Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint doorstop interview: National Library, Canberra: 10 August 2007: NetAlert; global financial instability; APEC.



Download PDFDownload PDF

PRIME MINISTER

10 August 2007

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP AND SENATOR THE HON HELEN COONAN JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

NATIONAL LIBRARY, CANBERRA

Subjects: NetAlert; global financial instability; APEC.

EO&E…………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Minister, Commissioner, Commander Zuccato who is Director of the High Tech Crime Section of the Australian Federal Police; the Minister and I are very pleased to announce a $189 million commitment to our NetAlert - Protecting Australian Families Online initiative. Essentially what this will do is to provide every Australian family free of charge with a filter that they can put onto the internet which will automatically block the blacklisted material and in additional any other material that

parents deem inappropriate for their children. In addition to that there will be a lot more resources provided to the Australian Federal Police to detect perverts and predators who seek to use the internet as a means of getting in touch with children for their own perverted purposes. We will be funding a significant information campaign, an education campaign for parents and also providing a hotline service that will be available for…during family friendly hours. This initiative which was foreshadowed by the minister some months ago, but today’s announcement includes the additional resources of some $43 million for the Australian Federal Police and also enhancements of the filtering process, is in response to widespread parental concern in Australia about the way in which predators can have access to their children through the internet and the capacity for children to access what is plainly harmful, inappropriate and offensive material. It will not, of course, take the place of the role of parents in supervising what their children do, there could never be any substitute for vigilant parents. But this particular program will assist parents who want to be vigilant to give effect to that vigilance because the filtering device which is free of charge will automatically block out a category of the most offensive material and then over and above that, according to the values of an individual home, the filtering device can be used in a fashion to block out other material. I think it is an excellent

www.pm.gov.au 1

pro-family initiative. We all know the superb value of the internet as a communications tool, we all know how it has wonderfully enhanced our lives, but because of its extraordinary capacity it is open to abuse and it is open to people to abuse the vulnerable in our community which, of course, principally comprise our children. And it’s an appropriate investment of Government money to provide this assistance to Australian families. I want to thank the Australian Federal Police for the contribution they’ve already made fighting crime through the internet and to welcome the presence of the Commissioner and the head of the task group within the Australian Federal Police, and before answering questions, I would like the Minister to say a few words to supplement my remarks.

MINISTER COONAN:

Well thank you very much PM. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very, very important day for families. We all know that the most precious obligation parents have is to keep their children safe and we recognise that as the Prime Minister has said while the internet is a wonderful resource and something to be embraced by children, it also contains a number of potential dangers. That’s why we have a world first, certainly the most comprehensive package that I have been able to develop, looking right across the world, of any government in responding to the dangers for children online. The package that is announced today adds to the previous announcement quite significantly. What we have done in addition to providing a free filter for every Australian family is to announce that we will have a compulsory ISP filtering available to any family that wants it, and we are developing a package that will make good that offer together with the Internet Industry Association, who are working very cooperatively with the Government to ensure that a product is available. There is, of course, the free filter for every public library. In addition we acknowledge that a lot of dealing with the internet is about educating the parents about the dangers online - parents, grandparents, carers are very…are deeply concerned and very worried about the dangers to children on the internet. Those dangers are not only from a web-based access, but also from contact - peer to peer, chat rooms and emails. That’s why our whole filter program is designed to let parents choose how to tailor make their own child’s experience. We understand that a lot of parents feel very uncomfortable with technology, that’s why we’ve got a seven day a week helpline for parents that will go live on the 20th August. That will mean that parents in family-friendly hours, that is parents will be able to ring up between 8.00am and 10.00pm every day of the week. It will also have a significant outreach program for schools through our initiative NetAlert. It will also have a significant enforcement boost because it’s not much good just identifying where online predators are if you can’t do anything about it and I do commend the Australian Federal Police who have, through the OCSET program, done a very, very good job of tracking pedophiles online and prosecuting them. It’s a very comprehensive package and we’ve had inquiries from Israel through to Denmark about the comprehensiveness of this initiative, so I am very pleased to be here today with the Prime Minister to announce it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can you say now that parents can be totally confident, they can close the door to their children’s bedroom and not have predators trying to connect with them or be downloading pornography?

www.pm.gov.au 2

PRIME MINISTER:

I can say they can be overwhelmingly more confident. You can never provide a perfect total 100 per cent protection, but this is as near as modern technology will enable parents to provide that protection. But bear in mind that it still places a responsibility on parents to upgrade the filter. I mean there is a basic block out in

relation to the blacklisted material, but it is then up to parents to add other material that they believe is not appropriate for their children, and quite properly it is up for them to decide what that is. But parents who want help are being provided with world’s best practice help in relation to filtering of unsatisfactory, offensive material. But you can never take the place of parental vigilance and supervision. There is no

device known to man that takes the place of parents in deciding what material goes to their children, but this will dramatically increase their capacity to give effect to their values and their attitudes and I think that is a wonderful thing.

JOURNALIST:

So you can filter the content, but what about the contact that the Minister mentioned?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the whole purpose of the additional resources will be to enhance our capacity to deal with contact and to ensure that those who seek to make contact are appropriately pursued.

MINISTER COONAN:

Yes that’s correct PM. David, as you would appreciate the situation is that the filters that you can download on your home computer have more functions than just an ISP block. So the filters that you can download on your home computer will have the

blacklist and it will also have whatever the parents want to provide in relation to their child’s experience and that experience can be tailored. If you’ve got a seven year old, you can set the filter at a different level than if you’ve got an 11 year old. You can do

things with these filters that we’ve accredited and tested to ensure that for instance a small child can’t give out their name or their location, so that if they are being contacted by some unsavoury person online, obviously that they can be protected in that way. The ISP filters are less effective because they just block the website, so

that’s why we’ve always said that we don’t think ISP filtering is the whole answer but it is one of the answers.

JOURNALIST:

Can you have both?

MINISTER COONAN:

You can’t have them both together, but you can choose which one you wish and the PC filters in our view is the most effective at the moment, but we never shut out the

www.pm.gov.au 3

possibility that there may be enhancements that are possible and the contract we are going to have with our filter vendors will require them to continually upgrade.

JOURNALIST:

Minister you announced in I think April last year that every family would get a filter, why has it taken so long to get this into action, is it just because the filters are that difficult to get right?

MINISTER COONAN:

Well it is important that we do get it right and that we get it comprehensively right, and even since I’ve announced it there have been further enhancements that have become available. So we think that we now have world’s best response to this and that we’ve got a contract with all of the vendors that have been independently tested. It takes a long time to test them, then to make sure they will meet all the requirements. So I make no apologies for getting this right and as best as we can possibly make it.

JOURNALIST:

And if you decide to the get the ISP filtering do you have to pay for that, or does the industry pick up the cost?

MINISTER COONAN:

No, this is the big difference; that the Government is actually footing the bill because we think it’s that important. We do think that it is so important that we have the best response for parents, we don’t think that parents should have to pay for it. We want to help them, but we also ask parents to also help themselves and to help their families because no technology is foolproof but what we are going to offer free will immeasurably helpful them to tailor the child’s net experience.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, should Australian investors be worried about what’s happening to the Dow Jones?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no fundamental cause for concern in any way about the stability of the Australian financial system. Clearly when there are significant movements in the major stock exchanges around the world that has an impact on the Australian stock exchange, but the causes of the problem with sub-prime lending in the United States are not present in Australia. The number of what the Americans would call sub-prime loans, what we loosely call low doc loans, the proportion of those to total loans is

much, much smaller, I think it’s about one fifteenth or one twentieth of what it is in the United States. There’s a lot more lending in the United States to people who have no credit capacity at all or very little credit capacity. That having been said, if there are movements on stock exchanges that is inevitably reflected around the world, not

only here, but in Asia and in Europe. The other observation I would make is that we

www.pm.gov.au 4

have very strong financial institutions. They are conservative and it’s on occasions like this, having conservative financial institutions that provide you with a lot of reassurance and protection. And on top of that, of course, we have a very strong economic position. We have very strong public finances, very strong Federal Budget surpluses and so we are as an economy well able to deal with the inevitable impacts of stock market movements around the world. But the cause of the sub-prime problem is the relative prevalence in the United States of what we call low doc loans and there is a lot more of them as a proportion than there are in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister do you have concerns about bank lending practices here in Australia. We have an inquiry into banking practices going on today, what would you hope will come out of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I will be interested in what does come out of it, but generally speaking banks in this country are quite conservative, they are often criticised for being too conservative. I mean it’s at a time like this that you should breathe a sigh of relief that our financial institutions are conservative. We tend to take a strong, smooth running economy for granted. That is a mistake. You can never take it for granted and we are seeing in recent times the emergence in Australia of a view that nothing can go wrong with the economy. Well that’s not right. A lot can go wrong with the economy and a lot can go wrong with an economy not as a result of anything we do here, but things that might happen around the world and that’s why keeping the economic fundamentals right is so important. I believe Australian banks are very prudent, they are very careful, there are other institutions that are more aggressive in marketing their products and we have to keep an eye on that but we have nothing like the problem the Americans have, nothing like it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister are you disappointed President Bush won’t make the group photograph at APEC?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he will, the group photograph is going to be the day before. It’s a question of re-adjusting the program. The President will be arriving on the Tuesday night and he will be departing late Saturday evening and he has commitments back in the United States; the Petraeus testimony to the American Congress is going to take place a few days after he returns and of course he must be back in the United States for the commemoration of the attack on the 11th September.

JOURNALIST:

Will that cause any extra security concerns, the fact that this will be brought forward?

PRIME MINISTER:

www.pm.gov.au 5

Well there are obviously some security implications, but I think most people, although there will be some inconvenience, think it is worthwhile given the value to this country of hosting the most important international meeting we’ve ever had. I mean what other time in our history will we bring together in one Australian city, the President of the United States, the President of Russia, the President of China, the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of Indonesia - all nations that are enormously important for a whole different variety of reasons to Australia. It will be the first time ever that a Russian or Soviet head of state or head of government has visited Australia and I think that is quite a significant thing. Now are we going to say oh no, well that’s all too difficult, you know, the wonderful international city of Sydney, which in my view the most beautiful big city in the world, it sort of says well that’s all too hard for us and we are not going to do that because of security. I mean unfortunately we have a lot of security now not because of us but because of people who are opposed to our way of life. And if we say to the world it is too hard to have these things we are in effect saying that the terrorists have won and I am never going to be part of that kind of surrender approach. Thank you.

[ends]

www.pm.gov.au 6