Australian govt on the hunt for children's e-safety commissioner

The Australian government announced that it has embarked on the hunt for a children's e-safety commissioner as it prepares new legislation aimed at enhancing online safety for children and cracking down on online bullying.

The search is on for an Australian children's e-safety commissioner, with the Australian government working to fulfil its election promise to introduce new legislation to crack down on online bullying and enhance online safety for children.

Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull and his Parliamentary Secretary Paul Fletcher released on Wednesday a joint statement announcing that the government has started the process to select a commissioner to fill the new post.

"The Coalition has begun the process to select a children's e-safety commissioner to take a national leadership role in online safety for children," said Turnbull. "The Abbott government is delivering on its election promise to enhance online safety for children, and we are working to have legislation ready to introduce into parliament by the end of the year."

The idea for a children's e-safety commissioner was first tabled by Fletcher in late 2012, with the proposal aimed at providing Australians with an independent entity that has the power to swiftly pull down offending content from websites.

Since then, the plan has met with stiff opposition from many of the companies that operate the sites most likely to be affected by such a move, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

Even supporters of the scheme have suggested that the implementation of such a strategy should be preceded with a trial of the commissioner before the legislation of a new body with new powers.

The joint statement released today said that the commissioner will possess additional power to issue a notice requiring the person who posted offending material to take it down. If the person does not comply, the commissioner will be able to refer the matter to police.

The commissioner will also take a national leadership role in children's online safety initiatives across the government to develop and implement policies to improve safety for children online.

The joint statement said that the Office of the Children's e-Safety Commissioner will work closely with agencies including the Australian Federal Police, state and territory police, and other stakeholders, including the internet industry, child protection organisations, and parent and teacher associations.

The commissioner will also administer funding of AU$7.5 million for online safety programs in schools, and AU$0.1 million to support Australian-based research and information campaigns on online safety.

"As well as establishing the Office of the Children's e-Safety Commissioner, this package will also implement our commitment to ensure that there is an effective complaints system, backed by legislation, to get harmful cyberbullying material that targets Australian children removed from large social media sites," said Fletcher.