Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – Sky News on the Hour 11.00am with Cheng Lei

Subject: Albanese Government must include Social Media in Age Verification Trial



Cheng Lei: Now, as reporter Trudy Macintosh mentioned, the Government is seeking to establish a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate Meta’s decision to abandon Australia’s news bargaining agreement. Joining me now to discuss this is Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman. Hi there, David. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Let’s start by talking about your proposal, which is to have the age verification trials as a part of this inquiry to include Instagram and TikTok. Why is that so critical?

David Coleman: It’s absolutely crucial because Cheng, every family worries about this. Every parent worries about this. The evidence of the negative impact of social media on children is very clear. We’re seeing very significant mental health issues in this generation of children, especially for girls. The eSafety Commissioner recommended 14 months ago a trial of age verification technology that could include social media. The Government did nothing for 14 months. Last week, they said they would progress on the trial, but they haven’t included social media. And Minister Rowland was actually asked this question just this morning and didn’t respond to it directly because the reality is that little kids….

Cheng Lei: Why, Why the reluctance?

David Coleman: …should not be on these platforms. Well, it’s a great question Cheng.

Cheng Lei: David why, why is the Minister so…?

David Coleman: Yeah, it’s a very good question. And I don’t know is the short answer why the Minister took 14 months to act on this issue. I think is extraordinary why the announcement last week did not include social media, and why the Minister is not saying that there will be a specified age for social media under this trial. This needs to happen. It’s happening in the UK. It’s happening in US states like Florida. And the time, frankly, for sort of just talking about these issues, is over. We need to move into it, the era of moving towards age verification to protect kids online. We would never allow our kids, little kids to watch dangerous movies or R-rated material on TV. So why is it okay on social media? It’s not okay. It’s got to stop. And the Government has to include social media in this trial.

Cheng Lei: But parents are there to provide a safeguard as well.

David Coleman: That’s true. And I think Cheng that the vast majority of parents work very hard on this issue and think about it a lot. And there are things you can do to try and improve the safety of your kids online, of course and everyone should do that. But the reality is that once a child is in that environment of TikTok or Instagram, do you as a parent know what they’re seeing? No you don’t. You do not know everything that they are seeing. And as we know on social media, there is the ability for children to interact with people, frankly from all around the world, from all ages. And we would never as a society have agreed to that had we been asked should that occur. But that is what has occurred. And so we need to have the intellectual honesty and clarity to confront that issue now. And the best way of doing that is through age verification, the trial is the first step, as recommended more than a year ago by the eSafety Commissioner. And the Government needs to state clearly that it’s going to do that. It’s going to include Instagram, it’s going to include TikTok, and frankly, get on with it, because the time for talking has really passed.

Cheng Lei: And David, what would you like to see happen as a result of the inquiry into social media?

David Coleman: Well the world is moving forward on age verification. And I think Cheng that this is a crucial issue. I think this is a totemic issue for Australian families. Now of course adults, largely, should be free to do what they want online, to consume the sort of material, to freely participate in political debates and to agree to disagree. That’s all completely appropriate…

Cheng Lei: So you’re saying misinformation for adults is less dangerous?

David Coleman: Well no, what I’m saying Cheng is that freedom of speech is fundamental to our democracy. And the Misinformation Bill that the Government put out last year was an appalling piece of legislation, which is why we and so many other groups, like Civil Liberties Councils and the Human Rights Commission, opposed it. And we’ll see what the Government comes up with this year. But it was a shocking piece of legislation, no question. But that’s a very different matter to a child seeing dangerous material, violent material, pornographic material. Surely we can all agree as a country we want that to stop. It’s got to stop. And age verification is the best way of doing that. It’s happening around the world, and social media has got to be part of this trial. And it is time for action and not just talking and not just inquiries.

Cheng Lei: Thank you so much for your time today. David Coleman, Shadow Communications Minister.