House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business


8:20 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband) Share this | Hansard source

The two honourable members who have just spoken—the member for Moreton and the member for Forrest—have both given very good speeches. The member for Moreton's speech was memorable but the member for Forrest's speech was so outstanding that it should be printed and circulated everywhere because it represents an extraordinarily comprehensive and concise summation of these important public policy issues. I really want to commend my colleague the member for Forrest for her work in this area. She has been a tireless advocate for greater awareness of cybersafety for Australian children. She has conducted so many cybersafety seminars in schools and has been a real example to all of us. I am sitting here next to my colleague the member for Casey. I remember a cybersafety session we had at Mooroolbark College, in the honourable member's electorate, that was inspired by the member for Forrest's work. All of us have become really energised and made aware of this issue by the member for Forrest's hard work.

I beg to differ somewhat from the member for Moreton, our friend on the other side, on this point. I am very optimistic about young people and the internet. I think the digital natives who have grown up with the internet have developed skills of discernment that their parents and grandparents by and large do not have. In my observation they recognise that online there is a vast mass of material and they seem to have developed a very considerable skill for working out what is reliable, what is not reliable and so forth. They are less gullible than their parents who, of course, are used to dealing with sources of information, in printed form or on broadcast television and radio, which were essentially curated. It is the uncurated nature of the internet as an information platform that provides so many challenges.

Nonetheless, there are very real concerns about the extent of bullying online. Most children are subject to bullying in one form or another. You do not need to read Lord of the Flies or be a schoolteacher or parent to know that children can be cruel to each other, and at a very vulnerable time of life. The problem with cyberbullying is that that cruelty is amplified to an enormous audience, and so what was a nasty remark behind the bike shed, as the member for Moreton said, is now broadcast to the whole school and community.

This is where education and awareness is so important. It is important, also, for young people to recognise that the anonymity they think they have online is pretty spurious. There is a famous New Yorker cartoon of one dog sitting at a chair with his paws on the keyboard of a computer, looking down to another dog on the floor, and he says to the dog on the floor: 'On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.' Regrettably, increasingly everybody on the internet knows exactly who you are. Privacy on the internet is a very spurious concept. As the member for Forrest said—and this is really one of the key messages that we need to get across to young people—throughout all of human history, the default has been to forget. We have had to make an enormous effort to remember things. We had to paint pictures of mammoths on the walls of caves or remember great ballads, develop a writing system and carve letters in rocks, or paint pictures and take photographs—but generally we forgot things. The reality now, in the digital world, is that it is almost impossible to delete anything, so it is almost impossible to forget. This is the important thing for young people to remember: those embarrassing photographs that they take of themselves or their friends and post on Facebook today could be around for ever. They may take them off their Facebook page but they can be captured, they can be downloaded by someone else, a screenshot can be taken of them and they can be recorded for ever, so sober awareness is of critical importance.

I want to end where I began, by commending the member for Forrest for bringing this motion before the House and supporting her in her effort to make our children more aware of the internet. (Time expired)


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