House debates

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Questions without Notice

Internet Content

2:52 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 how the Morrison government's Online Safety Bill will deliver on our plan to keep Australians safe online?

2:53 pm

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. Of course, she brings into this House distinguished experience as a psychologist, extensive academic qualifications and extensive experience in practice, and she understands the importance of online safety and the implications for the mental health of children and adults. What she also knows very well and is strongly committed to, as everybody on this side of the House is, is the very strong record of our Liberal-National government when it comes to online safety. We created the world's first children's e-safety commissioner in 2015 to remove cyberbullying material aimed at children and illegal online material, such as child sexual abuse material. We expanded the remit of that office in 2017 to include all Australians, and we introduced a scheme to support victims of image based abuse, something which is absolutely devastating if you're the victim of it, and overwhelmingly it is women who are the victims of image based abuse online. And in April 2019 we expanded the powers of the office to deal with abhorrent violent material following the appalling live streaming of the murder of over 50 people during the Christchurch mosque attack.

These initiatives, these measures, are supporting thousands of Australians every year. Indeed, since 2015 the eSafety Commissioner has handled some 61,000 complaints about harmful online content. Of course, we're continuing to support the eSafety Commissioner with more funding this year, more funding through the budget, funding of over $125 million over the next four years. We're backing our eSafety Commissioner and her office with serious resources do a serious and important job. But there is more to do. We're introducing a new Online Safety Bill, which is before the other place as we speak. The standards and rule of law that we enjoy in the town square should also apply online. Those who bully, intimidate, threaten and harass online should be dealt with in the same way as if they were to carry out that conduct on a physical street. The Online Safety Bill, if it passes into law, will make it easier for the eSafety Commissioner to unmask anonymous online abusers. We're at the same time increasing, through this bill, criminal penalties for online abusers to a maximum of five years imprisonment, as we committed to do at the 2019 election, and we're requiring that images which are determined to be in breach of the requirements be removed within 24 hours. We are fighting to protect Australians online, to keep Australians safe online, as we fight to keep them safe everywhere.