House debates

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Questions without Notice


3:10 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts. Will the minister please update the House on the Morrison government's world-leading work to keep Australians safe online, especially with so many of us working and learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I do thank the member for Reid for her question. Of course, with her experience as a clinical psychologist before coming into the parliament, she is very well informed about the importance of mental health and, of course, the impacts of access to the internet and some of the dangers that need to be guarded against. This has been a big week for the principle that the internet platforms need to comply with the rule of law if they're doing business in Australia. I want to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Treasurer for their leadership as we pass the news media bargaining code into law.

We are working across the full range of areas where it is important to make sure that the rule of law applies in relation to all of the things that we do online, with the internet being a pervasive part of modern life. Keeping Australians safe online has been a focus for this government since we came to government in 2013. We established the word's first eSafety Commissioner to support Australian children experiencing cyberbullying. We expanded the remit of that office to include all Australians and introduced a scheme to support the victims of image based abuse—an absolute scourge. In 2019, we responded to the abhorrent Christchurch mosque attacks by adding the abhorrent violent material legislative measures to the powers of the eSafety Commissioner.

We are going further. Just this week, we introduced into the parliament a bill to establish a new online safety act, which will establish a new scheme to deal with serious cyberabuse of Australian adults. We're building on the success of our scheme to deal with cyberbullying against children. Of course, there's a higher threshold, recognising that adults are more resilient and that we need to properly balance freedom of speech issues. For the first time, there will be the capacity to go to the eSafety Commissioner if you've been the victim of vicious, abhorrent abuse online, and she will have the power to determine whether that meets the statutory standard and, if so, to issue a take-down notice which the platforms will be required to comply with. We're expanding the cyberbullying scheme so that we go beyond social media platforms to, for example, chat services as part of games. We're going to have basic online safety expectations and, of course, the eSafety Commissioner will have new powers to go to the platforms and to internet providers and others and say, 'Give us information about the identity of the person who has posted this abhorrent material,' and civil penalties can be levied against that person.

We're determined to keep Australians safe online. The principle we are committed to is that the rule of law must apply in the digital town square as well as in the physical town square.

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

There's no point. Members, look at me for an explanation. I can provide you with the page in Practice that says that the Prime Minister can end question time at any point, even during a question or during an answer. I'm happy to go through it again.

Honourable members interjecting

Someone said, 'Name it.' Thank you very much for that! It's 550-something, I think. There you go—the one time I don't have the exact detail.