Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government is working to keep Australians safe online, particularly as we spend more time on the internet whilst working and studying from home through the COVID-19 pandemic?
I thank the member for Boothby, who is a very strong champion for Australians being safe online and having an entitlement to the same protections as are available offline. As the member for Boothby has rightly said, over the last year we've seen Australians doing more and more online. With people in the millions moving to working and studying from home, the volumes of traffic over the internet have increased very dramatically. So the internet has been enormously important to our prosperity and our welfare over the past year, but, as we know, both online and offline there will be a percentage of human interactions that go wrong, and it's very important that there are safeguards in place. Our government has been at the forefront of world efforts to keep people safe online.
We established the world's first Children's eSafety Commissioner, as it was then known, in 2015. In 2017 we expanded the remit of that office to include all Australians and we introduced a strong scheme to support victims of image based abuse. In 2019 we swiftly responded to the appalling spectacle of the live streaming of mass murder in the Christchurch mosque attack by swiftly passing the abhorrent violent material legislation. Our government is working to make sure the eSafety Commissioner has the resources to keep Australians safe online. Our 2021 budget provided an extra $39.4 million over three years. In fact, in total, we are investing over $100 million over the next three years in online safety. Shortly, we will introduce into the parliament a bill to establish a new online safety act—following extensive consultation, a discussion paper and, of course, a promise at the 2019 election—to establish the world's first cyberabuse take-down scheme for Australian adults, building on the proven effectiveness of our cyberbullying scheme for children. We will expand the cyberbullying scheme for children to enable the removal of material from a full range of online services where children spend time, such as games, websites, messaging and hosting services, reducing the time frame within which the providers must respond from 48 hours to 24 hours.
The internet is an essential and central part of the lives of just about every Australian. It delivering enormous economic and social benefits, but people must be safe online. They have a right to the protections of the law, and our government has provided substantial resources to achieve that outcome.