House debates

Monday, 10 February 2020

Private Members' Business

Cybersafety

5:21 pm

Photo of Vince ConnellyVince Connelly (Stirling, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises:

  (a) that society is more connected online than ever before in history; and

  (b) the importance of keeping Australians safe online;

(2) notes that:

  (a) the Government established the world’s first Children's eSafety Commissioner in 2015, and expanded this role to cover all Australians in 2017;

  (b) in 2018 the Office of the eSafety Commissioner undertook research to examine some of the challenges faced by young people aged 8 to 17 in Australia online; and

  (c) this research indicated that:

     (i) 25 per cent of young people have been contacted by strangers/someone they did not know;

     (ii) 13 per cent of young people reported receiving repeated unwanted· online messages from someone; and

     (iii) 13 per cent of young people reported having lies or rumours spread about them;

(3) further notes the bipartisan support for the work of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner; and

(4) congratulates the Government for this world first initiative.

Modern communications technology has brought some amazing benefits to our society. Friends and family can now stay connected even when separated by vast distances. We can share important photos such as a first day at school, a wedding or, in the case of some who likes to do so, even a wonderful meal that we might be eating. But modern communications technology has also brought some significant risks, and these are risks which we need to continue to assess and to mitigate.

I'm sure everyone would agree that it's really heartbreaking to hear stories of people being abused or even exploited online. Like many of my parliamentary colleagues, I am a father. I'm a father of three teenage children. I share the concern of parents right around the country that our children stay as safe as possible online. Of course, a key part of achieving this does fall to parental responsibility. So, in our case, our children know that they have to share their passwords with mum and dad, and we keep an eye on them so that they're not spending an inordinate amount of time on their devices, especially late at night, and so that they're taking every opportunity to engage with other human beings the old-fashioned way—face to face. However, there are absolutely some really important steps that governments should take and have taken to help keep Australians safe online.

In 2015 we established the world's first Children's eSafety Commissioner. It's now just called the eSafety Commissioner because it's for all Australians, not just children. The eSafety Commissioner is Australia's national independent regulator for online safety. The purpose of the eSafety Commissioner is to help safeguard Australians at risk from online harms and to promote safer, more positive online experiences. What a fantastic charter! The eSafety Commissioner leads and coordinates online safety efforts right across Commonwealth departments, authorities and agencies. In a clear indication of the significant importance that this government places on online safety, we're providing over $100 million to support vital online safety initiatives. This includes overseeing successful reporting and take-down mechanisms to remove cyberbullying. This is material which is often aimed at children and includes intimate images shared without consent. These are prohibited and illegal.

In 2019 eSafety received 638 complaints about serious cyberbullying targeting Australian children. They received 1,511 reports of image based abuse. There's a high level of cooperation from social media services for the rapid removal of cyberbullying material, in certain cases as quickly as within 30 minutes. Funding of $10 million is being provided over four years to support online safety programs for non-government organisations administered by eSafety. Funding of $9.3 million is being provided to extend for another year the Be Connected program. This program helps older Australians to navigate the internet safely. The eSafety Commissioner also administers a number of programs that directly support Australians staying safe online, and these include initiatives to assist young children, older Australians, teachers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women with intellectual disabilities.

The Morrison government is also holding the tech industry to account. Australians expect more from tech companies, and we are keeping pressure on those companies to deliver. We've passed strong laws on abhorrent violent material to incentivise companies to take the prevention and rapid removal of terrorist content on their platforms seriously. The eSafety Commissioner agreed to a set of safety-by-design principles, placing the safety and rights of users at the centre of the design, development and deployment of online products and services. Recognising the need for even more work, in December the Morrison government released a consultation paper outlining proposals for a new online safety act, a commitment that we took to the 2019 election. The proposal includes introducing a new adult cyberbullying take-down scheme, introducing take-down periods being reduced to just 24-hours and expanding the remit of eSafety's powers to capture relevant players such as gaming platforms, app stores and search engines. Online safety is a shared responsibility, so I call upon the community, companies and organisations to review our proposals and have your say.

The government reacted swiftly in response to the Christchurch attacks in March 2019. We established new penalties for providers of online services who fail to act in a timely manner in relation to abhorrent violent material that can be accessed using their services. These penalties were captured within the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019. A task force has been formed to combat terrorism and extreme violent material online. The task force released a consensus report on 30 June 2019, a report which made 29 recommendations for tangible action from industry and from government. These recommendations fall into five streams: prevention; detection, including removal; transparency; deterrence; and capability building. We continue to expect digital platforms to do more to combat terrorist and extreme violent material on their services. On 9 September, the eSafety Commissioner issued directions to internet service providers requiring them to block access to the eight rogue websites continuing to host footage of the Christchurch terror attack. Our proposals for reform of online safety include a new measure to quickly block access to terrorism material in the event of future online crisis events.

The Morrison government has also been advocating for platforms to step up the ambition and pace of international efforts. This includes at the G20, the G7, the Five Country Ministerial and the OECD. We'll also be working with industry to lift the safety of their products and services, making devices marketed to kids default to the highest security settings, having online safety information available at all points along the supply chain and making sure a filtered internet service is available to those families who want them. I'm sure that everybody in this place and indeed right across the Australian community would concur that the purpose of the eSafety Commissioner to help safeguard Australians at risk from online harm and to promote safer and more positive online experiences remains a vitally important pursuit.

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

5:31 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for moving this motion which has bipartisan support. I too want to recognise the important work that the eSafety Commissioner does to help minimise online harms to Australians. The eSafety Commissioner does enjoy bipartisan support. On the eve of Safer Internet Day, it is timely to acknowledge its work. But this day does give us occasion to reflect on how we are going at responding to emerging internet harms. It's fair to say in this regard that the responsibilities of the eSafety Commissioner today traverse a wide range of online threats. The eSafety Commissioner stands alone today in the world having responsibility for triaging complaints about online child sexual abuse, online bullying, non-consensual sharing of private sexual material via the internet and the distribution of abhorrent violent content on the internet, particularly terrorist material in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attacks. This strange miscellany is the result of the improvised way that government has developed policy in this area.

The eSafety Commissioner has been performing its core functions well over time, particularly on the prevention and education front. It has been rewarded in this success through an ever-growing portfolio of responsibilities. But in 2020 we need a more coherent approach to proactively thinking through the best way government and society can respond to the evolving ways that people use the internet to cause harm in our society. While I respect the eSafety Commissioner's work, a better approach to some of these emerging issues might simply be better educating existing law enforcement agencies about the role they play in responding to new harms, the powers they already have in responding to these harms and then providing them with the resources that they need to properly police these issues.

I know the government are engaging in consultations about their online safety act at the moment—introducing a new law. I do encourage those opposite to look at the existing powers—particularly criminal powers—available to law enforcement responding to some of these issues. It seems to be a common failure in the Australian government's response to many of these online harms to date to focus more on educating people about how to stay safe online and less on teaching people that their actions online have consequences. It is true that the rules that govern internet platforms matter here, but so too do perpetrators and the response that they receive from law enforcement. I'm thinking particularly in this instance about online intimidation, abuse and stalking. Any Australian can be a victim of hate speech, intimidation or stalking. a report the eSafety Commissioner recently participated in about online hate speech provided dispiriting if not surprising results in this regard, reporting that 14 per cent of adult Australians had experienced online hatred in the last 12 months.

We know from multiple studies that women and minority groups are disproportionately targeted—they are two to three times more likely to be the targets of online hate speech. But, when victims enter police stations in Australia to report these crimes, and they are crimes, that victim is not always guaranteed a satisfactory response. They're not even, indeed, guaranteed a consistent response. Unfortunately, it's still a postcode lottery—a lottery of who happens to be on the front desk at that police station on that night. Yet I wonder if anyone in this place appreciates the seriousness and the prevalence of this kind of abuse and how detrimental it can be to people in our public. I also wonder how seriously law enforcement takes it across the nation.

It is an issue of police resources that this kind of abuse has been proliferating in recent years, but it does demand a response from government. Take, for example, the situation of journalist and comedian Vicky Xu. She's been subject to a tide of organised online abuse for her reporting in Australia. It's not trivial. It's a coordinated attempt to intimidate her into silence. There have been thousands of abusive messages from many people living in our own community, but what is the coordinated response from the Australian government? I ask the question: who's assuming responsibility for this? Who's assuming responsibility for protecting people with politically unpopular opinions from online campaigns of this kind? Are our local police stations trained to respond to this threat? Do they take it seriously?

Then there's the emerging contagion of misinformation and disinformation. In recent weeks, conspiracy theories and malicious untruths about the coronavirus and the Australian bushfires have proliferated online. In the case of the virus, they've encouraged panic and racial vilification. In the case of the bushfires, they've helped obscure a vital policy debate. In both cases, institutions spoke quickly and credibly. The New South Wales department of health denounced the confected media release as an obvious fake, and various police jurisdictions have denied the purported fact that a majority of Australia's fires this year were deliberately lit. But, in some instances, misinformation has either been shared by some in this place or misinformation has been allowed to spread without intervention. Again, who is taking responsibility in government for monitoring and responding to these disinformation campaigns? We require a more coherent approach moving forward.

5:36 pm

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to begin by commending my colleague the member for Stirling for presenting this motion to the House today. As the father of three teenage children, he and his lovely wife know better than anyone the challenges that parents face in this day and age in helping their children navigate the online space and keeping their kids safe online. I also want to acknowledge the tireless work of our colleague the member for Forrest in this area as well. She fought for many years to see the eSafety Commissioner established and was successful in doing so, and she has presented hundreds of information sessions to schools all over Australia, but particularly in her electorate, helping to educate children as to how to stay safe online.

Recent technological advances have made us more connected than ever. We can stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues, even if they're on the other side of the world. Modern communication has created great social, educational and economic benefits. But these technological developments have come with challenges, especially when it comes to young people and smartphones. These challenges are illustrated in the 2018 research conducted by the eSafety Commissioner, referred to in this motion, which found that among young people aged eight to 17 who are online in Australia 25 per cent have been contacted by strangers or someone they did not know, 13 per cent have received repeated unwanted online messages from someone and 13 per cent have reported having lies or rumours spread about them. As a community, we don't tolerate physical bullying or abuse, and we must ensure that we don't tolerate online bullying or abuse either. Protecting the community, especially our children, is at the heart of our government's online agenda, and I'm proud of Australia's record as a global leader on e-safety.

In 2015, the Liberal government established the world's first Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner to help protect Australian children from cyberbullying and to take a national leadership role in online safety for children through education, advice and enforcement. Again, I acknowledge the very good work of the member for Forrest in this area. Australia has also enacted the world's first kids cyberbullying-material take-down regime, giving the eSafety Commissioner the power to direct social media organisations to take down materials and issue end-user notices to individuals. This power to compel social media organisations is significant given that 53 per cent of images constituting image based abuse are distributed through Facebook, while 11 per cent are distributed through Snapchat.

Similarly, we have provided the eSafety Commissioner with additional powers to combat image based abuse, including revenge porn, by issuing removal notices to websites and content hosts. Thanks to reforms introduced by the Morrison government in 2019, online platforms that fail to remove abhorrent violent material in a reasonable time frame can now be subject to tougher penalties. Our government has been at the forefront in ensuring that regulators and law enforcement agencies have the resources and authority to act swiftly to combat abhorrent online activity and abhorrent violent content, like terrorism and child exploitation material. In total, we have invested around $100 million to support these activities and increase online safety.

At the local level we can all play a part by educating ourselves and our communities about online safety. We're lucky to have a number of dedicated organisations in our community who do vital work with children, parents and school communities alike, facilitating conversations on e-safety and giving people the tools to protect themselves online. The Carly Ryan Foundation, a harm-prevention charity based in South Australia, undertakes life-changing work in delivering online safety and healthy relationship seminars to students and parents around the country. The foundation is named in memory of Carly Ryan, who was 15 years old when she was murdered by an online paedophile and predator. The foundation was established by Carly's mum, Sonya Ryan. I have had the honour of hosting an online bullying and cybersafety forum with Sonya Ryan, along with my state colleague Carolyn Power MP, at the Edwardstown Primary School. I know that the parents, students and teachers in attendance learnt so much from this, as did I. It gave children and their parents and teachers some very practical advice on how to stay safe online. Sonya's courageous work has taken her to the United Nations, and her tireless advocacy has seen law reform introduced both federally and at the state level.

We know that online safety requires a whole-of-community approach. Parents, teachers, governments and wonderful organisations like the Carly Ryan Foundation all play a part in ensuring our children and young people stay safe online.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 17:42 to 17:54

5:54 pm

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The economics of childhood wellbeing has an increasing and deserved focus on the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping future outcomes. I commend the government for establishing an eSafety Commissioner to protect children from predatory behaviour online. Hopefully it is now common knowledge that spending time on social media can have serious impacts on the emotional development and confidence of children.

A report on social media use and children's wellbeing found that there are three possible explanations for how social media can have a negative effect on children's wellbeing: social comparisons, finite resources and cyberbullying. These three explanations that we have all heard about as adults can contribute to an overall reduction in the satisfaction children feel with their lives. It is important that as adults, and some of us parents, we do not discredit or discount this feeling of dissatisfaction as just part of growing up or just regard feeling unsatisfied as a trivial effect everybody is going to feel at some point. The effects of social media should be something we are having an open discussion about in the home and informative forums on in schools.

As a mum and MP with a public profile, the decision of when and why to post photos that feature my daughter online is something that I've thought about a lot. While the work of the eSafety Commissioner is vital, it would be remiss of us to think that our children are only being targeted by sexual offenders or societal pressures when online. Data is now the world's most valuable resource. The real business of the companies that run social media sites is data mining for third parties. Although we own the information we post, the social media company reserves the right to transmit it to third parties. For example, Facebook can and does sell information to advertisers and publishers that use Facebook for advertising.

As adults we are always operating in the 'always on' state with our phone in hand, ready to click on a link to stay on top of things. Arguably, as adults, we are able to make an educated decision on whether we click on a link, knowing full well the cybercookies that will create crumbs of personal data right for the mining. But what about our kids? A survey on the BBC's children's station found that more than three-quarters of 10- to 12-year-olds had social media accounts. Here in Australia, the legal age to have a Facebook account is 13, but, worryingly, there is evidence that this statistic might be false, with 27 per cent of minors having reported that they entered a false age to get on the site. In most cases, children using Facebook don't have the capacity to understand the effects that clicking a link can have on their privacy, nor do they know how to protect their privacy on the internet. Statistical data shows that only 55 per cent of minors know how to change their social media privacy settings and only 61 per cent know how to erase their browsing history.

The question before us, as lawmakers, is: do we resign ourselves and our children to the mercy of data mining and accept it as a normal and unavoidable part of cyberlife? With the right federal legislation, we don't have to. Spain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium have all taken action to protect the privacy of their citizens online. In Spain, personality rights and the right of protection of personal data is enshrined in their constitution and regulated by the act for civil protection of the right to honour privacy and image. Each right has its own sphere of protection. The right to honour, the right to privacy of image and the right to personal and family privacy are privacies that are guaranteed.

In 2016, the French Federal Court of Appeal struck down a Facebook term because it created such an egregious imbalance of rights in favour of Facebook at the disadvantage of the user. Possibly the most significant legislation in modern privacy security—the European Union introduced strict new data privacy and security laws in May 2018, imposing harsh fines against those who violate privacy and security standards. The legislation places the onus on data controllers to prove they are complying with the legislation and to ensure that the protection of data is considered by design and by default. The EU legislation also places restrictions on when a person's data can be processed with unambiguous consent to enter into a contract, to comply with a legal obligation, to save somebody's life, to perform a task in the public interest or if the processor has a legitimate interest that doesn't contravene another person's right to freedom. In comparison, Australia's privacy act does extend to protection against Facebook but will not grant protection of data for personal use, and we cannot enforce privacy rights against an individual.

I urge the government to consider the privacy rights of the child on the internet, especially the ability of children to consent to access to data in this bill. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said, 'If we do not have a seat at the table, we are probably on the menu.'

5:59 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Stirling for this motion. There can't be any of us now who do not recognise that, alongside many benefits, the online world has brought new threats to our safety and to our mental health. We see scans, Trojan software, image based abuse, cyberbullying, online grooming, radicalisation, hacking, identity theft and more impacting on those who we care about or which are reported on in our national media every week. To counter these threats, we certainly need stronger regulation and enforcement. The coalition government should be commended for leading the world by creating a regulator with teeth. Already we've seen thousands of abusive posts and illegal images removed from the internet within hours thanks to this bold initiative and due to the eSafety Commissioner and her hard work.

However, just as much as regulation, we are going to need a true culture shift in this country. We need to begin applying the same rules and the same standards of respect, decency, and humanity online that we apply in our offline lives. In other words, if you can't do it or say it to someone's face offline, you shouldn't be able to do it on the internet. It's as simple as that. In creating this cultural change, the government could have made no better decision than to appoint Julie Inman Grant as the eSafety Commissioner. I've worked closely with Ms Inman Grant and, throughout, her professionalism, her command of her brief, her passion for changing our online culture and her sense of vocation have shone through. I'm sure that we've only seen the beginning of the fantastic work she's going to achieve as the eSafety Commissioner.

I first met Julie when, at the then Prime Minister's suggestion, she, along with Alastair MacGibbon, introduced me in early 2018 to what's called the Digi Group. This group includes representatives of the world's most powerful online businesses, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft. I was determined to speak to them about the terrible impacts that the abuse, harmful content and bullying which floods their platforms every day have on our mental health and about the international ideas for change that could make a real difference. These constructive conversations that started with Julie and Alastair's help have continued, although there is still a long way to go. I've been pleased to see concrete action from Facebook and Instagram to lessen their impact in recent months, but there is a lot more work to be done.

I also invited Julie to Fisher in February 2018 to promote the work of the commission and support my own efforts in educating our community about how they can be safer online. Once again, her passion came to the fore as she spoke about educating young and old about the Young & eSafe youth platform and how to equip young people with resilience and respect online. Most recently, the eSafety Commissioner has given evidence to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, of which I am the chair. The committee is undertaking an important inquiry into the issue of age verification to access online pornography and wagering. Julie's input was, as usual, invaluable. This inquiry—and the eSafety Commissioner's ongoing work—will make important recommendations that will help keep more of our young people safe online.

But there remain many, many more challenges that I believe this parliament should be examining. We should, and must, do more, for example, to prevent access to websites, blogs and social media posts which promote an unhealthy attitude to food and encourage or facilitate people suffering from an eating disorder. These so-called pro-ana sites are deadly, and they should have no place in our society. We should, and must, do more to protect children and young people from grooming and abuse through the chat functions of online gaming. Many parents are not even aware that, through many of these games, anonymous adults can have direct access to communicate with their children. This has to change.

Finally, we should, and must, do more to protect children from the creeping infiltration of gambling into online video games with so-called loot boxes. I am absolutely appalled at some of these loot boxes and what they can do to young people, and I'm very keen to ensure that we get rid of them altogether in this country.

6:04 pm

Photo of Anne AlyAnne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I fully support the sentiments in this motion, particularly with regard to the protection of children online and particularly given the ubiquitous nature of the internet. But I'd like to also speak today and bring the attention of this House to the dangers exposed in online chat rooms. For example, there is the online gaming platform Discord, which was used to plot and to organise the Charlottesville rally—the Unite the Right rally—in 2017. The group Stormfront—which is a well-known white supremacist group—has paid moderators who wait for young people, in particular, to come into rooms like Discord with questions. They wait for them to recruit them.

An investigation by Annabel Hennessy—a very proper and thorough investigation, I might add—for The West Australian newspaper looked at how extremist groups are targeting young people through online gaming chat rooms such as Discord. That investigation also revealed that some of the more benign online games that are non-violent and not the ones you'd expect—for example, the one with the shoot-'em-up cars and whatever; really non-violent games—are attracting young people and are being used as gateways to get to young people and recruit them for violent, extremist and terrorist organisations. One of the examples is Minecraft, which you wouldn't think is a violent game. But, for example, in one chat room for Minecraft, they've reconstructed a Holocaust site. In another one, they reconstructed the Christchurch attacks. I found a chat room where My Little Ponythe one that those gorgeous little young girls play—is being used to recruit Neo-Nazi sympathisers and violent right-wing supremacists.

Online gaming chat rooms open and expose young people to potentially millions of people around the world who are able to contact a young person, to influence them and to recruit them—for many different reasons, and we could talk about honey potting and recruiting them for child exploitation. This particular investigation by Annabel then led to an hour-long television program on Channel 7 in Perth that explored this even further. This particular investigation looked at the recruitment of people—young people, in particular—for violent right-wing and violent white supremacist groups and other forms of terrorism through the use of online chat rooms and online gaming.

I was on that one-hour show on Channel 7, and one of the things that I said to the parents who were watching was: 'If your 13-year-old, 14-year-old or 11-year-old child were spending a couple of hours every day outside of the house hanging out with a group of people that you didn't know, you'd be concerned. At the very least, as a parent, you'd ask questions.' If it were me, I'd have a tracking device on my kids; but that would be me! You would at least be very concerned. So, when a young person is in these online chat rooms and is talking to people who their parents don't know and who the young person doesn't know—the person on the other side of the line could be anybody—then parents need to be equally concerned about who their children are interacting with in the online space.

The motion before us today raising awareness of this issue provides a really good time to remind people that healthy online behaviours are just as important as other kinds of healthy behaviours. We need to raise our children in this day and age—where, as I said earlier, the internet is everywhere; it's ubiquitous—to be able to interact online in ways that protect them and in ways that ensure their safety. I commend this motion to the House, and I urge all parents to make sure they know what their kids are doing online.

6:09 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I start by complimenting my colleague the member for Stirling for bringing forward this very important motion. He is a dad himself, and he shares with many colleagues on this side of the chamber a passion for making sure that our kids are safe online. It's a timely motion because, as we know, tomorrow is Safer Internet Day 2020, an opportunity for parents and government alike to take a moment and consider: what are we doing to make sure our children are safe online and what more can be done in this space?

We all know—and a number of speakers before me have recounted—just what a positive impact new technology is having. It has an enormously positive impact on all sorts of aspects of our lives, from education to work and entertainment. But it is important that we as a society and as a government do not accept that reduced safety online is the cost of those benefits. It is not. It is not a foregone conclusion that we should have to put up with reduced online safety in order to achieve the benefits that new technology brings to society. The government does not accept that as a legitimate cost of new technology. I don't think the Australian community accepts it either. We know that, because the community is rightly troubled by the statistics, as is the government.

Twenty-five per cent of young people have been contacted by strangers or somebody they did not know. Thirteen per cent of young people reported receiving repeated unwanted online messages from someone. Thirteen per cent of young people reported having lies or rumours spread about them. These statistics are incredibly troubling. My experience as a dad, albeit a new dad, is: I've done it myself; any parent can—I've handed the iPhone to the young fella to watch some cartoons, because mum and dad were tied up and the stress of life takes over, completely forgetting that this is an internet enabled device. As soon as you hand a child an internet enabled device, as a parent you have to think: do I have the appropriate protections in place? It is absolutely my nightmare scenario as a father.

The previous speaker from our side of the chamber was talking about our fantastic eSafety Commissioner. She was in The Australian on the weekend talking about some of those scenarios. It used to be that, as a parent, if your child was in your home, you knew they were safe. But some of the most horrible experiences with a lack of online safety that the eSafety Commissioner recounted were cases where children were being taken advantage of online and you could literally hear the parents talking in the background in another room. That's why it's so important to take this opportunity, with Safer Internet Day and with this motion, to consider, as a parent: is my child safe online? The opportunity is there. The toolkit is there, provided by this government. We have been at the forefront of online safety regulation. There is more to be done. But every year we are increasing the awareness of online safety. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner now has over $100 million worth of funding for the next four years.

I would like to commend the eSafety Commissioner's approach. She talks about the importance of new technology and she talks about the fact that we should have the expectation as a community—and I certainly do as a dad—that these types of new applications, as they become available, should have safety built into them from the ground up. It's not a bolt-on; it's not an add-on that happens when the community starts to rail or be concerned. All these applications should be built from the ground up with safety considerations in mind. But it's my view that Facebook and some of these other online platforms can and should be doing more. They can do more. That's why I'm proud that the government has legislated the world's first kids cyberbullying material take-down regime, giving the eSafety Commissioner the power to direct social media organisations to take down materials and issue end-user notices to individuals. Already this is proving incredibly successful. We have to partner that with the community expectation that we put pressure on these providers and other platforms to do more. So take the opportunity in your family, with online safety day tomorrow, to consider this. The tookits are there online with the eSafety Commissioner. Download them for your family, and protect your family.

6:15 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in support of the motion and give my thanks to the member for Stirling for bringing attention to this important issue. I thank all those who spoke in support of this motion—

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

except this bloke here. One thing I get really sick of is when members of this place say, 'On this side, we take child safety seriously.' There's nothing that gets my goat more than that. I just wanted to share that with you, Deputy Speaker. So pull your head in, son. We're talking about the safety of kids. Wipe the smirk off your face.

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and executive chairman of Google, described the internet as 'the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had', while Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has urged society to remember that we are still in the beginnings of the internet and that we need to use it wisely.

There's no doubt that the internet has been a boon for many but a curse for some. And there can be no doubt that there are some in society who use the internet as a tool to inflict embarrassment and to cause pain and suffering. One in five young Australians has been bullied, socially excluded, threatened or abused online. Unfortunately, it is common for our young Australians not to tell an adult about cyberbullying. As the honourable member's motion points out, research undertaken by the eSafety Commissioner shows that 25 per cent of young people have been contacted by strangers or someone they didn't know; 13 per cent of young people reported receiving repeated unwanted online messages from someone; and 13 per cent of young people reported having lies or rumours spread about them. This is why it's important to acknowledge the work of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, as the honourable member has done in his excellent motion.

I want to reaffirm the bipartisan support that the office has. They support a number of safety programs and online resources to help Australians combat online abuse. I won't repeat some of the statistics that we've heard, because they've already been provided to the House. But I'd like to place on the record my thanks to the eSafety Commissioner, Julie Grant, and her team for the important work that they do. I'd also like to acknowledge some Territorians—the work done by Kate and Tick Everett and their NGO, Dolly's Dream. Dolly's Dream was set up by Kate and Tick in memory of their daughter Amy 'Dolly' Everett, who took her own life at the age of 14 after an extended period of bullying and cyberbullying. Dolly left behind her parents, Tick and Kate, and her sister, Meg, who are now focused on preventing other families going through the same devastating experience. Dolly's Dream is helping deliver the rollout of eSmart Schools in Queensland and the Northern Territory, a tool which will reduce school bullying. For their efforts, Kate and Tick, deservedly, received the 2019 Australian of the Year award in the Local Heroes category.

The internet and social media offer a forum for human interaction which, in the main, is positive. A case in point is the bushfires, where social media connected people and raised funds. But we all know that sometimes human interactions go wrong, offline or online. When that happens, the internet and social media, in particular, can be a lightning rod for toxic and bullying behaviours, making it a dangerous place for vulnerable people and, very often, our younger Australians. We can all do more to make the internet a safer place. But sometimes, because of the volume of the toxicity that we find online, we can become complacent with how we deal with cyberbullying and online abuse. We need to remember that online abuse is never okay and that those perpetrating it should not go unpunished. If you see something abusive or something that you believe is unacceptable, jump online and report it. I note that tomorrow is Safer Internet Day and this year's theme is 'Together for a better internet'. So let's remember that we all have kids and we're all on the same side—and that's against the perpetrators and for our kids.

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Solomon. The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.