Release type: Transcript


Interview — Sky News Live Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert


The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

Topics: Online safety and social media platforms; the National Plan for reopening



We go live to the Employment Minister, Stuart Robert, joins me now. Stuart Robert, thanks for your time as always. With the media giants, the social media giants, and in the context of what the Prime Minister was talking about there, the Barnaby Joyce matter, that he raised today, what more can the Government do in this sense to hold those organisations to account?


Well, the Government can do an enormous amount, Kieran. But first of all, let's get a national conversation going about a number of things. One, is it appropriate for people to be anonymous online and to be trolls, to be spreading the most horrendous of things? Do we actually think that's appropriate?

In the age of digital identity, 4.5 million digital identities, 150,000 being created every single week as we move forward in our digital programs, is it appropriate for social media platforms that allow anonymised content, not be considered publishers?

Let's get a national conversation going about that, and then the Government will seek to respond to that conversation, but right now, more of the same is no longer appropriate.


Have you got some examples of what more the Government could do to rein in some of the behaviour?


Well, right now, of course, we're working with New South Wales on a trial using digital identity for the purchase online of alcohol. It's not a big step to go forward to say: well, hang on, maybe we should be using digital identity for those that would wish to gamble online or other areas where identity needs to be proven.

We've got one of the most robust federated digital identity systems anywhere in the world now, Kieran. Well, there's opportunities for us to look, perhaps, to use it, because the idea that trolls hiding behind anonymity can just attack Australian citizens, attack children, bully young girls and boys online is completely and utterly unacceptable.

If you want to have a barbecue stopper, Kieran, ask mums and dads about their concerns about children accessing pornography online or about children being bullied online, about social media platforms presenting content that is inappropriate for children online. These are conversations right now that we need to tackle, and part of that is the issue of anonymised Australians, anonymised overseas, anonymised predators going after our citizens online and whether that's appropriate. And frankly, I join the Prime Minister, it's not.


Now, the RBA Governor this week talking about the jobs market. You're the Employment Minister. He's quite positive about the rebound looming off the back of the lockdowns. Today Dominic Perrottet announced an expedited removal of restrictions. Do you welcome that? And do you share the optimism of the Governor, particularly in relation to not just Victoria, New South Wales, but do you have optimism for Queensland and other states which are currently not in lockdown?


Well, the Reserve Bank Governor spoke about the strong rebound in the markets where there is a plan out and there is certainty for business – that’ll be Victoria and New South Wales. The Governor was silent on Queensland because we have no plan. I’m in Queensland now, Kieran, I've got no idea what's going to happen at 70, 80 per cent. There are thousands of Queenslanders who are locked outside of Queensland. There's a border that runs down a road between Tweed Heads and Coolangatta, and one can't cross the other side.

So how good is New South Wales for hitting 70 per cent and having a road map moving forward? Victoria is following. Superb to see.

Queensland needs to follow those two jurisdictions of New South Wales and Victoria. I agree with the Reserve Bank Governor completely. We'll see a very strong rebound in jobs. Over the coming days, I expect to see a range of data coming, job related data coming out very positive because every time you've seen lockdowns move, you've seen employment surge. It's been the history for the last 12 months. It will be the history going forward for those states and territories that have a clear plan out for their businesses and plan.


Are you cautious, though, in welcoming this expedited removal of restrictions by Dominic Perrottet? Some, including within Labor, warning that that they need to tread carefully.


It's always a balance between keeping Australians safe, saving lives, and saving livelihood. Now we've got global experience out of Singapore, out of UK, and out of Israel that shows that, as we carefully and sensibly open borders – we have the Doherty Institute modelling that says, as we open them up with appropriate social responsibility and distancing, as well as appropriate tracing, tracking and quarantining facilities in place, the Doherty modelling gives us the confidence we need. Premier Perrottet is following that Doherty modelling in line with the national plan.

I applaud him for that, and I believe we're going to see some very good results coming forward.