House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Online Safety

11:30 am

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

No Australian wants children accessing pornography online. No Australian accepts the exploitation or abuse of children online, and no parent wants to deal with such online abuse. Parents across our nation are grappling with the challenges of the online environment. Many feel disempowered, and look to government to step up, and the Albanese government and our minister for communications are doing so. We are supporting recommendations for the eSafety Commissioner to develop a roadmap for age verification. Released in March last year, the roadmap investigated how age verification and other measures could be used to prevent and mitigate harm to children from online pornography. It also made a number of recommendations, including that the government invest in research, education, awareness and resources, and pilot age-assurance technologies before mandating them. A pilot is now under consideration, and the department of communications is currently scoping this work across government.

The roadmap also highlights the importance of respectful relationship education in online safety, sexuality and consent. These are integral in addressing the harms associated with online pornography. The government is delivering on these by providing: $83.5 million over six years to support the delivery of age-appropriate, evidence-based and expert-developed respectful relationships education aligned to the Australian curriculum; $39.9 million under the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-32 to develop a prevention campaign on consent and respectful relationships; and $100 million over five years to support Our Watch to deliver on priorities of the national plan and continue successful initiatives for the primary prevention of violence against women and children. Finally, $23.3 million is being provided over five years for the ANROWS national priority research fund, which will continue to build the evidence base that supports ending violence against women and children in Australia.

The Albanese government is also committed to completing the implementation of the Online Safety Act and the powers it provides to the eSafety Commissioner to develop new mandatory industry codes to protect children from online pornography. These codes will apply to all different sections of the digital industry, including pornography websites, app stores and internet service providers, as well as sites where children unintentionally come across pornography—like social media and gaming sites. Under the law, if the codes do not provide appropriate safeguards, the eSafety Commissioner can reject them and move to enforceable standards. Industry also faces penalties for noncompliance. Advice from eSafety on the kinds of measures that could be incorporated into the new codes include: a clear minimum age to use the service; an enforcement of that through age-assurance mechanisms; proactive content detection; and moderation technology. The government is also closely monitoring international and industry developments, and in February this year co-signed a historic online safety and security memorandum of understanding with the United Kingdom, committing to closer cooperation to tackle online harms. This will ensure both countries can learn from each other as we address the challenges of preventing children being exposed to harmful material online.

The Albanese government is committed to supporting e-safety and to improving online safety for Australians, particularly young and vulnerable Australians. To this end, the 2023-24 federal budget quadrupled ongoing funding to the e-safety regulator. This important contribution will rectify underfunding by the previous coalition government.

We acknowledge that parents, carers and other members of the community who care for children may feel overwhelmed by this issue. Please be assured that advice and supports are available through the e-safety website. I encourage everyone in my region to access these resources. As a member of the federal government, I want you to know that I'm always there for you if you need to reach out. To that end, I'll soon be holding a forum in my electorate on keeping kids safe. I'll keep you up to date. We must all, in this place, strive to stamp out online abuse.


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