Question Time response – Online safety

Mr Coleman: My question is to the Minister for Communications. I refer to the disturbing trend of people posting videos to social media that glorify crime, including examples of thugs invading people's homes at night and terrified occupants being confronted and accosted by these criminals. Will the government support the coalition's bill that creates common-law criminal penalties for posting these videos and expands the powers of the eSafety Commissioner to deal with them? If not, is that because the government believes that no action needs to be taken by the Commonwealth? 

Minister Rowland: I thank the Member for his question on a very important issue, because, of course, the top priority of this Government is keeping Australians safe. That includes two limbs: firstly, in relation to law enforcement authorities within States and Territories, but also obviously at a Commonwealth level—but also in terms of the online environment—what governments, industry, regulators, and civil society do in order to keep Australians safe online. On that point, I was very pleased on Friday to visit Riverbank Public School in my electorate, where the Alannah & Madeline Foundation – thanks to $6 million allocated by this Government – is able to roll out a suite of tools in order to equip young people to be aware for the online environment. 

But, of course, the Government shares concerns that young offenders are using social media to spruik their criminal activities online. Whilst we will consider the private member's bill introduced today, I want to be clear to the House about some of the powers that exist under the Online Safety Act, which came into force under those opposite when in government. The Online Safety Act already provides the eSafety Commissioner with powers to require the removal of material that would be refused classification in Australia—so, RC—including material that promotes, incites or instructs people in crime or violence. Furthermore, there are longstanding provisions in the Telecommunications Act and in the Criminal Code that specifically criminalise the use of a carriage service, including by devices such as computers or mobile phones, to post menacing, harassing or offensive content. I do point out the role of eSafety in this regard, and eSafety has established relationships and procedures with law enforcement agencies and social media platforms. What this has done is to enable a very efficient means of removing and referring concerning content, to limit its spread and to protect victims. I understand from the eSafety Commissioner that the platforms are very responsive to law enforcement requests for their removal under this protocol. 

The Government recognises the need to ensure our online safety framework remains fit for purpose and is able to respond to new and emerging harms. That's why we have brought forward the independent review of the Online Safety Act, although it's only been in force for a couple of years. We know that these new and emerging harms are occurring right now. Ms Delia Rickard is reporting to the Government later this year. We're undertaking that review. It will be a broad-ranging examination of the effectiveness of the act, and it will consider the adequacy of the Commissioner's power to remove harmful material.