On Wednesday evening, 2nd April, the Queensland Parliament discussed outdoor advertising in the state and in particular voted on a Katter Party bill to regulate advertising in an attempt to protect the community from sexualised and objectifying billboard advertising.

This particular bill was voted down, partly due to technical reasons, but the Government still has an opportunity to follow through on the recommendations the Health and Community Services Committee has made in its January 2014 report following on from the Inquiry into Sexualised Outdoor Advertising. In particular the report recommended regulating outdoor and shopfront advertising to prevent the display of material that is sexually explicit, offensive and/or inappropriate for children. This important and urgent issue is of ongoing concern in the community.

Whilst the parliament did not pass the Katter bill, it is clear from the Hansard record of the discussion, that the support for the issue is very strong in the parliament. The government response to the all-party parliamentary committee inquiry report is due by mid year.

The following members of parliament spoke in support of parents’ right to protect their children from sexualised material and support for children to retain their innocence.

The Attorney General has said that he wants to hear from Queenslanders. Hopefully, it should only be a matter of time before law is introduced that will have the whole parliament’s support.

Mr Shane Knuth (KAP Member for Dalrymple)

‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ The sentiment in the wise words of Nelson Mandela are etched in the child and family focused policy that the KAP has developed regarding billboard advertising in Queensland. Two main issues kept resurfacing whilst in discussion with members of the Queensland community. They were: the constant exposure to families and children of M and MA content on billboard advertising; and the geographical placement of M and MA billboard advertising in public spaces that are frequently occupied by families and children.

Mr Jarrod Bleijie (Attorney General, LNP Member for Kawana)

This government is committed to ensuring Queensland is the safest place to raise a family. That is why, in response to community concerns about inappropriate and sexually explicit outdoor advertising, this government took action and referred the issue of outdoor advertising to the Health and Community Services Committee on 17 April 2013, well prior to the member for Dalrymple’s opportunistic political bill here tonight. This committee considered whether the outdoor and billboard advertising industry in Queensland should be reformed, including whether legislative reform is needed to protect children from being exposed to sexually explicit and inappropriate advertising.

On 31 January 2014, the committee tabled a comprehensive report on sexually explicit advertising. The committee’s report makes a number of recommendations, including that the government introduce legislation to establish a co-regulatory approach to outdoor advertising with a recognised industry body to develop a code of ethics for outdoor advertising that is given effect by regulation. An industry adjudication board would also be established to determine whether outdoor advertisements breach the code of ethics, with noncompliance with board determinations to result in the matter being referred to the Department of Justice and Attorney-General to consider enforcement and penalties. The Queensland government is carefully considering the committee’s recommendations to decide the way forward for outdoor advertising in Queensland.

What we will do is consult with Queenslanders. This government was very proud to have set up a committee inquiry to look at this issue, well prior to the member’s bill being introduced in this House. We held a press conference at Parliament House with some ladies who, of course, supported the government’s intention to look at this in a proper way, to talk to the experts and the billboard owners with respect to the fact that we do not want to see billboards that display the objectification of women. We will attend to that, as we have, in a thoughtful process. We set up a committee inquiry. I think that was a great outcome in terms of the committee’s ability to look at the issues. The committee has made some recommendations. There are some controversial recommendations which the billboard companies have been on to me about, but what I have said to the billboard companies is that we will take our time. We are looking at the committee’s recommendations and then the government will respond accordingly in the time allocated to us to respond to the committee report.

What I will do is work with the billboard advertising owners because I believe they genuinely want to work with the government and to cooperate with the government to ensure that the objectification of women and children is not displayed on these particular types of billboards. I look forward very much to working with those advertisers and owners of the billboards and the stakeholders and all the relevant people so that we can come up with a program that actually will work and will lead to the non-objectification of women in Queensland.

Mrs Liz Cunningham (Independent Member for Gladstone)

I was at an ACL conference it would have to be 12 months ago now I think, if not a bit longer. The member for Dalrymple spoke at that conference. Part of that conference was the ACL presenting the need for G rated billboards.

… billboards in the public arena are unavoidable, unless as a parent you feel so strongly about the content of a billboard you will actually alter what would be the most direct travelling route to avoid a sign. Why should you? Why shouldn’t signage around a community be acceptable and appropriate for all ages? I do not think there is a problem with that. It does not impinge on the right of people to advertise their product. It does not impinge on the opportunity for me as a consumer to be told about a product. But I just ask that for my eyes, and more particularly my children and more particularly my grandchildren, they not be influenced by material that is inappropriate either for their age or for our value set. So I support the G rating and I am going to support this piece of legislation.

Mr Ray Hopper (KAP Member for Condamine)

We do not care what consenting adults do in their bedroom and we do not care what they choose to do sexually, but do not put it in front of our kids.

Carl Judge (Palmer United Party MP for Yeerongpilly)

The member for Ipswich spoke about how times change, and they do, but it is not always for the better. We know that children are being sexualised. We know that children are being exposed to violence more and more, and that is being reflected in children’s behaviours in school yards and in courts; for example, children are going to court for serious violent sexual offences.