House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Online Safety

11:20 am

Photo of Sally SitouSally Sitou (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I agree with the concern from the member for Fisher and the members who have spoken before. We in this place all want to ensure that children are kept safe from harm, particularly harm that they may experience online. This digital age is a new world for many of us. It's not a world that I grew up in or that I understand. So to think about my son growing up in this world and having all that awful content available to him at the touch of an iPad or online is quite scary. This is something that we're all grappling with, and I appreciate the concern of many in this chamber who've spoken already and the need for government to play a role. I think we all recognise that there's a role for us all to play, because respectful relationships need to be something on which we as a society come together to ensure that we are making people recognise that it is incumbent on all of us to play a role in teaching kids greater respect in relationships. The Albanese Labor government is committed to minimising the harm for children from accessing inappropriate content online.

I want to give the former government credit here because they established the eSafety Commissioner to provide an independent regulator to protect children online. It was the world's first government agency dedicated to keeping people safer online. We've increased the mandate of the commission to ensure that it protects not only kids but all Australians online. We've also quadrupled the regulator's ongoing base funding to ensure that they are funded into the future, and they are leading the charge in keeping Australians safe online. The eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, told an international forum last year that they were able to remove a video showing a young Australian being beaten up at school from Instagram just 12 minutes after it was reported to eSafety. It was one of the quickest removals by the regulator and clearly demonstrates the important role they play in our society.

The Roadmap for age verification report by the eSafety Commission examines the potential use of age verification and other strategies to shield children from the dangers of online pornography. It suggests steps such as funding research and education programs, raising awareness and testing age verification technologies before making them mandatory. Currently, a pilot program is being evaluated, with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts leading the charge to explore these options government-wide.

At the same time, the government is also committed to implementing the Online Safety Act. The act mandates a more proactive role from the industry in protecting users, including the creation of industry codes. These codes specify measures to curb access and exposure to and storage of certain harmful online materials. The eSafety Commissioner has approved six industry codes aimed at combating illegal content. However, two codes, covering electronic services and designated internet services, were rejected by the regulator, leading to the development of mandatory standards. Again, this demonstrates the eSafety Commissioner's important role in working with industry to protect Australians online.

Safeguarding our kids online also means taking action offline. That is why we are working to ensure that children are educated about the importance of consent and respectful relationships. There is a role for all of us across the community to play to keep kids safe online. That's why I'm hosting a forum at Russell Lea Public School on Thursday 4 April at 6 pm for parents across my electorate. The federal Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, along with a representative from the eSafety Commissioner, will be there to share invaluable insights and practical tips for safeguarding our kids online. We'll be discussing cyberbullying, safer gaming online, understanding social media and protecting your child's privacy. I'd encourage all parents to RSVP for this event, because there's a role for us to play to protect our kids and minimise harm to kids online.


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