant. Instead, the report recommends adopting Commonwealth provisions, which require that once a court has considered arguments that certain material is art and reached the determination that it is nevertheless unlawfully pornographic, no further defence of artistic merit is available.
The definition of child pornography was recently broadened by the Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act 2008, which commenced on 1 January 2009. Child pornography is now legislatively defined as:
material that depicts or describes (or appears to depict or describe), in a manner that would in all the circumstances cause offence to reasonable persons, a person who is (or appears to be) a child:
(a) engaged in sexual activity, or
(b) in a sexual context, or
(c) as the victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse (whether or not in a sexual context).
In addition, a new section was inserted that specifies any material that contains or displays an image of a person that has been altered or manipulated so that the person appears to be a child. During the second reading speech on the bill, the Attorney General explained the reasoning behind the further broadening of the definition when he said:
Images can also be manipulated to make innocent photographs of children appear in a pornographic context, or to make a person in a sexual context appear to be a child However, the Government makes no apologies for ensuring that all child pornographic images, whether real or pseudo, are covered by this legislation
Furthermore, it is important to reduce the amount of this abhorrent material available to anyone with access to a computer.
I commend the Attorney General for explaining that reasoning in such a way. I support the recommendations of the Child Pornography Working Party, given that this is a huge community concern for families and that children must be protected from such material. The working party recommended, "material that is otherwise offensive because of the way in which it depicts children should not be protected because its creator claims an overriding artistic purpose for it". The working party was of the opinion that the defence of artistic merit led to the impression that material that would otherwise constitute child pornography could be acceptable if the material was produced whilst acting for a genuine artistic purpose.
The working party also recommended that in defining child pornography the legislation provide a list of factors that must be taken into account in determining whether material is offensive, and that the defences be amended to mirror existing Commonwealth legislation. The bill now removes the stand-alone defence of artistic merit and, in its place, reworks the definition of child abuse material to include a list of factors that must be taken into account when determining whether material is offensive, which includes, amongst others, the existence of any artistic merit. The bill abolishes the artistic merit defence to a charge of producing, possessing or disseminating child pornography. This corrects a major defect in the law that has allowed material depicting children in a manner that is offensive to reasonable persons to be openly circulated on the grounds of its alleged artistic merit. The change will make a very clear statement that would be endorsed by New South Wales families: Art is not an excuse for child pornography.
The bill also allows for random sample evidence in circumstances in which the quantity and gravity of child pornography makes it undesirable to adduce to the court in its entirety. The random sample evidence limits the exposure of those associated with the proceedings to viewing unnecessary amounts of child pornography but still allows them to understand a representative sample of the material. The bill also extends certain protections currently afforded to complainants in sexual offence proceedings to witnesses in the proceedings who also allege that the accused person has committed a sexual offence against him or her.
I ask the Attorney General to consider taking the opportunity presented by the bill to improve the law on child pornography by amending the definition of a child for the purpose of these offences from "a person who is under the age of 16 years" to "a person who is under the age of 18 years". There are several reasons to make such a change. First is consistency with other offences in the Crimes Act 1900. While the general age of consent for engaging in consensual sex is 16, there are several sexual and other offences for which a child is defined as a person under the age of 18 years. This includes child prostitution, section 91C; sexual intercourse with a child under special care, section 73; recruiting a child to be involved in a criminal activity, section 351A; persistent sexual abuse of a child, section 66EA; and aggravated sexual servitude, sections 80C and 80D.
Each of those offences rightly recognises that a child is in special need of protection by the law until the age of 18. Child pornography should be considered to be one of those offences for which all children up to the age of 18 are in need of protection by the law. It is one thing for a child aged 16 or 17 to consent to sex; it is another thing for offensive pictures of a 16- or 17-year-old child to be taken in a sexual context and circulated. Such pictures may remain permanently available on the Internet. The bill would then bring New South Wales laws on child pornography into substantial agreement with Commonwealth law. As pointed out by the Minister when introducing the bill, this substantial agreement would facilitate law enforcement, as offences involving computers and carrier services may overlap the Commonwealth and State jurisdictions. It is important that the same material be considered as child pornography in both jurisdictions. However, the Commonwealth offences treat any person under 18 as a child.
Therefore, I recommend that the Attorney General raise the age in New South Wales from 16 to 18 years. The bill provides a defence to an offence of child pornography if the material has been classified other than as "refused classification" under the National Classification Scheme. The definition of a child for the purpose of the National Classification Scheme is a person under 18. I believe this bill would be greatly improved if the age were lifted from 16 to 18 years. In conclusion, Family First believes that children have a right to innocence. They have a right to grow up without any pressure of being sexually exploited in any way. It is fundamentally for this reason that I support the Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Abuse Material) Bill, and I commend it to the House.
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY
[5.28 p.m.]: I will confine my remarks on the Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Abuse Material) Bill 2010 to why the artistic purpose defence has been removed. In late 2008 the New South Wales Sentencing Council recommended that the defence of artistic merit be removed from the child pornography provisions contained within the Crimes Act 1900. The Government supported that recommendation and established a high-level working party to examine how the defence could be removed without infringing on the rights of journalists and artists to depict valid situations involving children.
The working party was chaired by Judge Peter Berman, SC, and comprised members of the New South Wales Police Force, the Australian Federal Police, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Justice and Attorney General, Legal Aid New South Wales, the Public Defender's Office, the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Law Enforcement Policy Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet. The working party recommended that New South Wales should follow the Commonwealth's approach to this issue. Under Commonwealth legislation the artistic merit of a piece of work is considered by the court when it is determining whether reasonable persons would regard particular material as being, in all the circumstances, offensive.
This means that a defence to a charge of child pornography will no longer be available for creators of material without any specific artistic merit but produced under the guise of an artistic purpose. The changes give clear guidance to the court as to what it should consider in deciding whether reasonable persons would regard particular material as being, in all the circumstances, offensive. These include the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; the literary, artistic or educational merit, if any, of the material; the journalistic merit, if any, of the material, being the merit of the material as a record or report of a matter of public interest; and the general character of the material, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character. The changes represent a sensible approach to this matter and they have the support of victims groups. The changes will make the New South Wales laws in relation to child pornography more consistent with the Commonwealth laws in this area. I commend the legislation to the House.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[5.30 p.m.]: On behalf of the Christian Democratic Party I am pleased to support the Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Abuse Material) Bill 2010. The bill will implement the recommendations of the Child Pornography Working Party and it extends to witnesses in sexual offence proceedings the same protections as those afforded to a complainant in the proceedings where it is alleged that the accused committed a sexual offence against the witness that is not the subject of the proceedings concerned.
Members will recall that the change in the legislation arose out of the controversy concerning Bill Henson's photographs of full frontal nudes that were displayed in a Sydney art gallery, particularly the full frontal photo of a 12-year-old boy that displayed his genitalia. As we know, following those reports the police felt they had an obligation to act and they seized 21 pictures. It was then up to the Director of Public Prosecutions to examine the evidence, so to speak, and he advised the police that it was unlikely that a jury or a magistrate would convict Henson or the gallery owners of either child pornography charges or of publishing an indecent article if any such charges were ever laid. That was because of the confusion over whether the defence of artistic purposes would apply in Bill Henson's case. It revealed a grey area in the legislation and I am pleased that the bill clears that up and hopefully makes the matter more black and white.
I congratulate the Child Pornography Working Party, which considered the request from the Attorney General to examine the Commonwealth child pornography laws to see what could be done because those laws did not contain a defence of artistic purposes. The bill will change the law as it relates to child pornography, which will now be referred to as child abuse material, so that the defence relating to material produced for child protection, scientific, medical, legal, artistic or other public benefit purposes will no longer be available. The law will also be generally more consistent with Commonwealth offences relating to child pornography. There are other matters in the bill, but they are not the main concern of my contribution.
I note that previous speakers in this debate, particularly the Greens, raised red herrings and spoke about photos of naked babies in the family photo album as if the police are going to go around confiscating family albums. Everybody is adult enough to know that what we are dealing with is child pornography material. I am very pleased that a number of years ago, in the 1980s, I campaigned with Dr John Whitehall to bring in the first laws relating to child pornography. It may come as a surprise to some members to know that there was no law against child pornography in New South Wales or Australia at that time. It was a major development to get at least one classification of child pornography identified and prohibited by law. I believe there are other categories that should be prohibited, but that is an issue for another debate. I refer particularly to what I call rape material that depicts women in rape situations, whether it is on the Internet or in videos or films. I believe it is provocative material, particularly as it includes abuse of the women portrayed. It also provokes males who are obviously mentally and sexually ill and stimulates them to attack and rape women. It is one of the factors in rape.
We are talking about child pornography or, to use the new term, child abuse material. One area of concern is the use that these materials are put to by paedophiles. Normal human beings, and I include all members of the upper House, would see this material as offensive. I think Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Bill Henson's photographs were revolting. We can have different responses but we are concerned about the way the material may be used by paedophiles. Looking at a photograph may stimulate them to attack a child. All the evidence I have studied, and discussions with police involved in this area, confirms that. This sort of material stimulates paedophiles and leads to more attacks on children. That is the reason we are concerned about this type of material being put on public display or being made available in any form to this group of people. Obviously, they are only a small minority, thank God, but we do not want to see even one child being physically or sexually abused as a result of a person being stimulated by this sort of material. If we can get this sort of material out of the public arena it is all to the good.
I congratulate the Attorney General, John Hatzistergos, who led the development of this legislation as a result of the Henson controversy and followed it through to the bill being before the House. The main aspect of the bill clearly defines what is child abuse material. The Crimes Act, which we are amending, states that child pornography is defined as material that depicts or describes, or appears to depict or describe, in a manner that would in all the circumstances cause offence to reasonable persons, a person who is, or appears to be, a child:
(a) engaged in sexual activity, or
(b) in a sexual context, or
(c) as the victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse (whether or not in a sexual context).
Under the Crimes Act it is an offence to produce, disseminate or possess child pornography. The bill will replace that with the new term "child abuse material". I know there are always good intentions when these new terms are introduced, but I hope that it will in no way lessen our attempts to prohibit this material. When it was described as child pornography everyone knew what child pornography was. I trust that the term "child abuse material" will not in any way produce a softer response by our law enforcement agencies. I do not believe it will, but I am pointing out that that needs to be watched very closely. The explanatory note to the bill states:
Child abuse material is defined as that which depicts or describes, in a way that a reasonable person would regard as being, in all the circumstances, offensive:
(a) a person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child as a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse, or
(b) a person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child engaged in or apparently engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity (whether or not in the presence of other persons) ...
The term "engaged in a sexual pose" is applicable to the Bill Henson situation. I am sure he will argue that that was not his intention, but I believe that other people have to make a judgement about the impact on others of his photographs of nude children. The explanatory notes continue:
(c) a person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child in the presence of another person who is engaged or apparently engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
(d) the private parts of a person who is, appears to be or is implied to be, a child.
The clarity in those provisions will assist the New South Wales Police Force in implementing this legislation. We will have to monitor the operation of this much-needed legislation. Members would be aware that we face major problems with child abuse throughout Australia. One in four girls and one in seven boys is the victim of child sexual abuse. In Australia a child is abused every 13 minutes. Last year there were more than 872 new reports of child abuse every day, which is a major problem. In 2007-08 over 317,526 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect were made to State and Territory authorities in Australia—three times the number of reported child abuse cases in 1998, which was 103,000. We have a major problem.
The figures for New South Wales indicate that the total number of child abuse cases in 2007-08 was 34,135. Of those cases, 13,000 involved emotional abuse, 10,000 neglect, 6,700 physical abuse and 3,875 sexual abuse. This legislation is needed to protect the children of this State. It is our responsibility to protect all children—a strong emphasis in all religions, in particular, in the Christian faith. When Jesus Christ talked about the abuse of a child he said it was far better for the person who abused a child to have a millstone put around his neck and to be drowned in the deepest sea than to fall into the hands of the living God. That sets a standard and that should reflect our attitude to child abuse. We must do all that we can to prevent child abuse from occurring.
The Hon. CHRISTINE ROBERTSON
[5.43 p.m.]: Before deciding whether particular material constitutes child abuse material the court must consider whether reasonable persons would regard that material as being, in all the circumstances, offensive. One of the matters that the court must consider is whether the material has any artistic merit. At page 24 of its report the Child Pornography Working Party noted:
... by requiring the literary, artistic or educational merit of the material is determined prior to the work being defined as child pornography. It ensures that works with genuine artistic merit are not confused with child pornography. It also ensures that a defence is not available for the creators of material without any artistic merit, but produced under the guise of an artistic purpose.
In this way the work of artists is distinguished from child abuse material. In addition, police are now able to consider the artistic merit of a piece of work before any charges are laid rather than it operating as a defence to be raised once criminal charges have been laid. The working party released its report in January this year. The Government then consulted with arts groups, the media and victims groups on the proposed changes. During the consultation many stakeholders from the arts sector were concerned that the proposed changes would remove the existing classification defence.
Arts groups recommended that this defence be retained. They argued that the classification defence provided a safeguard for emerging artists who may not have an established body of work, which might be a consideration that the court takes into account when determining whether a work has artistic merit. If the defence were retained emerging artists could apply to the Classification Board to have their work classified. In that way artists and art galleries could be confident that the work they display is not child abuse material and that they will not be liable for criminal prosecution The Government listened to this feedback and decided to retain the classification defence.
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [5.45 p.m.], in reply: I thank all those members who contributed to debate on the Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Abuse Material) Bill 2010. I will respond briefly to a number of issues that were raised in debate. Ms Sylvia Hale suggested that Polixeni Papapetrou had spoken out against these reforms. However, if her quote in the Sydney Morning Herald
is read in full, it becomes obvious that she supports the direction of this bill. I put on record her full quote:
I don't know of any artists who exploit children and if they do they should not be protected by any legal defence.
That is exactly what this bill does: it stops child abuse from hiding behind the fiction that pornography is art. I respond to the Greens' call for greater clarification of journalistic defence. Whether or not material has journalistic merit is a matter that the court will consider when it regards the material as being, in all the circumstances, offensive. Experts will be able to give evidence on whether, in their expert opinion, the material has any journalistic merit. That will assist the court when it is considering this issue, and whether it causes offence to reasonable persons.
Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes referred to raising the age for child pornography. Under the current child pornography provisions a child is defined as a person under the age of 16 years. This bill does not alter that position. The Child Pornography Working Party considered that issue but did not recommend that the age be increased from 16 to 18 years. This bill makes several important reforms to the criminal law of this State, most of which have been outlined in detail by members. There are three important aspect of the bill. First, it amends the Crimes Act 1900 and the law surrounding child pornography. It replaces the term "child pornography" with the term "child abuse material". This change demonstrates the seriousness with which the Government and the community regard these types of offences, as well as acknowledging the serious harm caused to children who are abused through these processes.
It removes the defence of artistic purpose. This ensures that work that meets the definition of child abuse material cannot be excused by the claim that it is produced for some artistic purpose. It also makes the law relating to child pornography more generally consistent with Commonwealth offences relating to child pornography. Second, the bill amends the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 to allow for the use of random sample evidence in proceedings for a child abuse material offence. This important reform will reduce the exposure of child abuse material to law enforcement officers, legal practitioners, judges, juries and court staff, which will have substantial occupational health and safety benefits for all those involved.
Third, the bill amends the Criminal Procedure Act to extend to witnesses in sexual assault proceedings who allege that the accused person has committed a sexual offence against him or her the same protections as those afforded to a complainant in the proceedings. These protections include: providing for closed courts; providing for non-publication orders; restricting cross-examination regarding sexual experience; providing that the complainant not be examined or cross-examined by the accused person; providing for the giving of evidence by a complainant by alternative arrangements such as closed-circuit television and screens; and providing an entitlement for the complainant to have a support person present while giving evidence. These reforms are aimed at encouraging more victims to come forward and report abuse. It is for these reasons that the Government has introduced the reforms. The Government is committed to minimising the distress caused to victims of sexual assault when giving evidence. It is not possible to distinguish between the difficulties faced by these witnesses and complainants in sexual assault trials. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted to proceed to the third reading of the bill forthwith.
Motion by the Hon. Penny Sharpe agreed to:
Bill read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
That this bill be now read a third time.