Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts. Will the minister update the House on the strong leadership the Morrison government is demonstrating to keep Australian children safe online?
I thank the member for Longman, who has a very strong commitment to the rule of law—online and offline. In the physical town square, people have a right to be protected by the rule of law. In the digital town square, people have a right to be protected by the rule of law. That is a principle our government has been putting into practice consistently since we came to government in 2013. We established the Children's eSafety Commissioner. We established a legislative scheme to deal with the cyberbullying of children. We expanded that to deal with the removal of unauthorised intimate images, something which is devastating for victims and overwhelmingly affects women and girls. We responded to the appalling Christchurch mosque attack, where more than 50 people were murdered—that was live streamed on social media, an extraordinary demonstration of irresponsibility by the platforms—with a scheme to require the removal of abhorrent violent material. There have been some 10,000 complaints about child sexual abuse material, and 73 per cent of that material has been removed within six days. I acknowledge the work of the Minister for Home Affairs; we work very closely together on these issues.
We returned to government in 2019 with a commitment to establish a new Online Safety Act. We've consulted. We've legislated. That's now on the statute books. That will take effect from January next year. It will, for example, reduce to 24 hours the time by which social media platforms are required to respond to a take-down notice from the eSafety Commissioner. We've expanded the scope of the coverage of the regime dealing with cyberbullying against children. It now goes beyond social media platforms and will include, for example, chat rooms for games. We've increased from three years to five the maximum penalty for those using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend. We've provided extra funding to the eSafety Commissioner, $15 million, for extra investigators to support the victims of online abuse. There's record funding—$125 million over four years for e-safety. We're developing the Basic Online Safety Expectations, which will be issued in final form early next year, under which a clear statement will be made to the platforms of what we expect of them on behalf of the Australian community, including that they are expected to protect Australian children from online harms. We have given the eSafety Commissioner new powers to require the tech companies to report on how they are responding to these harms. The principle that children and adults deserve to be as safe online as they are offline is one that our government is very strongly committed to. We are taking action to make the internet a safer place for Australian children.