House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013

Private Members' Business


7:33 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

While five minutes will not allow me to do the topic justice, I will make some brief comments on this motion on the very important issue of cybersafety. It is an issue that I have some understanding of, serving on the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety and having been involved with inquiries and reports over the last three years. The beauty of the inquiries was that they enabled me and the other members of the committee to hear from a wide cross-section of the community with respect to cybersafety and the risks associated with it. As the member for Hasluck quite properly pointed out, there are many benefits relating to the use of cyber networks in today's modern age, and there is no question at all that they have changed our lives in many ways for the better.

But, having said that, there is also no question that the technology has become an aid for those who want to misuse the cybertechnology that is available to them. Over the years, and in particular in more recent years, we have seen a whole range of wrongdoers, from criminals who have now got to the point where they run sophisticated transnational operations across the world in order to carry out their criminal activities, to terrorist groups, to scammers and those who take the identity of someone, and then on to bullies and predators and the like. Bullies are an area which, if time permits, I want to come back to and talk about a little bit more in more detail.

I am aware also that there have been literally billions of dollars lost by people throughout the world, and perhaps even here in Australia, as a result of scammers and people who commit what is referred to as identity theft of people by being able to access their identity, their bank accounts and the like. In fact, from the evidence presented to the committee, it is clear that much of the money lost is never reported because those who lose the money feel too embarrassed to report it to the authorities. Not only am I aware from having spoken to and listened to experts giving evidence but also I am aware from my own personal discussions with the South Australian police department, and in particular the branch that handles the scamming that goes on, that this is indeed a serious problem which even our law enforcement agencies are grappling to come to terms with because much of it occurs from offshore, where they do not have the authority to act. Secondly, it comes from offshore from organisations which they find very, very difficult to track down in the first place.

I want to speak briefly to the issue of bullying, which I know is at the heart of this motion. Again, I have heard firsthand accounts from many, many young people not only in my own electorate but also across Australia who gave evidence to the committee in its previous inquiry which was related to the use of cybertechnology amongst young people. There is no doubt in my mind at all that it has become a major community social problem, because young people are being bullied, literally on a daily basis, through the use of the internet and those kinds of forums. Many of those young people do not ever talk about it to anybody, do not report it to their teachers or their parents and just live with it—sadly, to the point where we know of documented cases where it has driven those young people to commit suicide. That is the worst possible outcome that can occur. I might say in respect of all of this that it has also been my experience that our schools, our police departments and many other authorities are doing some very good work to try and educate people, in particular young people, into reporting any cyberbullying that takes place.

The one issue that I want to touch very briefly on is the issue of predators who use the internet not only to stalk people but also to develop potential friendships. There is the famous case in South Australia of Carly Ryan, who in 2007 was murdered. Carly's mum gave evidence to the committee, and I can well recall what she had to say about that. I congratulate Carly's mum for setting up the Carly Ryan Foundation in order to try and get the story out that there are risks associated with use of the internet. People need to take precautions. In particular, parents need to try and ensure that their kids well understand those risks so that they too do not end up being a victim of cyberbullying or crime.


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