Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – 2GB Radio – Ben Fordham

Subjects: Online Safety Act; Misinformation Bill.




Ben Fordham: Well, there’s a big debate at the moment. It’s the eSafety Commissioner going after Twitter with fines and legal action because Twitter, now known as X, published the video of the stabbing in the Sydney church along with everyone else. Now, I shared my view yesterday. I believe it’s a dangerous precedent. The video, in fact, proved that what happened in the church at Wakeley was a religiously motivated attack. Without that video and that evidence, we would have had the Islamic hate preachers denying it. And in the absence of the evidence, conspiracy theories would have grown. We’re getting two points of view on this this morning, one from David Coleman, the Shadow Communications Minister, and one from Matt Camenzuli, former member of the New South Wales Liberal Party state executive and a tech entrepreneur. Let’s go to the Shadow Minister first, David Coleman. David, you’re backing in the eSafety Commissioner.

David Coleman: Yeah, well, Ben when we were in government, we created the Online Safety Act for precisely this sort of situation to be honest, to enable the Commissioner to get really violent, dangerous material taken down, like a lot of what came out of the Christchurch attacks. And I don’t think, to be frank, there’d be many people who would say, we should have video online of the mass murder in Christchurch and the definition…

Ben Fordham: Let me just jump in on that, because that mass murder in Christchurch that was filmed by the perpetrator, that was filmed by the terrorist. It was live streamed. We’re talking here about video footage that was filmed within the church, by the church, and also by some of the church goers. And in that video evidence, we found out the motivation behind the whole thing. Can you see my point that without the video, there’d be people denying that this was a religiously motivated attack?

David Coleman: Oh, sure Ben. Obviously, the fact that the video exists is something that the police would say was helpful to them in understanding the motivation and so on as you say. It’s not so much about whether the video exists, it’s about whether it should be published so that effectively, every person in Australia can watch it, because it is pretty disturbing. And because we don’t have age verification for social media, which we believe action needs to be taken on that, because we don’t have age verification, we’ve got thousands of kids watching that video. And I just don’t think that’s a good thing, I don’t.

Ben Fordham: Okay. Should they be showing the 9/11 attacks?

David Coleman: Well again Ben, if you compare what you see in the traditional media to 9/11 to a stabbing video, I don’t think it’s the same situation. I don’t think what the mainstream media…

Ben Fordham: Answer the question for me, on Twitter or online on social media sites, should they be allowed to show the footage, the tragic footage of the planes flying into the buildings?

David Coleman: Well that’s there, and I don’t think the Commissioner has asked for that to be taken down. So, I’m not suggesting…

Ben Fordham: I mean hang on a moment, but what I’m trying to work out here is there were thousands of people who died on 9/11. None died in the church in Wakeley. But the video from Wakeley is not okay. The video of 9/11 is okay. Let me bring in Matt Camenzuli, the former member of the New South Wales Liberal Party state executive. He’s also a tech entrepreneur. Matt, I made the point yesterday that, once the genie’s out of the bottle, you can’t get the genie back in can you.

Matt Camenzuli: Well, that’s right. And the big problem that we’ve got, in my opinion, is that the public do have a right to know. And if people in Australia are going to have less knowledge about what’s going on in their own country than people in other countries. Something is frightfully wrong with that, frightfully wrong with that Ben.

Ben Fordham: There’s also a feeling at the moment that out of all of the things that are going on in the world, we’ve got some very serious things we’re facing in Australia at the moment. Should we really be, sitting the eSafety Commissioner under Elon Musk and chasing down videos that are already out there and you’re never going to be able to wipe them from the internet, right? You know that as a tech entrepreneur.

Matt Camenzuli: That’s right. There are many, many ways if people want to access information, no matter what policies the government set up, there are ways around all of these things. Technically, we don’t want to set up a digital underground. And then, you know, the people who are going to be on the digital underground first and foremost will be the young people. And the moment you make something into a restricted, special sharing thing, the moment you start down the pathway of prohibitions, we start building a resistance and an underground to it. So, it’s really silly. It fuels conspiracy theories. I just think it’s wrong. And I’ll just make a simple point. And I think it’s this, I have a lot of respect for Peter Dutton. I think he’s a wonderful man, but he’s got to stop acting as though he’s the government’s spokesperson for the opposition.

Ben Fordham: So let me go back to you, David Coleman. Have you heard some of that feedback from some of your Liberal Party supporters that they’re surprised that Peter Dutton and you as the Shadow Minister, have supported the eSafety Commissioner’s push?

David Coleman: Well Ben, I think there’s a very different thing between violent material and the other debate around misinformation. And as you know, I led the fight against the Misinformation Bill that would have very seriously restricted freedom of speech. And that’s why we said completely not on, and the government withdrew it. And we’ll see what they come back with. But I just don’t think Ben, that the comparison between political communication and debate about the voice, debate about climate change, all those things which should be, free, unrestricted, and should be frankly very willing at times in a democracy. That’s not the same thing as people deliberately posting videos of a stabbing that we know are going to be viewed by thousands of children. I don’t think it is the same thing, Ben. I think they’re quite different. And we took a very strong stand for free speech on the misinformation bill because the bill that the government put forward was, frankly outrageous. But I just don’t think the comparison holds up when you’re talking about material of this nature. And I think, it’s also worth pointing out Ben, I think about 99% of the material that the eSafety Commissioner has been has required to be taken down relates to child abuse. And again, presumably nobody’s saying that she shouldn’t…

Ben Fordham: No, no, we’re not arguing about that. We’re talking about the incident that happened at Wakeley. And I’ll just make this point as well as we farewell both of you. That video is all over Facebook right now. It’s all over Facebook with the eSafety Commissioner is targeting X that she happened to work for previously. David Coleman and Matt Cummins all there. Thank you both for joining us.

David Coleman: Thanks, Ben.