On 2 December 2015, the Senate referred the following matter to the
Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by the
first sitting day in December 2016:
Harm being done to Australian children through access to
pornography on the Internet, with particular reference to:
- trends of online consumption of
pornography by children and their impact on the development of healthy and
current methods taken towards harm
minimisation in other jurisdictions, and the effectiveness of those methods;
the identification of any measures
with the potential for implementation in Australia; and
any other related matters.
On 8 May 2016, the Governor-General issued a proclamation dissolving the
Senate and the House of Representatives from 9 am on 9 May 2016 for a general
election on 2 July 2016. As a result of the dissolution of the Senate for an
election, the committee ceased to exist and the inquiry lapsed.
The 45th Parliament commenced on 30 August 2016. Members of this
committee were appointed on 1 September 2016. On 13 September 2016, the Senate
agreed to the committee's recommendation that this inquiry be re-adopted with a
reporting date of 23 November 2016. The Senate also agreed to the recommendation
that the committee have the power to consider and use the records of the Environment
and Communications References Committee appointed in the previous parliament
that related to this inquiry.
Conduct of the inquiry
In accordance with its usual practice, the committee appointed in the
previous parliament advertised the inquiry on its website and wrote to relevant
individuals and organisations inviting submissions.
In total, 416 submissions were received. These submissions are listed at
Appendix 1 and the public submissions are available from the committee's
website at www.aph.gov.au/senate_ec.
In addition to the published submissions, the committee received a
significant number of form letters and other correspondence, the overwhelming
majority of which expressed concern about the exposure of children and young
people to pornographic material. This material is categorised as follows:
Six different form letters were sent to the committee with 151
letters received in total. The committee agreed to publish an example of each
type of form letter and the number of each type received. A breakdown of the
form letters by type is at Appendix 1.
The committee also received a significant number of short
statements expressing general concern about children and young people's access
to online pornography. This correspondence was available to the committee
throughout the inquiry, however, the emails were not published as submissions.
As the above paragraphs indicate, the committee received a significant
amount of written evidence for this inquiry. The diverse material received
included submissions based on personal accounts, submissions from individuals
expressing their personal views on this issue and submissions that drew the
committee's attention to detailed research. The committee thanks all of
the individuals and organisations that contributed to the inquiry.
Passing of Emeritus Professor Freda
One of the most detailed submissions the committee received was from
respected child protection advocate Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs AO, who
passed away in April 2016. The committee wishes to record its appreciation for
her contribution to Australian public life as a champion for the protection of children.
Structure of the report
This report comprises four chapters, as follows:
Chapter 1 has outlined introductory matters regarding the
referral and conduct of the inquiry.
Chapter 2 introduces the discussion of the topic referred for
inquiry by explaining the committee's approach to defining the scope of key
terminology, presenting a selection of available data on pornography exposure
and outlining the impacts and harms to children and young people arising from
online pornography that submissions discussed.
In light of the evidence available regarding the impact of
pornography exposure on children and young people, submitters put forward their
views on whether a case exists for further government action. They also
discussed the merits of specific policy proposals. This evidence is outlined in
Chapter 4 contains the committee's findings and recommendations.
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