[Sitting date: 15 August 2012. Volume:682;Page:4383. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the
Minister of Justice: What reports has she received on the potential impact of
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice)
: Cyber-bullying has a wide-reaching impact in our increasingly online and digital world. Our young people, whose lives are increasingly enmeshed in social media, are particularly at risk of cyber-bullying. In May I asked the Law Commission to fast track its recommendations—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister but I simply cannot hear the answer. I know my ears are not great, but I need to be able to hear the answer, and the level of interjection is unreasonable on a question that is a perfectly fair question.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: In May I asked the Law Commission to fast track its recommendations on harmful digital communication as part of its report on new media. Those recommendations have been released today in the commission’s report on rights, responsibilities, and regulations in the digital age.
Tim Macindoe: What steps will the Minister consider to address the harm being done through cyber-bullying?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The Law Commission has made a range of recommendations. We will consider all the recommendations. In particular, we will consider creating a new offence targeting offensive, indecent, or obscene digital communication that causes harm. We will also consider changing existing laws to make
sure provisions apply to digital communications, and we will consider making it an offence to incite a person to commit suicide, whether or not the intended victim attempts suicide—[Interruption] I must say I would have thought the Labour Opposition would take this seriously.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Andrew Little: Will the cyber-bullying laws prevent a Minister from trawling through a citizen’s personal details and making them public to score political points?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, of course, there have not been changes made yet and we are looking at the recommendations. But I would have thought that that member would want to be involved in serious discussion on this, not silly comments like that.
Tim Macindoe: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Tim Macindoe.
Tim Macindoe: Why is cyber-bullying such a concern for the Government?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Bullying is no longer confined to the classroom or the playground—which, I have to say, has been evidenced by the behaviour today from the Opposition. Bullies are targeting their victims by cellphone, instant messaging devices, and social networking websites. I have to say that the worst of it is under the guise of anonymity. We must not underestimate the devastating effects of this new form of bullying, particularly on young schoolchildren. It has been shown that it increases truancy, failure at school, and the emotional problems of many young people such as depression, self-harm, and suicide. Again, it is absolutely very concerning that the Labour Opposition does not take this situation seriously.