House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business


8:40 pm

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise with great pleasure to support the motion of the member for Forrest in relation to cyberbullying and cybersafety posing a threat, especially to young people. I want to note the contribution of the member for Forrest in this space in this parliament. She has done an enormous amount of work on the committee and the parliament's Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety. Indeed, this motion represents yet another step forward in acknowledging that this House calls for greater education and enhancing cybersafety education in all Australian schools. I want to rise to support that in particular, because, after an inquiry into cybersafety and young people, and with all of the experience I have had in my role as the deputy chair of the cybersafety committee, I am aware that education is put forward as the best solution to this challenge facing young people today.

We have heard from members of this House about the challenges facing young people in a rapidly changing world and, indeed, it is telling when all groups—the internet industry, all of the different businesses associated with providing the internet in Australia, parent groups and academics—say that the best thing they can do is encourage, educate and equip young people with things that they need to prevent these things from happening in the first place. Perhaps the most telling thing that was said in evidence in the time that I have been on this committee was, when we were discussing internet filtering—a pet hate of mine—a witness said that we need to teach these young people to use the filters in their heads. I think that was perhaps the most telling crystallisation of the concept.

We know that most Australian children are immersed in the internet. We know that the attitude of social media and social networking is evolving in this country. We know that Facebook has opened an office in Australia, which is a great triumph for Australia and Australians, and I commend the work of the committee and the member for Forrest in forcing this. And we have rejected the attitude of Mr Mozelle Thompson from Facebook who said, under questioning from me about the issue of children under the age of 13 using the Facebook site, when challenged on the fact that there were tens of thousands of young people under the age of 13 using Facebook:

I accept that there are people who lie, and sometimes those are younger people who maybe do not belong on the site. Facebook has mechanisms to try to detect them, but it is not perfect.

This was the response of Facebook—and, of course, every kid in my street under the age of 13 is on Facebook. That attitude is a thing of the past. Indeed, I call again for the internet industry to understand that self-regulation is better than failing repeatedly in this space and having governments—bad governments and good governments—legislate over the top of them. There is a great role for self-regulation. There is an even greater role for cybersafety education in all Australian schools.

I was privileged to launch, with Kids Helpline and Optus, a resource that went into all 10,000 of Australia's schools, the 'Make cyberspace a better place' campaign. This initiative of Kids Helpline and Optus saw this resource—which was an education pack containing information on cyberbullying, sexting and the safe use of technology—go into 10,000 primary and secondary schools. It was piloted at Oakhill College in my electorate, and I want to re-commend the kids there for the work that they did in improving the quality of those lessons and ensuring that they were young-people relevant.

But, as to the breaking up of these categories into the right age groups of primary schools and high schools, where to fit in sexting, where to fit in cyberbullying and where to fit in the safe use of technology is an evolving discussion. But it is a critical discussion. It is something which I completely support as the best mechanism available to our society to help protect young people from the dangers they face online. It is certainly better than passing a law through this place. It is certainly better than seeking to impose unnecessary red tape and other institutions like filtering to pretend to parents and to communities that the government can filter out negative or harmful consequences of the online space—it cannot.

That is why I am very pleased to rise in support of the motion of the member for Forrest. She has put forward something that is common sense and that ought to be common sense; that is, when we move into this era where online digital use is prevalent among all our young people, it is absolutely vital that we ensure this is part of our education system, that we equip our children with the tools they need to make their own decisions and protect themselves online as the best way forward.


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