Subjects: The Coalition’s commitment to protecting children from online harm; Government’s handling of visas; Labor’s border security chaos; Labor’s immigration detention chaos.
It’s wonderful to be here at Bravehearts in Brisbane.
Can I thank Alison Geale of Bravehearts for hosting us, and also acknowledge Denise Morcombe of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, Melinda Tankard-Reist of Collective Shout, and of course the Opposition Leader and my colleague Andrew Wallace, the Member for Fisher.
The online safety of children is one of the defining issues of our era. Every parent worries about this issue, every day, and they worry a great deal about the impact of online pornography on children.
The reality is that online pornography is distributing abusive and degrading material to Australian children, and that material creates a terrible precedent in the minds of those children of what is normal sexual behaviour. It’s a very, very serious issue in our community and the pornography industry cannot be trusted to regulate this issue. The pornography industry is not about protecting the online safety of Australian kids. The pornography industry is about making money for the pornography industry.
Now, three years ago, my colleague Andrew Wallace ran a very important parliamentary committee about introducing age verification technology to stop kids from accessing dangerous kids online, and our Government asked the eSafety Commissioner to look into that issue. She spent two years looking into the issue in great detail, and at the end of that two years, the eSafety Commissioner said ‘mandate a trial of age verification technology to keep kids safe online, to stop kids from accessing this dangerous material’.
Just four weeks ago, the United Kingdom has legislated for age verification online for pornography and some other areas of content, but our Government here in Australia has rejected the recommendation of the eSafety Commissioner, and instead of legislating for a trial of age verification technology, wants to leave this issue up to the pornography industry itself through an industry code. Now, that is an outrageous position to take. We need a trial of age verification technology to stop kids from accessing this dangerous content.
Now, on Monday, I will be introducing legislation to Parliament to make that age verification trial a reality. The Government should support it – frankly, all members of Parliament should support it – because this should be above politics. It is about protecting kids online and who doesn’t want to do that? We all want to do that, and that’s why we should all support this very, very important legislation.
Now, I want to introduce our Melinda Tankard-Reist of Collective Shout to say a few words. Collective Shout has been a great advocate on this issue and has organised a letter to the Prime Minister on this issue signed by more than 45 child safety experts. The Prime Minister has not agreed to implement this trial, but I wanted to introduce Melinda to say a few words.
Thanks, Mr Coleman. At Collective Shout we were so disappointed that the Federal Government decided to put the profits of the vested industry of the porn, the global predatory porn industry, above the wellbeing of children. As a result, millions more children will be exposed to rape porn, torture porn, sadism, incest, bestiality. We know that the most popular genres of porn are the most violent. We’re seeing this play out in our schools every day with more girls reporting routine sexual harassment, rape threats, are getting sent unsolicited dick pics, being demanded to send nudes, they’re being groaned at, moaned at, grunted at. They’re being shown porn at school, on the school bus. The stories are getting worse, they’re getting worse younger.
We believe the Government has offloaded its ethical duties to protect our most vulnerable and allowed an industry to self-regulate. This is not an industry that wants any regulation. Its business model is to groom the next generation of porn consumers, and that’s why we welcome the Coalition’s announcement today of funding for an age verification trial which is being rolled out in other countries. We welcome Mr Coleman’s announcement of a Private Member’s Bill on Monday and we hope that that gets the support it deserves.
I’ll hand over now to Denise from Bravehearts (*the Morcombe Foundation).
It’s just a no-brainer that we can’t allow any of our children to watch pornography online. Now, for years, at the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, we’ve been saying right from the child’s early age that children have to keep safe. One way is to have age technology, so that children cannot go online, they must be verified. And you know all this stuff, peer on peer, the children think that it’s normal what they’re seeing online, watching all this pornography. It’s just wrong, and all of us as parents, carers, grandparents and all other charities and organisations need to stop this from happening. So, it’s just a no-brainer. We can’t let our kids watch pornography online. Thank you.
Thank you, Denise.
We all have the obligation of helping to protect children, and I cannot think of any other sector or platform or position in which we as adults would allow our children to see such material. It doesn’t happen in any other sector.
It is just really important that young minds get to develop at the right rate, in the correct way, in the healthy way, and we are exposing them to material that is changing the way that their young brains act, and the way that they think, and it’s changing the trajectory of their lives.
So, most people who have signed on to Collective Shout’s advocacy are people that are seeing the impacts or they’re measuring the impacts, and they’re seeing this really alarming beyond trend, it is really happening. There is no reason why the Government shouldn’t push forward and play its part in protecting children from seeing this kind of material. Thank you.
Alison, firstly, thank you very much for having us here today at Bravehearts, and the work that you do, along with the Morcombe Foundation and many other groups. Melinda, to you, the work that you’re doing is really making a big difference in the lives of children and there is so much more to be done and for a Government to make it harder for these organisations to do their work is incomprehensible.
So, to David Coleman and also to Andrew Wallace, I want to say thank you very much for your passion. The announcement today is really about a practical support to the community groups who are trying to protect kids online. The fact is that young kids – and younger and younger – are able to access pornography online, and it shapes who they are as a young boy or young girl – predominantly for young boys – it shapes their attitude towards women, it shapes their attitude towards their teachers, toward their peers, toward relationships later in life. It changes their attitude towards their mums, and their grandmothers, and to their aunts, and their next-door neighbours. It normalises a sexual behaviour that is not normal in our society, and what we’re supporting here is a trial for two years, which is the recommendation of the eSafety Commissioner and it’s based on what’s happened in the UK very successfully, and the Government here, despite 45 organisations calling for it, these organisations are involved in protecting kids, the 45 organisations call on the Prime Minister to support this trial. Instead, the Prime Minister sided with the pornography industry, who praised the Albanese Government for this decision. It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
I just say respectfully to the Prime Minister, the Minister’s got this call wrong, and the decision needs to be reversed, and we will work together with the Government in a bipartisan way to see this trial implemented – because this decision can’t stand. You can’t be on the side of the pornography industry and against 45 community groups who are involved in protecting kids. For the Government to make a conscious decision of that nature, it doesn’t pass the pub test. If we look to the stories we see on our television screens each night of an increase in domestic violence, an increase in sexual and predatory behaviour against women, this is one of the main reasons, because kids from a much younger age are accessing it online.
This trial doesn’t mean that you go and give your details to a porn website. It means that you go to a verified service, an accredited service, it establishes that you’re over the age of 18, and that’s the extent of what it is we’re talking about here. So, it’s not onerous. But it could save the lives of many women across our country, and it could mean that many more women are prevented from being subjected to degrading sexual abuse. That’s exactly why we’ve taken the position that we have today.
I’m happy to take any questions on – or our other hosts here today – on this issue, and if there are other issues, then we might ask our friends to step to one side. So, if there are any questions on this issue, I’m happy to take those.
What discussions have you had with the Government about this bill? How confident are you that it will receive bipartisan support?
Well, I just really call out the work of Andrew Wallace here, who chaired the committee, and there was a bipartisan position to advance this exact outcome. The Government, when they were in Opposition, supported this, and now that the Prime Minister’s been successful, he’s refused to act – and in fact, he’s sided with the porn industry – it’s just completely and utterly unacceptable.
So, we’re happy to engage. David will have discussions with Michelle Rowland, if the Prime Minister decides that this is something the Government is open to, but the Government amazingly has just said that they’re not going to support this trial, even though the eSafety Commissioner has recommended it, and we will all work in a bipartisan way to see this trial conducted. I’m sure it will be successful and then it should be legislated, and we would be the first to line up to support it through the Parliament.
On visas for Palestinians and Israelis, senior Government Ministers have accused you and your colleagues of trying to score ‘crass political points’ when asking about security checks for Palestinians and Israelis that have been granted visas. What basis do you have that the Government didn’t follow normal processes?
Well, just to point out; I mean that was the same attitude they took when we said that it wasn’t acceptable to release 92 people into the community who had been committing sexual offences against women and children, who had committed murder and other serious crimes, so I take with a grain of salt what the Government’s backgrounding.
We’ve had a lot of experience in Government of lifting people up in the humanitarian program from very difficult situations in Syria, in Kabul, obviously. I know that when we did the Syrian uptake, for example, checks were conducted with our security partners.
Now, what we’re seeing at the moment in the Middle East, is a travesty, and of course, instinctively we want to help people, but the Prime Minister of Australia has to act in Australia’s best interests. If the Prime Minister is not conducting adequate security checks on people coming out of a warzone, into our country, who can seek protection and stay here permanently, then I think the Prime Minister’s lost the plot, to be honest.
We have a big humanitarian program; happy for that to continue, and it may well include people coming out of the Middle East, but at the moment, to take people out of Gaza, through a desktop search from a person in Canberra in the Immigration Department, without the requisite security checks being undertaken is reckless and it’s also dangerous.
So I would say to the Prime Minister that this is one issue that he needs to get across the detail on and he needs to direct the Minister to start conducting proper checks and searches before people land in our country. You can’t be taking people out of a war zone and bring them to Australia without the checks being conducted and it’s obvious that the Government hasn’t done it because they’ve got to go to the US – by way of one example – to their database holdings, who have the most significant database holdings in terms of biometrics and in terms of those people who have been flagged in the Middle East as being of concern.
Now, maybe out of 900, that’s one person, or it could be 10 people, I don’t know, but the Prime Minister’s responsibility is to keep our country safe and to keep Australians safe, and at the moment, he’s not performing that duty effectively – as we saw with the release of these people from immigration detention.
The Government has repeatedly said, though, ‘all the usual security, identity, character checks were carried out. So what evidence do you have that they didn’t follow a proper process?
Because I know the time that it takes. You can’t reach into the US system and get these checks back overnight. If the Government has done that – I’d be very happy to stand corrected – but when they give you that detail – because that’s the Labor line – when they give you that detail, they don’t explain to you what checks have been conducted. That’s the difficulty the Prime Minister’s got here.
The Prime Minister, frankly, at the moment can’t lie straight in bed. We need to hear from the Prime Minister in an open and honest way about what checks been conducted, because clearly the inadequacy of these checks could result in a catastrophic outcome in our country.
Taking people out of a war zone without conducting the checks, particularly those that are available to us in the US, is reckless, and the Prime Minister here needs to hit the pause button – not saying that people shouldn’t come at some point – but people should come when all the checks have been conducted, and once somebody comes here and they lodge a protection claim, it doesn’t matter that they’re here on a temporary protection basis or a temporary visa basis, once they lodge that claim, their status changes, and it’s very difficult then for that person to be repatriated back to their country of origin. If the Prime Minister is not conducting the checks, then he needs to explain why. If the checks are being conducted, give the detail.
It’s exactly what happened in relation to President Xi as well. We don’t know whether the Prime Minister raised the issue in relation to the damage and the injury that was caused to our Australian Defence Force personnel, but likely he didn’t raise it. But again, as Mark Riley and others I see, are writing today, just tell the truth, stop digging a hole for yourself and be honest with the Australian people instead of this tricky language.
The proper checks haven’t been conducted. That’s the reality, because you can’t conduct them in 48 or 72 hours and the checks need to be conducted, particularly when you’ve got people coming out of a war zone.
Who are you specifically referring to in the cohort, when you’re raising concerns about security checks?
That is a question for the Prime Minister and it’s a question for the Immigration Minister because they have all of the advice available to them. They have the intelligence holdings from our Five Eyes partners, they have the ability to check biometrics. Have biometrics been taken of these people? Do we know that answer? That’s a question to be asked of the Government: have the biometrics been checked, or is this just a process which has been conducted from behind a computer with a bureaucrat sitting in Canberra? Has there been a face to face meeting with any government official, with any of these individuals? Again, that’s a question the Prime Minister hasn’t answered. Have interviews been conducted? Do we know people’s ideologies? Do we know their interests in the West? Why do they want to come to Australia? They obviously want to get out of Gaza and we accept that, and the vast majority will be good people that we would want to call Australians, but we need to make sure that people who are coming out of a war zone don’t pose a threat to Australian citizens.
We’ve seen before, when Labor’s been in power, they go out with a program that they want people to believe is big hearted and they’re on higher moral ground than the Liberal Party and the Liberal Party’s too tough and all this nonsense. The first responsibility of the Prime Minister is to keep our country and our people safe, and at the moment, if you’re bringing people in without checks than that’s difficult.
When we staged people at Al Minhad or elsewhere, the checks were conducted and people were bought in post those checks confirming that they were no threat to our country. The Prime Minister has a precedent here, he should follow it, and instead of being tricky, he should be open and honest with the Australian public.
Twelve people arrived by boat yesterday in WA. How much detail are you expecting from the Government on that arrival?
Well, what we know from this Prime Minister is that he stopped the economy and he started the boats.
This is the problem with a Labor Government, the people smugglers hear these messages. They hear that the Government has gone soft. The Government’s abandoned Operation Sovereign Borders, and the tragedy of that is that you’ll end up with women and children back in detention, you’ll end up with people drowning at sea again and our detention centres full of people who want to call Australia their home. You have to have an orderly migration program.
We increased the humanitarian program when we were in government, we provided support for people out of Syria, out of Kabul, Yazidis, many others in record numbers, but we did it the right way. The Government, if they reopen the people smuggling trade, then it will only be followed by tragedy.
At the moment, Australians see this Prime Minister as weak and so do the people smugglers. The people smugglers see Anthony Albanese as a soft touch because he is a soft touch. He can’t make tough decisions in our country’s best interest and he’s demonstrating that and has demonstrated that in recent times. The Prime Minister’s got to get his act together here and start making sure that he stands up for Australia’s interests before his own.
The detail that I have in relation to it so far is that – from what’s publicly available: 12 individuals came to Western Australia, to the coastline there, and they’ve been picked up by Australian Border Force and WA Police.
The Government needs to provide more detail. There was some reports about people absconding and perhaps they’ve been repatriated if there are 12 in total, and we need to know the status of these people; whether or not they’ve sought protection, where it is they’ve come from – some of the public open source reporting at the moment is that they’ve come out of Indonesia – but this will be a worrying development for the Albanese Government because they’ve watered down many of the policies that we had in place which stop the boats and now once again the boats have started under a Labor Government and this is the 10th such vessel that the Government’s had to deal with, but the one that’s been in the public’s mind because it’s made it to the coastline. So, they’ll be scrambling at the moment to try and stop this problem, but the fact is it’s a problem of their own making.
But when the Coalition was in government, it wouldn’t comment about water matters. So why should this government do so?
Well, I didn’t have to because we stop the boats, and we got the children out of detention, and we got women out of detention and we closed down detention centres. That’s what we did when we were in government.
So, the Government here has a real problem because the people smugglers have heard that we’ve got a weak Prime Minister, they’ve heard that he’s watered down many of the policies that the Coalition had in government and they’ve heard that he’s disbanded Operation Sovereign Borders.
I think there are a lot of Australians at the moment who are doing it really tough, can’t afford to pay their bills, can’t afford to pay their mortgage, finding it harder when they go to the checkout at the supermarket and they find a Government that’s completely and utterly distracted and making stupid decisions.
We get monthly reports on unauthorised maritime arrivals, so we will have the details in time. So surely it’s better to take a little bit of time to actually figure it out.
I’ve answered that question.
Okay? Thank you very much.