Monday, 24 June 2013
Private Members' Business
This is a very important issue. The question of cybersafety and cyberbullying is something which confronts young people and older people in our society today in a way that it never has before.
I do not pretend to be particularly literate when it comes to the issue of computers or the nature of the new technologies that are being rolled out. What I can say, though, is that over the last few years this has produced for parents a whole range of issues with respect to ensuring that our children—and I have three daughters—are protected. It is a difficult issue because often you do not know what they are looking at on the internet. You can talk to them about what they should look at, and you can talk to them about how they should react and interact with their friends and others while using this technology but, frankly, you often just do not know.
I am sure that I join with other members in saying that, when we hear stories about what has happened to particularly young people who have been involved in incidents of cyberbullying, the sorts of things that they have been confronted with are often from a school point of view but, in their view, they have been exposed to all the world, and this is a particularly daunting and intimidating experience for them. This is why governments of all persuasions need to consider this issue very seriously. This is why we as a parliament need to be vigilant in ensuring that these issues are at the very forefront of how we approach legislation and regulation with respect to new technologies into the future.
I am proud to say that, in 2008, this government committed some $125.8 million towards a range of cybersafety programs to inform and educate young people as part of our Cybersafety plan and that, since then, we have continued to invest in cybersafety activities. It is something that needs to be rolled out on a continuing basis, and it is something that we need to make sure that we are aware of into the future. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, Dr Judith Slocombe, has a repeatedly said:
There is no difference between someone who bullies online and one who bullies face-to-face. They are just using different methods. They both can cause enormous harm.
I would go even further and say that, when you bully someone via the internet, you ensure that the person being bullied believes that you are exposing the bullying, the intimidation, to many more people than them. In this process, for the young person who is being bullied, their fear of what they are being exposed to, or what their reputation is being exposed to, can be made all the greater.
I am also pleased that Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, one of Australia's highest profile psychologists, has supported our government's initiatives to tackle cyberbullying and promote cybersafety. As I mentioned, some $125.8 million was committed through the Cybersafety plan. It is a comprehensive plan to combat online risk to children and to help parents protect children from inappropriate material and contacts while they are online. The range of measures that are part of this plan deal with the many different problems relating to online activity. They include things such as the government's Cybersafety plan and the provision of funding for the expansion of the Australian Federal Police Child Protection Operations team to detect and investigate online child sex exploitation, including funding for 91 additional AFP officers. This measure has resulted in a total of 316 offenders being arrested and summonsed for 840 child sex offence charges since mid-2009. Funding has been provided to increase the capacity of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure that prosecutions are handled quickly. In addition, funding has also been provided for education and awareness raising resources through the ThinkUKnow program to assist parents and children in dealing with the risk posed by online predators. This, if you like, is the most serious end of what can occur in cyberspace. Obviously, it has particularly serious ramifications for the families and children involved.
The point I would make in a broader context concerns the way in which particularly children relate to each other and react to each other on the internet. This can have far-reaching implications for the individuals involved, for their family and for their friends. I would urge all who think they might react in a poor manner, in a brutal manner or in an aggressive manner on the internet to think again. The fact is that the implications for actions such as these are serious and ongoing and for families they can be terrible.