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Statutes Amendment (Bullying) Bill
November 15, 2017
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 27 September 2017.)
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (22:26): This bill will make bullying a criminal offence with maximum penalties of 10 years' imprisonment. I commend the Hon. Dennis Hood for taking action on this matter of bullying, especially in response to the tragic death of Libby Bell. Whilst I am supportive of the bill, I am concerned that more is not being done on this matter.
Advance SA does not think that simply having a big stick to punish people will be enough to tackle the issue of bullying. Unfortunately, the reality is that children can be very cruel and this is not something that is new. However, the considerable increase of exposure to bullying through social media means that this cruelty can be spread further, longer and can creep into traditional safe havens such as a child's home.
Advance SA believes that there needs to be more education to teach children about the effects of bullying and how to switch off. Resilience should be taught so that children learn how to cope with these matters. I am not at all suggesting that Libby Bell, her parents or teachers did anything wrong. I am simply saying that those who perpetrate this sort of behaviour, children, often do not think about the consequences. Turning bullying into a criminal offence is unlikely to have a definitive positive effect without more work to prevent this behaviour in the first place.
Advance SA sees merit in having bullying as a criminal offence, especially when the deterrence is used in conjunction with education programs for children. I understand there are examples where adults have bullied children online. The typical scenario for this is when a parent of a child involves themselves in a dispute between schoolchildren. This behaviour is absolutely abhorrent, and these people, these adults, should know better and should be prosecuted for their behaviour, especially if their actions result in harm. On behalf of Advance SA, I support the bill.