Proposed changes to Queensland's minimum age of sexual consent, "dating back to the early nineties", are limiting the state's participation in the formation of national internet laws.
Queensland government and opposition spokespersons confirmed that proposed federal legislation from as long as 10 years ago, that suggested alterations to the Australian minimum age of sexual consent, had left Queensland voluntarily uninvolved in the official decision-making process for unified Australian internet law.
The finding follows the release earlier this year of Federal Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone's Model Criminal Code discussion paper, which outlined proposals to introduce consolidated federal laws against internet crime. Existing laws regarding hacking, web sabotage and fraud currently differ from state to state.
The discussion paper was drafted by the Model Criminal Code Committee (MCCC), which is made up of IT industry professionals, lawyers and state government representatives from all states except Queensland.
According to government officials, the MCCC will accept submissions from legal and IT industry bodies until the end of April. The committee will deliver a second draft of the paper to all state governments later this year, urging them to agree on a consolidated federal internet crime-specific law. It is expected that standardised federal legislation on internet and computer-related crime will be introduced in parliament early next year.
A spokesperson from the Queensland Attorney-General's office confirmed that Queensland was not represented in the MCCC. Previously, the former Queensland government under Rob Borbidge had withdrawn all representation from the committee -- a move the current Beattie government has no plans to reverse.
A spokesperson for the Queensland opposition confirmed that the former state government opted out of the MCCC "some time in the early nineties" due to a law reform proposed by the federal committee involving changes to the minimum legal age of sexual consent.
The spokesperson explained that various Queensland Christian communities had objected to the proposed federal legislation that would see the minimum legal age of sexual consent lowered, providing both parties were no more than two years apart in age.
Nevertheless, the Queensland Attorney-General spokesperson said that Queensland would "monitor" the progress of the Model Criminal Code discussion paper. However, that spokesperson maintained the Queensland government would not seek to regain its representation in the MCCC before the proposed legislation surfaced in parliament in early 2001.
"We've got our own laws," the spokesperson said.