Shorten wants Morrison to pivot social media 'evil' remark to fighting online harms to kids

Former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has taken the Prime Minister's 'evil one' concerns and turned it into protecting those underage from accessing pornography online.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor on

Over the weekend at a Christian convention, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared social media could be used as a weapon by the "evil one" against young people.

Answering questions following his address to the National Press Club (NPC) on Wednesday, former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten took the opportunity to expand on where he thinks Morrison should take such a remark.

"I was interested to the reference to the 'evil one' in social media. What I'd like to do is take that fairly unspecified reference and -- something I've been thinking about for a while, is that there are some evil things on the internet," he said. "Children have too easy access to pornography in this country online … I think a lot of parents are oblivious."

According to Shorten, the average age that "little Australian boys" are exposed to porn online is 13. He said simply saying to parents, "Watch what your kid's eyeballs are on the whole time" is a "tad unrealistic as we've created the iPad babysitter".

"I think that if Mr Morrison wants to perhaps materialise that general reference to evil, let's make it harder for our Aussie kids to access pornography online -- I'm not making a reflection about adults and pornography, I'm not a censor, I'm not going down that path at all, but children shouldn't be getting their sex education from hardcore pornography -- and it's something that I know I'm going to take up and I'm sure others will," the Shadow Minister for Government Services said.

"This could be something that Mr Morrison could turn from Sunday service into seven days a week campaign."

Shorten pointed to work underway by the eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant as helping thwart this "evil".

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs closed its inquiry into age verification for online wagering and online pornography last year, tabling a report [PDF] in February 2020.

Making a total of six recommendations, the committee asked the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), in consultation with the Australian Cyber Security Centre, to develop standards for online age verification for age-restricted products and services.

It said these standards should specify minimum requirements for privacy, safety, security, data handling, usability, accessibility, and auditing of age-verification providers.

It further asked the DTA extend its Digital Identity program to include an age-verification exchange for the purpose of third-party online age verification. This was despite eSafety saying on many occasions there are no "out of the box technology solutions" that will solve this issue and it is her opinion that age verification should not be seen as a panacea.

The government is yet to provide a response to the report.


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