Thank you to the member for Fisher for raising this motion. I know that these are issues he has been concerned about for a long time, and that he has been working on for a long time.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see much action on these really important issues from the previous Liberal-National government during their 10 years in office, so there is a lot of work to be done. Indeed, I would hope that all members in this place recognise that there are serious harms associated with social media platforms, including where perpetrators of domestic and family violence lurk. There’s vital work to be done to ensure we reduce the harms associated with the use of social media and, unlike the previous Liberal-National government, our government is up to the challenge. We see the challenge and we’re working on the challenge of technology facilitated abuse on a number of fronts.

We have provided $16.6 million in funding to the eSafety Commissioner, providing a team of experts to support victim-survivors of technology facilitated abuse, and we’re extending the national online safety awareness campaign to help protect Australian women from severe online abuse, including the sharing of explicit images without consent, illegal and violent content, and severe harassment and threats. We’re funding an age assurance trial to prevent minors from accessing online pornography, and examining how age limits for social media can be better implemented. Just this week, the Attorney-General announced new laws to ensure that people who share deepfake pornography face serious issues. So there are a number of fronts on which we’re working on this. And this isn’t a challenge that Australia is grappling with alone: governments and communities worldwide are trying to find a way through from what, essentially, has been a Wild West of online social media platforms being allowed to do what they want to regulating them in a way which regulates harmful behaviours with appropriate controls and safeguards.

We need to get the policy settings right for all Australians. Social media platforms, deservedly, should be held to account for their role in all of this. We need to act thoroughly and effectively, and we also need to make sure, as part of that action, that we aren’t exposing people, especially young people, to privacy risks. There are risks with big tech being provided with someone’s identity and private data. We know, certainly, that big tech does not have a good track record in protecting people who use their platforms. In fact, they’re much more likely to spread data to places that people have no idea about than they are to protect it. Of course we have a number of foreign companies involved in this space particularly, and there’s a lot of discussion in this parliament, especially by those opposite, about the owners of TikTok being based in China. So we have to acknowledge the harm but we have to do the work thoroughly, because we do not want to expose people, especially young Australians, to further harm at the hands of big tech companies which are just looking to make a quick buck from them.

So I look forward to working with the member for Fisher and the member for Flinders and other members of the parliament as part of the new inquiry our government has initiated into the influence and impacts of social media on Australian society, which I will chair. Our inquiry will seek to hear from a range of experts as well as media and social media outlets, but importantly we will also get feedback from a wide range of Australians about the role that social media plays in their lives and the need to address the harms that we are seeing. We are clear that the way social media operates in Australia right now cannot continue as it has been. We need to see change for all Australians. We need to have a safer online environment, including for young people.

I really hope and expect that we can do that work in a way that works across this parliament to protect Australians, without hurling inflammatory language and accusations at each other, actually recognising that it is our duty to work together to protect Australians and young Australians and to hold big tech to account for the harms that they have too long washed their hands of, to look to how we build better online spaces and places. This is work that falls on all of us in this parliament. It is best done constructively, without insulting each other.

There is a lot still to be done. There is a lot of work underway. The role that social media is playing in our society and others is rightly being put under a microscope right now. I look forward, through the inquiry that we will have, to bringing together experts and other Australians to find a way through, to prepare for a reasonable, implementable way to protect Australians from social and online media harm.

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