Online Safety

I certainly support the motion by the member for Banks and wholeheartedly agree that everybody in this House should be doing everything they can to keep our kids safe. While the government is going through this process, we could have—and should have—already had a trial in place in the way that the member for Banks has articulated.

Having given hundreds of cybersafety presentations to schoolkids since being in this place—hundreds—I can speak with a lot of authority on what the kids are dealing with, which is why I so strongly support this.

A two-year trial wouldn’t have been much to ask for, as the eSafety Commissioner did. Every day, more and more kids are being affected by this, by their accessing of pornography and what it does to them and their lives. The eSafety Commissioner said there are already age-assurance technologies that can be used right now to help protect children from online harm. That’s what the government should have done immediately—not waiting, not giving the porn industry even more opportunity to get to our children. That is not okay. It is not okay.

Of course, the government has said no to this trial. When looking at this, the eSafety Commissioner, an office that we set up in government, titled this ‘A matter of principle: guiding the age verification roadmap.’ That is what this discussion is about today: the age verification; the matter of principle. It is not okay for the government to wait. You don’t wait when you’re talking about kids being safe online.

I talked to one group of kids in my electorate who came to me to tell me they were desperately concerned. They were 15- and 16-year-olds, and they had nine-year-olds that they knew were watching live streaming of sex acts online. Why is that okay? Why isn’t age verification important in that space?

Equally, in my time of dealing with the issues that the young people have talked to me repeatedly about in those hundreds of cybersafety presentations, what about the GPs who’ve had to deal with the internal damage that young women have experienced because their first experience learning about sex was from a pornography site by a young man? Why is it okay for that to continue? It is not, because pornography, particularly that which depicts violence, has direct harm, and it has mental harm as well as physical harm, as I’ve just said.

The majority of parents indicate that children as young as four are using the internet. Look at what they would have access to. It only takes the wrong words typed in, and guess what they can come up with right now?

Educators are now reporting, as the eSafety Commissioner has said, that young children from year 1, aged six and seven, are viewing, sharing and discussing pornography at school. Why wouldn’t the government be doing everything it could, even with a trial, to start to try to address this? It is not okay in anyone’s language—ever. This is and should be an ongoing issue for all of us, and I take this very seriously and personally with the amount of effort that I have put in to try to help to keep our kids safe.

From eSafety’s own research, three-quarters of 16- to 18-year-olds have viewed it at some stage, and most of that is before the age of 16. It is violent and it shows a lack of respect, consent or agency, particularly for women and less dominant partners.

This affects young people all the way through their lives, and it isn’t okay for any child to access pornography in this way. It scares them so much. The younger they are the more damage it does to them when they access it, and often they won’t talk about it with anyone because they know that they’ve done something wrong, they’re scared and they’re worried. I say to them: ‘Please find your trusted adult, the person you can talk to, no matter what happens to you online, even if you’ve done something you think you shouldn’t or if you’re scared, worried or upset. Having that trusted adult that you can talk to is always going to help you.’

But I just wonder, while we wait for what the government is trying to do here, how many more kids are going to be affected by this? Every one is one too many, and that’s how I’ve approached what I’ve done in my own electorate. Every one child matters, and every one child I can help keep safe online I will. (Time expired)