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Criminal Code Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2019 (No 5)

[3.02 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I am pleased to see this bill amending the Criminal Code Act to make serious cyberbullying a criminal offence. As we all know, bullying is never okay. Bullying can affect anyone, from any age or any walk of life. Cyberbullying is especially overwhelming and embarrassing for people because bullying by electronic means has the propensity to spread far more, with the ability to quickly reach a very large audience. Obviously, it can take time for posts to be taken down from social media sites. This must cause a huge amount of stress for those who are cyberbullied, knowing a post is live and waiting for it to be removed. With most people having mobile phones and internet, it can be relentless and ongoing - during and after school or work, being much more commonplace and continuing day after day. We all know bullying and cyberbullying can affect people's everyday lives and can be the cause of low self-esteem and depression. It can also lead to drug or alcohol addiction, often as a way to escape the present. It is very sad. We have all heard of people who have tragically attempted or committed suicide or self-harm. It is essential we do all we can to protect children and adults from all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying. As mentioned by the member for Windermere - and we spoke earlier - I believe everyone in this House has probably been cyberbullied at some time during their parliamentary career. We have all had derogatory comments and posts against us from time to time when we vote in a way not acceptable to some. On one occasion, I recall one of my staff receiving nasty posts on her Facebook because of the way I voted. While it is difficult for us, we understand it because we are members of parliament, but it is totally unfair for our staff. Nobody likes bullying. I do not know about other members, but I often take a screen shot, particularly on Facebook, if someone says something particularly nasty. It is worthwhile simply remembering because it does go on. I recall after my election, some particularly nasty comments were made and the President at the time told me the thing to do is to ignore them. We can ignore them but it must be hard for younger people. At the time, Jim Wilkinson said, 'Ignore them, as difficult as that may be, because the minute you give them attention, you fan the flames and they know you have read it and then they come back again and again.' I appreciate that for many in the community it is not easy to ignore things that are personal about you. As the member for Windermere mentioned, it hurts your family. Your family read nasty comments about you and they get upset and hurt and it goes on and on. I appreciate the bill coming forward. It is extremely worthwhile that we certainly make it front and centre. As the member for Windermere said, it would be good if we do some advertising to let people know, particularly people who might be bullying, that it is not acceptable. Some people probably do not appreciate that what they are actually doing is of a bullying behaviour. I am sure when people write comments to us, on our Facebook or in the media or other areas, that they are not aware sometimes that they are of a bullying nature. Possibly they just think that they are putting their point of view forward. It is important that people, whoever they are, do not bully, that we stand up for people who are bullied and support them and that we do all we can. I do support the bill.

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