.- The Australian government has earmarked $116 million to combat pornography in the country. Communications Minister Helen Coonan announced that every Australian family would be offered free Internet filtering software to block X-rated sites and offensive words. She expects that 2.5 million families will take advantage of the offer. Public library terminals will also be blocked.
Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, commended the government for its anti-pornography program. In a cardinal-archbishop’s regular column in the Sunday Telegraph, he said public awareness about the problem of pornography must continue to grow, as it is “the worst fruit of free-market capitalism.”
Particular concern has been expressed about the accessibility of pornography to children. A 2003 report by the Australia Institute indicates that more than four out of five boys and three out of five girls using the Internet had experienced unwanted exposure to sexual material.
In his column, Cardinal Pell addressed the growing social problem of sexual addiction, which can take its form in promiscuity, multiple affairs, exhibitionism, voyeurism, compulsive masturbation, as well as rape and sexual abuse of children. Pornography, particularly that which is available on the Internet, he said, feeds this addiction.
Citing American psychologist Patrick Carnes, he said about 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women become sexually addicted at some stage in their lives.
According to research cited by the cardinal, 40 percent of the adult male population in the U.K. (9 million) logged onto sex websites last year, four times as many as in 2000; 1.4 million women downloaded Internet porn in that time, representing an increase of 30 percent. At least 40 percent of couples with marital difficulties say Internet pornography is partly to blame. As well, Sydney lists among cities with the highest users in the world of pornographic material.