Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Online Safety Bill 2021, Online Safety (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021; Second Reading
Mr Laming himself has stated that he is a Facebook troll. He freely admits to running over 37 Facebook pages. Mr Laming has made social media posts inciting stalking behaviour, offering cash prizes to get the member for Redlands to answer questions and in one instance actually followed the member for Redlands into a public park and took pictures of her. On Valentine's Day, Mr Laming incited more stalking behaviour via a Facebook post, once again offering a cash prize for details on the location of the member for Redlands, a female politician, and the people in her company. The member for Redlands even sought advice—this is what Kim Richards, the member for Redlands, was forced to do because of Mr Laming's behaviour—about the invasive and personal behaviour of Mr Laming and, as a result, had to install CCTV cameras and an electronic security gate. She was also advised, because of the detriment that she was receiving, because of the behaviour of Mr Laming, that she should speak with a psychologist. That is how severe Mr Laming's harassment has been of this woman.
Mr Laming's inappropriate online content is exactly what the government's cyberabuse scheme is aiming to stamp out. In fact, I put this question to the department in estimates. The department secretary told me that the scheme would provide a pathway for people to make complaints about exactly this kind of behaviour, saying:
… it is fair to say that absolutely the intention behind this new bill, when it's passed, is to provide an avenue for people experiencing that kind of activity—to have a pathway to make complaints and have someone able to take some action.
So we have this curious situation where the government are here talking about how important online safety is and particularly how important it is for women's safety online for this bill to be passed, yet they will not take any action against Mr Laming, despite the evidence, despite the public comments by Mr Laming himself that he is a Facebook troll. The hypocrisy of this government on the one hand championing this bill but also, on the other hand, championing Mr Laming is absolutely galling. It should not be happening and the government know it. But they're too afraid to step up and do something to make sure that Mr Laming isn't able to harass any more women online. He continues to be a committee chair. He continues to get the support of the government members in the House of Representatives. Every single day when something is put to them, where they have the choice to support Mr Laming or to support a motion calling out his behaviour, they want to support Mr Laming.
I can tell you that there are many more women like Kim Richards. I am very proud of the member for Redlands for stepping up and talking about this in the Queensland parliament. I will talk about this every single time the government seek to talk about online safety, because, until they take action against Mr Laming—until they see that the behaviour that he has contributed to Kim Richards, the member for Redlands, a female politician, who deserves so much better from this government—then all of the things that they say about this bill and about this issue are completely hollow.
Labor supports this bill and its various elements designed to strengthen protections for Australians online. However, the bills have been delayed, and here we are again talking about how this government can believe that such important bills for Australian women should be passed today when they haven't taken action against the member for Bowman. He's still on the government backbench. He's still a chair of a parliamentary committee. He's still earning an extra $20,000 a year for that role. Senators opposite should hang their heads in shame, because they have failed to step up and do the right thing. The standard that you walk past is the standard that you accept, and you are telling the many women in Redlands who have suffered online abuse from this member that you accept that abuse.
Labor support these bills, but we do not support the behaviour of Mr Laming and we in this place are not afraid to say so. I also want to foreshadow that, because of this very curious hypocrisy, I will be moving a second reading amendment to the bills requiring the government to lead by example when it comes to keeping women safe online and to ensure that the member for Bowman is discharged from the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training immediately.