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Speech, International Justice Mission Australia, Parliamentary screening of The Children in the Pictures

Good afternoon everyone, I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to elders past and present. I also acknowledge the Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus and other parliamentary colleagues here; along with Steve Baird, the CEO of IJM, John Rouse, we just had a big applause for John; other distinguished guests, including the eSafety Commissioner and of course the filmmakers, Simon and Dev.

As the Shadow Communications Minister, I want to reiterate the remarks of the Attorney-General – there is no more profound obligation on any government than to keep our children safe.

Congratulations to IJM on the work that it is doing. This is a remarkable documentary. I confess I haven’t seen this but the traction that it has received has been extraordinary – 400,000 viewers watching this on SBS some six months ago. And of course, next week it will be screened in Washington DC at Congress.

I want to commend the IJM for its work to address online sexual exploitation of children including internationally, of course, having co-founded the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre.

In a recent briefing that I had with IJM, I was impressed by its incredible work and, as the Attorney has referenced, as we see a rapid transformation of our digital economy, these crimes are becoming more insidious, particularly the livestreaming of child sexual abuse, which is horrific. It an obligation on all of us to do everything to rein this in, to prevent misconduct and to protect our children.

A couple of alarming statistics: in 2021, more than 85 million pieces of child sexual exploitation material were identified on the internet, accessed using everyday platforms Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Google, WhatsApp. One of the most concerning statistics is that in the work that both IJM and the AFP have done, much of the demand is happening here in this country, driven by Australian perpetrators. Some 18% of IJM cases in the Philippines involve Australian perpetrators.

A very positive statistic however is that 30% of rescues and 35% of arrests made in the Philippines have been a direct result of AFP referrals; so congratulations again to the AFP and all of our other law enforcement agencies which are doing the most outstanding job.

Of course, I want to acknowledge the incredible work of the eSafety Commissioner, a really proud initiative of the former Coalition Government’ the Online Safety Act and all the work that has been done to tackle safety online, including of course, the powers the eSafety Commissioner has to order tech companies to report on how they are responding to these harms and to hold them to account. If they don’t do so, they face very hefty fines of more than half a million dollars. I also want to reference that at the end of August, the eSafety Commissioner issued legal notices to Apple, Meta, Microsoft asking these big tech platforms to explain how they are tackling online child sexual exploitation.

Today in Estimates, I was speaking about the fine work of the eSafety Commissioner, including their aspirations for some more funding. So Attorney, I hope that is forthcoming in the next budget. I also want to also reference the outstanding work of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation established under our government in 2018. Since its inception, the AFP-led ACCCE has made an extraordinary difference, arresting almost 700 people and laying some 6,000 charges over four years. The centre has received more than 95,000 reports with each containing hundreds, even thousands of images and videos depicting acts of child sexual abuse. So I really again want to commend the work of our law enforcement agencies in this most difficult area of law enforcement.

We know there is more to do. We know there is much more to do to rein in the big tech platforms and to make sure that we can continue to drive accountability. Again, congratulations on this fine documentary. I commend this work and I wish you all the very best as we work very hard together to stop this insidious crime. Thank you.

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