House debates

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Proposed Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety

9:00 am

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That a Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety be appointed to inquire into and report on:
  • abuse of children online (cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking and sexual grooming);
  • exposure to illegal and inappropriate content;
  • inappropriate social and health behaviours in an online environment (e.g. technology addiction, online promotion of anorexia, drug usage, underage drinking and smoking);
  • identity theft; and
  • breaches of privacy.
  • increasing awareness of cyber-safety good practice;
  • encouraging schools to work with the broader school community, especially parents, to develop consistent, whole school approaches; and
  • analysing best practice approaches to training and professional development programs and resources that are available to enable school staff to effectively respond to cyber-bullying; and

I will speak briefly to this proposition. It is the fulfilment of a commitment that the Australian Labor Party made during the election campaign to investigate and to have a parliamentary committee which would investigate and report on cybersafety in Australia as part of our plan for cybersafety. The establishment of this committee fulfils this important election commitment. As the Deputy Prime Minister stated earlier this month, we want to ensure that we can build on what is happening in schools today to combat cyberbullying, so by having a dedicated, purpose-specific committee looking at the issue of cybersafety, we will be able, as a parliament, to be better informed about the policies and programs that can make a difference.

Cybersafety skills are a vital tool for all internet users. Engagement with the online environment offers powerful sources of information and entertainment. However, we must also recognise that there is a potential for malicious behaviour and harmful effects. Cybersafety incidents, such as online identity theft, cyberbullying and online breaches of privacy, can have both short- and long-term effects, such as physical harm, antisocial behaviour and financial loss. Along with these, computer addiction, online grooming and other effects, such as inadvertently becoming victims of these issues, present broader risks as a result of inadequate cybersafety skills. Given the extensive use of computers for internet usage across the education sector and in our society, we need to address cybersafety issues as a matter of priority.

The government has delivered on our commitment to establish a Consultative Working Group on cybersafety involving industry and child protection organisations. We have also established a youth advisory group to examine cybersafety issues from a young person’s perspective. In addition, the government will introduce into parliament legislation for the mandatory ISP level filtering of refused classification content. Particularly topical have been incidents of suicide and self-harm among young people as a result of cyberbullying.

It is proposed that this committee will address the nature, prevalence and implications of cybersafety threats, such as abuse of children online; avenues to make the internet a safer place for young people to socialise, research and engage with broader society online; and identity theft and breaches of privacy. We know that issues have been raised due to concern about cyberbullying, cyberstalking and sexual grooming online, and we need to address this issue as a society. It is appropriate that parliament play a role in this. It will be able to do this through this joint committee, which I am sure will operate on a bipartisan basis, as most committees in this House and in the Senate do. This resolution, I note, will ensure that there are representations from both houses and from both of the major political parties in this House. I note also that there will be broader representation. The government was pleased to ensure that there was representation of an Independent member of this House of Representatives, the member for Lyne, who indicated his enthusiasm for being able to make a positive contribution to the work of this committee.

The committee will also examine Australian and international responses to current cybersafety threats and their effectiveness. The committee will seek opportunities to engage with stakeholders in dealing with these issues, as well as analysing information on emerging strategies in dealing with cybersafety. The committee is also to inquire into and report on other such matters relating to cybersafety as the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy refers from the Senate or from the House of Representatives. I congratulate and acknowledge the work of both the Chief Government Whip and the Chief Opposition Whip in ensuring that this important reform has been able to move forward in such a constructive fashion.

Question agreed to.