Subjects: Government’s Failure to act on Child Online Safety; Australia Post
David Coleman: So the issue of online safety for children is one of the defining issues of our generation. Every parent worries about this. It’s an enormous issue. And we’ve seen in recent months the US Surgeon General put out a very strongly worded advisory on issues around the mental health of children and access to inappropriate content online. That includes pornographic material, that includes violent material, it includes a whole range of other material. There’s obviously a lot of concern about access to material related to self-harm online. When we were in Government, we put in place the Online Safety Act, which has a very detailed series of provisions to address online safety. It is a world leading Act and even the Albanese Government has acknowledged it. Another thing we did was, we asked the eSafety commissioner to look into the issue of age verification or age assurance, which is about a system to effectively require, whether it’s pornography providers or potentially social media companies, to assure the age of their users. So that to the greatest extent possible, we minimise the exposure of kids to material which everyone agrees is not good for them. We commissioned that report about two years ago and just today the Government has released the report. It wasn’t released before today, and at the same time has released the Government’s response. And one of the key recommendations is run a trial of age assurance. So what that would mean is work on the technology on age assurance, to move towards a system where we can have more confidence that kids aren’t going to inappropriate web sites and seeing inappropriate material. And what the Government has done today is reject that recommendation. So the eSafety commissioner said, run a trial on age assurance software. The Albanese Government is saying, ‘no, we’re not going to do that.’ And why on earth the Government would not take up that sensible recommendation from the eSafety Commissioner is just completely beyond me. It’s an extraordinary decision and this decision by the Government is a big win for pornographers, it’s a big win for digital platforms that don’t want to have to assure that children aren’t seeing inappropriate content. And it flies in the face of all logic. And this is a Government through its extraordinary and appalling Misinformation Bill, is seeking to regulate political speech in Australia and yet is unwilling to even run a trial on age assurance software to protect kids, even though that’s recommended by the eSafety Commissioner. So this is a bad decision by the Government.
Journalist: I actually wanted to ask you few questions about Australia Post. So obviously there has been big losses for Australia Post. Will the Government step in to stop closures of the post offices?
David Coleman: Well look, I was down in Box Hill in Melbourne last week with Keith Wolahan. And when post offices close, it has a big impact on communities. It’s often the case, particularly regional communities, but it can be the case in the cities as well. And Box Hill is one of the biggest urban centres in Australia. Keith is fighting very hard to get that post office re-opened and I am completely backing him in that because it should be re-opened. We as the Coalition will always fight for regional Australia and we will always stand up for those regional post offices. So often they are the bedrock of local communities, and they provide not just the postal services but a whole range of other services like banking and other things too. So if the Albanese Government authorises the closure of regional post offices, they’re going to have a massive fight on their hands from the Coalition and we will always stand up for those regional communities.
Journalist: Australia Post says it needs to modernise, meaning fewer letter deliveries, closing metro post offices to stamp on financial losses. Do you agree?
David Coleman: Well look, Michelle Rowland when she was an Opposition Communications spokesperson was very critical of any changes in Australia Post, any reductions in services, and she always said that Labor will stand up and fight for posties and fight for postal services and so on. So, let’s see what the Government does here. But they made very clear statements when in Opposition, as we’re often finding with this Government, sometimes it can be one thing in Opposition and something very different in Government. Now we’ll very carefully review anything that the Government comes up with, but it’s on them. They said that they were going to defend Australia Post and Australia Post services and let’s see what the Government actually comes up with.
Journalist: Business customers are currently guaranteed that sending mail will cost them the same as ordinary citizens. Should businesses be charged more to send mail?
David Coleman: Well, again, that’s a matter for the Government to review. But the Government said before the election that they were opposed to cuts of Australia Post. They made a huge kerfuffle about any changes of Australia Post in the past. And they’re the Government. And if they want to authorise Australia Post to do those things, they’re going to have to justify it. And it’s on the Communications Minister, who I note doesn’t seem to have had very much to say today after the release of these reports. And Australia Post has made it very clear that it needs Government decisions to enact these things. So this is a decision for Michelle Rowland. What’s her position? I don’t know. But I know that when she was in Opposition she was very critical of these sorts of matters. And let’s see if she sticks to that in Government. And we as a Coalition will always fight for regional communities for the centrality of Australia Post in so many regional communities. And we want a sensible approach to Australia Post, we want to see places like the Box Hill post office reopen because it needs to be reopened and we will always fight for those regional communities.