*Age Of Consent & Legal Sexual Activity for the State of
6th July 2001 Letter to Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Attorney General Rod Welford asking for a personal interview in order to discuss the time frame for the implementation of Mr Beattie’s 15th June 2001 commitment to adequately inform the public about existing laws governing age of consent and legal sexual activity.
To: Hon. Peter Beattie MP
Premier of Queensland and Minister for Trade
And to: Hon. Rod Welford
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
References: Office of the Premier: "MCU" letter dated 31st May 2001
Attorney-General: 2001/04234 letter dated 22nd June 2001-07-04
From: John Frame
82 Main Avenue, Wavell Heights 4012
Phone: 3350 1562 / 0409 501 561
Date: 6th July 2001.
Re: Request for personal interview regarding a commitment by the Premier to provide adequate information of the general public regarding age of consent and legal sexual activity.
I am continuing to pursue the matter of effective information of the public regarding the existing laws governing age of consent for sex and legal sexual activity.
On the 15th June 2001, I interviewed Premier Beattie at the Brisbane Powerhouse about several matters of concern to the Queensland gay and lesbian community. My last question was regarding whether the Government would act to effectively inform the public about age of consent and legal sexual activity. The questions and responses on that topic were:
John Frame:And there’s one more issue:- I sent you a letter, also one to the Attorney-General, one to my local member Neil Roberts – and this is discussing the fact that with age of consent in Queensland… since the Goss Government in 1990 changed the actual way that it’s interpreted, most of the public doesn’t understand it. … I’m asking for the Government to actually issue a pamphlet to the public - make something available, so that they know what the story is.
Peter Beattie: What – the difference in ages of consent?
John Frame: Yes the fact that 16 year old men can have sex with other men, if they want to – that’s quite legal. It’s just that nobody is allowed to do anal sex until they’re 18.
Peter Beattie: That’s true.
John Frame: Most of the public don’t understand that and I’m just asking that they be told.
Peter Beattie: Alright, well if it’s about educative,(sic) educating about the existing law, well we’re always happy to do that, OK?
That complete interview has aired several times on local radio 4ZZZfm as well as around the world via the program "This Way Out" on the community radio satellite service. An mp3 audio version of that recording is readily available to anyone on the internet at www.queerradio.org/PeterBeattie150601.mp3. The full transcript is at www.queerradio.org/PeterBeattie150601.htm.
I consider that a clear statement has been made that the Government will act responsibly, and will now proceed to ensure that the public is adequately informed about the existing laws governing age of consent and sexual activity. What is lacking is a time frame for the implementation of that action.
I urge that you consider this matter as a priority.
The fact that I have had to lobby repeatedly for twelve months to get to this stage is daunting. But I am hopeful that you will agree that this is indeed a serious matter.
As an example: - On 3rd July 2001, I phoned five youth service groups in the Greater Brisbane region and enquired about the information that they would offer to any young person who approached them asking about age of consent. Not one of those groups could give me a straightforward or correct answer. Youth should be able to get an accurate pamphlet from any school counsellor, health service and youth support service or counselling service.
Mr Welford suggests that it is sufficient that the handful of community legal services scattered around the state could give information to those youth who are brave enough to front up and ask in person. This is hardly a likely occurrence, when our society’s entrenched homophobia has placed such a stigma on same-sex sexual activity and when there is every chance that the legal service itself is unclear about the law.
Accurate information must be made available in the form of a Government authorised, easily accessible and easy-to-understand pamphlet.
When the Logan Youth Legal Service were criticised earlier this year for issuing a dangerously misleading poster (funded by the Attorney-General Department) to all Queensland schools, they claimed, in their defence, that they were working on such a pamphlet. They have advised me today that they do not have the funding or the staff available to proceed effectively with that project.
Mr. Welford also quotes the website of the Youth Advocacy Centre as a reliable and accessible source of information on the Internet. However, it took them three months to act after lobbying by myself, before they finally amended their site to show correct information on age of consent. They are of minor importance as a source of information for youth and, most importantly, they display a disclaimer which states that they do not accept responsibility for the accuracy of their information.
No non-government website will have enough credibility to counter the overwhelming predominance of wrong information which currently exists on the internet about age of consent in our state. The only website that will be taken seriously as an official source is one which is directly backed by the Attorney-General or the Queensland Government. No such official source currently exists.
It is of utmost importance that accurate information about current laws be freely available to the general public and also to youth support, health, education and legal services.
Family Planning Queensland are just one of the groups who have indicated that they would be happy to work with the Government to develop a suitable and much needed pamphlet.
If you are still unwilling to act, I ask for an opportunity to discuss this matter in greater detail, in person with either of yourselves, or with your representatives. I will invite experienced professionals in various fields to join me in that meeting to ensure that you know that we consider that action is urgently needed.
I look forward to receiving your positive response,