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Interview with Erin Molan, Sky News, 4 September 2022

Erin Molan Shadow Communications Minister, Sarah Henderson, joins me now. Senator, why do these attitudes towards women still exist?

Sarah Henderson Erin good evening. Really great to join you and firstly, congratulations on all the incredible work that you are doing so far as protecting women online. It is a scourge. And I have to say, the coalition is so incredibly proud of the work that we did to support online safety, including, of course, by introducing the world’s first safety commissioner and the Online Safety Act.

And, of course, all the other work, some of which was opposed by Labor, including the social media Anti-Trolling Bill. So it is an enormous problem. I was listening to your previous interview. It’s an enormous problem in schools. And in fact, we went to the election with $23 million to support online safety, education in schools not matched by Labor.

And it’s one of the many examples of where Labor is really failing to stand up for online safety. That’s got to change, Erin.

Erin Molan I spoke to the prime minister on this show last week and he mentioned the work that that I’ve done in advocating for new laws. And he said it was wonderful. But I get the feeling that they’ve dropped the ball a little bit here. I’m not hearing much from Labor when it comes to this space and as you know, it changes so quickly. We cannot be complacent.

Sarah Henderson Erin. Labor has completely dropped the ball. The minister Michelle Rowland, really went to the election saying almost nothing about online safety and that continues to be the Labor Government’s position. So they are all very good at the talk but not so good at the action. So where is Labor on the social media anti trolling bill? Where is Labor on the Online Privacy Bill?

Again, another bill that we of course put forward and we’ve seen no response from Labor. That’s a very important bill which gives increased protection for children online and increased parental protection holding. The big tech the global tech giants to account. Where is Labor on things like regional communications I mean that they missing in action on. In fact I’ve gone to the election with a $155 million cut to regional communications.

So again, on equity, there’s been a real failure. And where is Labor on the $16 million commitment that we made just to set up a very special service for air safety and it’s an air safety telephone service for women and children as part of these safety commissioners work. So again, we’ve really, really seen a disappointing response from the Labor Government.

As I say, we are so proud, Erin, of the work that we’ve done, but this is a rapidly changing environment. I mean, for instance, we’ve seen this hi mum WhatsApp scam and we did so much work to combat scams, both telephone scams and text scams. But ACMA, which is the media regulator, has no power to combat the WhatsApps and the other online platforms.

So where are the powers for ACMA? I say to the Minister. Why is Labor doing nothing about these scams, which of course are causing so much damage and resulting in the loss of millions upon millions of dollars? So on every level, on every test, unfortunately Labor has been missing in action on online safety, Erin. And as I say, that is going to change and change very quickly.

Erin Molan Well, Senator, you have a lot of questions that you’ve just put to Labor. And I did ask, I think, up to ten and no one was available to come on in and answer any of those questions. So they’ll go unanswered for the moment. Regional communications, we have a lot of regional viewers on this show. Can you explain to me what that means and how they are losing by a lack of push on this from Labor?

Sarah Henderson Well, first of all, they went to an election promising $155 million less than we, of course, committed to. But we’ve also got a number of programmes they rolled out. Of course the NBN rollout full stop is going ahead and there’s a huge amount of work being done to deliver faster broadband, including fibre to the premise across all parts of the country.

But we’ve got a regional connectivity programme round to its $140 million. The Department and the Minister, the previous minister, Bridget McKenzie, made the announcement of all of the successful applicants’ contracts were issued and these projects, 93 of them around the country in regional and remote areas, have been put on ice because this minister has done nothing to progress them.

She, in fact, even confirmed reluctantly that she was committing to this programme through the Guardian. There’s been no formal announcement and I have called on the Minister. Please get on with this. These are critical projects for regional connectivity, upgrading communications, upgrading infrastructure so vital for regional communities. 93 of them are in, would you believe, around the country, $140 million that the projects are sitting on ice.

Nothing is happening more than three months. And as I say, that’s also got to change. So unfortunately, this minister is the minister for copy and paste. She’s taken a lot of our policies and re-announced them. But she’s also the Minister for Cuts on Regional Communications and also on a wonderful 5G innovation programme, including $2 million which was allocated to Western Sydney, an incredibly important programme for small businesses.

And one of the very first decisions she made was to cut round two of that programme, $20 million from small business. So it’s copying, it’s pasting, it’s cutting. But there is no action from Michelle Rowland on the things that really matter. And we have got to see a dramatic lift in action from this Labor Government.

Erin Molan Well, they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery and if they’re good policies, I’m very happy for them to copy all of yours every day of the week. Senator, enjoy your week in parliament. We thank you so very much for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.

Sarah Henderson Great to talk to you, Erin.

Erin Molan Thank you.

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