Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

Subject: Age Verification for Social Media, Mental Health



Laura Jayes: Parents have praised the South Australian Premier, Peter Malinauskas, for taking a stand against social media giants. The State Government has proposed new laws which would see children under 14 banned from using the app. Joining me now is the Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman, who’s long been flagging this as a priority. David, thanks so much for your time this morning. You’d welcome this move by South Australia, although they can’t do it alone, can they?

David Coleman: Well indeed, Laura. Look it’s good to see the Premier speaking out on this issue. He’s absolutely right on the substance of this. This is one of the great issues of our era, the protection of kids from social media. What’s happening now is completely unacceptable and age verification is the way to address it. But the issue is that under the Constitution, it’s very clear this is a Commonwealth power. So we need the Commonwealth to act. And we have this very strange situation where the Government didn’t act for 14 months on the eSafety Commissioner’s recommendation on this issue. Two weeks ago, they said they’ll do the trials that the Commissioner requested, but even now it appears, is not including an age for social media as part of that trial, which is just bizarre. And the Government just needs to get on with it.

Laura Jayes: Yeah so what South Australia is doing essentially, is we thank them for putting this on the radar, but this needs to be done at a federal level because federal laws are required.

David Coleman: Well Section 51 of the Constitution sets out very clearly the communications power. And it’s not in dispute that this is a Commonwealth area of law. So we just need Michelle Rowland, the Minister, to start acting here. It shouldn’t matter whose idea this was. It shouldn’t matter that the Coalition has been calling for this for literally months and brought legislation to Parliament in November. This is an issue that we should all be able to get behind because every parent worries about this. Every parent is concerned about what their kids are seeing on social media and the research in terms of what’s happening to the mental health of our children, especially girls is very, very disturbing Laura. And we don’t want a Government that’s just sort of drowning in bureaucracy on this issue. We need action. And that’s why the Government, it’s really time they stepped up.

Laura Jayes: Yes that’s right. And I think a lot of parents are under pressure from their children to get a phone. And there is this social pressure. Someone else at school has a phone and has social media. Well, your child might be, ‘well they have one, why can’t I?’. And it creates all these issues. So I guess we won’t tell the Government to loom large over our lives too much. But this would, I think, really take the pressure off in a way. And there is so much pressure. I mean, we can see how vicious social media can be for young minds, it’s awful.

David Coleman: Well 100%, Laura. And I mean look, we don’t say, hey let’s show R-rated movies to ten-year-olds. And the reason we don’t do that is because we know it’s very bad for them. So why on earth is it okay on social media? And you’re right, we don’t want Government getting involved in every aspect of our online lives, of course. But this is about kids. This is about protecting children. And we shouldn’t allow the situation that is currently occurring to continue, and the Government needs to get on with it.

Laura Jayes: More broadly, I’ve been calling for the last couple of weeks for more mental health funding in the budget. Is there any sign of that happening, do you think? I’m sure any spending would be bipartisan.

David Coleman: Oh look, I’m obviously not responsible for mental health anymore, I was in the previous Government. What I would say is that, in mental health in Australia, because we didn’t talk about it much until say 15 or 20 years ago, we were starting from behind where we wanted to be. And in the budget a couple of years ago, we put a lot of money into mental health, but there’s a lot more to do. And again, it’s an issue that I think should be bipartisan. We were very, very disappointed that the Government cut back the number of Medicare sessions that people could access for psychologists. And this is a very big issue for the country.

Laura Jayes: Certainly is. David, thanks so much. We will let you get to your Party Room Meeting.

David Coleman: Thanks Laura.