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Labor too late on online child protection.

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Senator the Hon Helen Coonan Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

Media Release

Media Contact Frank Peppard: 0417 061 969

201/07 Monday 19 November 2007

Labor too late on online child protection

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, said today that Labor’s online safety plan was nothing more that a rehashed version of the Coalition’s policy and questioned the wisdom of Labor taking on Tom Wood as a policy adviser.

“Labor’s plan is nothing more than a publicity stunt and falls well short of the Coalition’s $189 million policy NetAlert-Protecting Australian Families Online.

“Labor has not funded one cent for internet safety in their policy announcement today and critically, they have failed to back the Government’s $43.5m package for the Australian Federal Police’s Online Child Sex Exploitation Team (OCSET).

“What this means for families is that Labor intends to cut the number of online police working to track down predators and use the money to prop up their sham costings elsewhere.

“Labor’s plan promotes a ‘clean-feed’ model which can only block material on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s blacklist. This blacklist was established by the Coalition in 2000 and voted against by Kevin Rudd and his Labor colleagues.

“For all his talk about ‘Working Families’, Kevin Rudd has no history in tackling family issues during his time in Parliament.

“In fact, before he stood to speak on the NT intervention legislation, he had only ever spoken on one other family portfolio bill since election to Parliament in 1998.

“But worse than this, when he had the chance to support the Government’s plan to protect families using the internet, he actually voted against legislation to remove offensive content from the internet and create offences for the publication and transmission of proscribed material, such as child pornography.

“Kevin Rudd will say or do anything to get over the line on the weekend but his damning silence on families and indeed internet safety is there and public for all to see.

“By contrast, the Coalition Government is tough on crime and prepared to stand up for families and our record proves we deliver our promises.

“Since the NetAlert programme was launched at the beginning of August, the Coalition has provided over 115,000 PC based filters to Australian families and is working with the


Internet Industry Association to develop the best filtering solution for Australian families and one that will have the least negative impact on ISPs.

“Tom Wood did not hack the Government’s filters program - he used a CD-Rom to access the Microsoft operating system, pretend he was the parent and re-set the system.

“Since Tom Wood and his father met with the NetAlert filter vendors in an independent laboratory and it was proved that he did not do what he said he had done, this young person has continued to seek notoriety using any means possible.

“It is a sad indictment on Labor that they have sought to exploit this vulnerable young person to develop so-called ‘policy’.

“The Coalition Government has a serious commitment to protecting our children when using the internet and that’s why we have rolled out the broadest possible line of attack to protect Australian families online.

“We continue to work with a broad range of groups and individuals to develop and implement policy and activities under the NetAlert-Protecting Australian Families Online programme including the Australian Federal Police, the Internet Industry Association, government departments and agencies such as ACMA and child advocacy groups including NAPCAN, the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, and Bravehearts - all credible groups which represent the needs of all Australian young people.”

“The NetAlert initiative is a comprehensive programme combining technology, education, awareness and advice, regulation and tough policing to ensure that Australian families can get the best of the internet, whilst minimising potential for harm.”

Senator Coonan said last week the Coalition announced they will provide the youth of Australia with a regular platform to provide policy ideas and measures to improve online safety and expand the NetAlert helpline so that specialist operators will take calls from young people for online safety advice and support.

“No single measure alone can protect children from all online harm, but the Coalition’s initiatives will make online experiences safer and will provide practical support to parents.

“Despite his veneer of belonging to the internet generation, Mr Rudd has demonstrated time and again that he won’t support the Coalition’s initiatives to help families get the best out of the internet whilst protecting them from the risk of online harm.

“The Coalition has made online safety a feature of our broader support for families and there is no doubt that Australia now leads the world in online safety,” Senator Coonan said.