Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – Sky News on the Hour with Kieran Gilbert

Subject: Government’s New Position on Age Verification



Kieran Gilbert: Let’s return now to the Government’s announcements on the back of the huge news and the rallies on the weekend on domestic violence. I’m joined by the Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman. David Coleman, thanks for your time. Let’s start with this age verification process the Government’s going to have a trial of. I would imagine you’d welcome this move given it’s something you suggested to the Parliament a number of months ago.

David Coleman: Yeah we absolutely do welcome it very much, Kieran. Age verification is crucial. Kids should not be seeing violent pornography online, and kids should not be seeing dangerous material on social media either. The eSafety Commissioner recommended this in March last year, so 14 months ago. In August last year, the Government said they weren’t going to proceed with it. And we actually brought legislation to the Parliament, to make this happen in November of last year, which was unfortunately unsuccessful. But it’s good news that the Government is getting behind it and it will be important that this trial is put together quickly and that we move forward on age verification to protect kids.

Kieran Gilbert: A former Royal Commissioner on child abuse, a number of domestic violence and sexual assault violence campaigners have argued for this for many, many months. In fact, a number of them, via the group Collective Shout, wrote to the Government last year saying that vested interests were at play in the delay. Why? Why is there a delay? Why has there been a delay on this and why do we need a pilot? Why don’t they just, why can’t we just get on with some verification tools and if it’s not working, fix it until it does? Because I think most parents around Australia would be thinking enough is enough on this, David Coleman.

David Coleman: In terms of why the delay, I don’t know. And you’d have to address that to the Government. It is baffling, to be frank, Kieran. The research is really disturbing in what it shows about exposure of kids to pornography and then that feeding into things like the normalisation of violence against women, because some of the material that our kids are seeing is just, just despicable stuff. So why the delay? I really don’t know. Now, in terms of the trial, that’s what the eSafety Commissioner recommended, as I said 14 months ago. And since then things have progressed. So in the UK back in December, they’ve already published their detailed guidance for age assurance, age verification systems. The Commissioner, I think, wants to test out the technology, look at what’s happening overseas and really look into the UK in particular. And that’s sensible. But the trial, Kieran, the trial’s the first step. We’ve got to do this. So this isn’t optional in our view. We need to get on and do this and protect kids.

Kieran Gilbert: Well absolutely. And as I said, a lot of families around Australia are trying to do it themselves and put in the various measures on iPads for young ones to block them from getting any material that’s not age appropriate. So doing that effort, they should be supported in that effort, shouldn’t they David Coleman. In terms of what the Government’s doing as well, we need everything working in that direction.

David Coleman: 100% Kieran. And the reality is, no matter how diligent a parent you are, no matter how good a parent you are, once your child is in an environment like social media or even worse, pornography, you can’t control what happens is the reality. And we need to acknowledge that. We need to acknowledge that the mental health issues with children, particularly girls are incredibly disturbing. The statistics are frightening. And we need to frankly, not listen to the tech platforms who always want to kick the can down the road. And we as a society need to take action because sovereignty sits with the people, not the digital platforms. But parents do need the help. And that’s why the world is moving on this. Not just the UK, but we’ve seen legislation in Florida and other US states and it is unfortunate that it’s taken the Government this long, but I’m glad that they’re moving forward on it now.

Kieran Gilbert: Yep. Thank goodness. Let’s hope that it can make a tangible impact here. We’ll stay in touch David Coleman. Thanks.