Question Time response - online safety

Ms Kate Thwaites MP: My question is to the Minister for Communications: what is the Albanese Labor government doing to support online safety for Australians, and what challenges does the eSafety Commissioner face in supporting the government's objectives?

Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland: I thank the member for her question. She knows the safety of all Australians is a core priority of the Albanese government, including online. It is fundamental that our online world, which is so much a part of our daily lives, provides safe and inclusive environments, maximises the benefits of the digital economy and supports social cohesion. Ensuring the safety of Australians online has been a shared goal across government and civil society, with Labor supporting the passage of the Online Safety Act when we were in opposition. The Albanese government is now undertaking the substantive work to ensure the act is successfully implemented, together with our regulator the eSafety Commissioner.

eSafety has been undertaking important work in relation to the basic online safety expectations outlined in the act, recently issuing a second set of reporting notices to seven digital platforms on the steps they are taking to tackle online child sexual exploitation material. The commissioner is also requiring industry to review and submit draft codes to address the most serious harmful online content. eSafety has also been supporting the government's work to tackle safety on online dating apps. Following our round table on this issue in January, the eSafety Commissioner has been working with agencies across government to inform consultation with victim-survivors about their lived experiences of harm facilitated by dating apps. This is really critical work to raise the bar for online safety, to hold the platforms to account for their actions and to keep Australians safe.

But despite its critical role, members will be astounded to learn that eSafety has been operating without funding certainty, thanks to the decisions by those opposite. The fact is it has been relying on non-ongoing or terminating funding for years. Can you believe that eSafety's base funding of $10.3 million has never been increased since it was established in 2015? This is despite eSafety being given significantly expanded powers. In fact, after 30 June this year, thanks to funding decisions by the now opposition, eSafety would've faced a funding cliff, with their overall funding dropping from $53.8 million down to $23.3 million. That's a more than 50 per cent decrease, and as with every budget announced in the last government, they went for short-term expediency and never addressed the structural underfunding of key agencies like eSafety.