House debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Questions without Notice


2:59 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is for the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government is protecting Australians online?

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

I thank the member for Lindsay for her question. She is a strong champion of the right of Australians to have the protection of the rule of law online as well as offline. If you interact in the digital town square you're entitled to expect those protections, much as when you interact with others in the physical town square.

That's been a principle that the Morrison government has been very strongly committed to, and we have acted on that principle consistently since our Liberal-National government first came to power in 2013. We established what was then known as the Children's eSafety Commissioner—the first jurisdiction in the world to do that. And we have consistently increased the powers of the eSafety Commissioner. We added a scheme to deal with abhorrent violent material, following the appalling Christchurch mosque attack and the live streaming of over 50 murders—an absolutely horrific occurrence. Indeed, we added other powers as well to the remit of the eSafety Commissioner and, just recently, we have passed through the parliament a new, stronger Online Safety Act, consistent with the promise that we took to the Australian people in the 2019 election.

It means that when those new powers of the eSafety Commissioner come into force early next year there will be a new adult cyberabuse scheme to deal with serious cyberabuse of adults. This is something that many people have been calling for and it's going to make a real difference. There will be increases in the eSafety Commissioner's powers when it comes to the cyberbullying of Australian children. And, very importantly, there will be a new set of basic online safety expectations. This is a really important point here: this act establishes a new platform, a new framework, for being clear to the digital platforms as to what the expectations of the Australian people are, given effect through their national parliament. We are consulting on what's in those basic online safety expectations now, but we want to be very clear about the expectations on platforms on which Australians are interacting online. We expect them to maintain safety standards. In the words of the eSafety Commissioner, 'We expect you to have a principle of safety by design.'

So we are standing up for keeping Australians safe online through those measures and through reducing take-down periods from 48 hours to 24 hours. And we are backing those extra powers with strong extra resources. Indeed, we're committing over $125 million over the next four years to back the eSafety Commissioner and her team in the important work she is doing.

The Morrison government is determined to keep Australians safe, and that includes a place where all of us spend many hours interacting with each other: online.