Constituency Statements: Cybersafety

I’m asking—in fact, I’m actually pleading—for the government to change its decision not to trial age verification for access to online pornography. I simply can’t believe the government is failing to protect our vulnerable children from online pornography. Why on earth would the government not at least trial age verification on pornographic sites, as recommended by the eSafety Commissioner? We should be doing everything we can to protect our most vulnerable people online. It’s equally unbelievable that the government is trusting the online porn industry to self-regulate online through some obscure voluntary code that’s at least two years away. These are the very platforms and services that are actively seeking to increase their customer numbers. It’s their actual business model. It appears that the government is putting the vested interests of the porn industry above the safety and wellbeing of our children. Make no mistake: millions more children will be exposed to the most disgusting, degrading and, often, violent content in the two years it takes to develop some form of voluntary code. What possible harm could come from an age verification trial? It would cause much less harm than exposing even more children to online pornography. The eSafety Commissioner put two years of work into this, but the government has ignored that advice.

I’ve delivered hundreds of cybersafety presentations to schools and met countless young people who tell me what’s actually going on for them and what they’re exposed to online, often inadvertently. A simple online search can bring up some of the most inappropriate pornographic content. It can be just one click away, for children as young as nine, or younger—they’re the kids I get to deal with.

How on earth does the young man or young girl who has learnt—

An honourable member interjecting—

Mrs MARINO: It’s actually true; I deliver these all the time. The young man or young girl who has learnt about sex from these sites is then exposed to very aggressive, sometimes violent, first or subsequent sexual experiences that can involve internal damage, which is what the GPs have told me. It’s behaviour that normalises violence against women and increases the risk of child-on-child sexual abuse. It’s a driver of violence against women and children. How do those same young people go on and have a genuine and enduring personal relationship, when what they believe is a normal behaviour is actually the opposite?

Every day the government delays, more young people’s wellbeing—physical, emotional and mental—is at greater risk. I know this from my own experience with this. Prime Minister, please, this decision is indefensible. Forty nine advocates, eminent experts in children’s and women’s safety in Australia, support the trial. This is an age verification trial. Please take control of this and please change your mind and introduce at least the age verification trial. I’m asking you.