House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business


8:09 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Wentworth for his deferring to a lectern! I rise to speak on the motion of the member for Forrest that makes many suggestions and claims that I fully support and some that I do retreat from. I am on the same committee—the cybersafety committee—as the member for Forrest, so we have sat through many of the same presentations, and I do commend her for her role in educating her electorate about some of the issues associated with cybersafety. I also, as a member of this side of the chamber, am obviously happy to detail some of the appropriate actions that the Gillard government is taking to eradicate the issues of cybersafety and cybersecurity. I would also like particularly to acknowledge the role of Senator Bilyk, the chair of the committee that the member for Forrest and I are on, and the deputy chair, the member for Mitchell, for their contribution and their raising awareness of this issue amongst young people, amongst seniors and amongst Indigenous Australians—some of the groups that we have particularly targeted in our inquiries over the last few years.

I do not have a crystal ball for where the internet will take us. If I did have a crystal ball, I am not sure if it would be a dark crystal or a light crystal in terms of the opportunities the internet will provide for us in the future. It is a great tool, but it also does provide opportunities for those who are, sadly, ill-disposed to take advantage of people in the community. In Australia—as we are focusing on this motion by the member for Forrest—one of the first comprehensive studies of cyberbullying shows that about 10 per cent of teenagers and children have experienced some form of sustained bullying using technology. The reality is that it is probably more. I would be interested in seeing the data from the member for Forrest on what is going on in her electorate. In our inquiry, when we went to my electorate years back, it seemed to be more.

That is the reality of the internet; people take their school environment home. When the member for Forrest and I were at school, when you went home it was perhaps a safe environment. You at least had your family and support people and you did not take the schoolyard home. Sadly, as we have heard from school students in my electorate and throughout Australia in our inquiry, people take the schoolyard home. It can be a good thing in that you stay connected and you can share information and all the benefits that come with this wonderful tool—the internet—but it also means the tooth and claw of the schoolyard can be taken home to your bed at midnight. I have seen it. I have seen with family members where, when things go bad, you cannot escape from the bullying. When things go bad and people wish to bully you, when I was in school they had to drag you out the back of the bike shed and you could deal with it, but now you can be bullied, harassed, excluded, victimised, targeted and defamed—all of these things the member for Forrest detailed in her speech—in what used to be the safety of your own bedroom. This is the modern reality that we have heard evidence about. This is the reality confronting people as young as 10, 11 or 12—not just adults who might make an informed decision about the bullying they receive but people as young as 10, 11 or 12 and perhaps younger, especially with mobile phones being such that people can access the internet from anywhere.

And this bullying behaviour can have tragic consequences, as touched on by the member for Forrest. The cyberbullying committee reports found an overwhelming number of incidents where victims fell subject to a range of bullying from simple stuff like abusive phone calls, offensive photos or photos the content of which the Australian Federal Police might want to be aware through to stalking. The consequences of that can lead to depression, anxiety and further symptoms. Young people especially have suffered these symptoms when their self-esteem is affected. We have heard evidence in our electorates of cases of suicide and very serious immediate and long-term effects. This happens particularly when someone is a little bit different. The same rules of the schoolyard have existed for 2,000 years but now differences can be exploited, promulgated and distributed much more readily.

Between 1 January 2004 and 31 December 2011, the Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian's child death register recorded 140 deaths of children and young people due to suicide. Sadly, my wife in her public service job has been connected with most of those deaths. Every one of those deaths is a tragedy. Those 140 deaths are a cold, hard statistic but we can only imagine the tragedy associated with losing one of your children.

The Gillard Labor government takes the safety and security of all Australians, especially our young, seriously. That is why in 2008 the government committed over $120 million towards a range of cybersafety programs to inform and educate young people as part of our cybersafety plan and has continued to invest in cybersafety initiatives. The cybersafety plan includes initiatives such as (1) the expansion of the Australian Federal Police Child Protection Operations team that has resulted in a total of 316 offenders having been arrested or summonsed for 840 child sex offence charges since mid-2009; (2) the improved handling of prosecutions; (3) funding for the awareness of cyberbullying so people are prepared; and (4) funding for a national cybersafety education program, which is something that was touched on by the member for Forrest.

The Labor government has also provided an additional $3 million to the Alannah and Madeline Foundation for a national pilot of its eSmart initiative, which I was proud to hear will be rolled out in all Queensland state schools. The Labor government has committed $4 million to develop new online tool kits to help parents, teachers, those training to be teachers, and students deal with school bullying. These tools will be available early in 2013. They include resources for parents, teachers and school support staff, as well as equipping graduate teachers with the knowledge and skills when they first enter the classroom. This is particularly important as there has been a recent surge in older graduates going back to teachers college or university to become teachers. I know that my four-year-old and my eight-year-old have more knowledge in certain areas of the internet than I do as a 47-year-old. That is scary. Certainly they have knowledge of the iPad and things like that. I imagine there are many teachers who have life skills but are not internet savvy.

Cybersecurity is a collective responsibility shared by all who use the internet. It is important, therefore, that businesses and individuals are proactive in taking measures to protect themselves while online. We need to start making progress in providing education for parents, teachers and young people about what they can do to speak up against bullies and the other risks that are on the internet. With a staggering one in six students being bullied weekly and one in five students having experienced some form of cyberbullying, it is clear that we need to take a stronger stand against bullying and encourage more people like Tom Wood, who has previously been a target of cyberbullying. Tom made it through these terrible situations and has now become an activist, speaking out in schools about tackling cyberbullying.

The Gillard Labor government is committed to tackling the threat of cyberbullying and enhancing cybersafety education in all of our schools. One of the Gillard Labor government's key priorities is to provide all Australians, particularly our younger Australians who might be tech savvy but socially unaware, with the information, the confidence and the practical tools to protect themselves online. Some of these methods include: the development of the Stay Smart Online website and social media channels as key sources of information for all Australians on the simple steps they can take to be secure and confident online; the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission operated SCAMwatch, which provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams; the National Cyber Security Awareness Week held each year in partnership with industry; and the department's interactive self-learning cybersecurity education modules for primary and secondary school students that are free for all Australian students. The education package includes comprehensive resources for teachers and has been embraced by them. (Time expired)


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