The Australian Greens is seeking to have the controversial Online Safety Act bill repealed, citing that the bill was rushed and requires more thought before it can be passed.
Co-deputy leader Senator Nick McKim told the Senate his party wishes to have the pending bill withdrawn and re-drafted because a number of concerns that were reportedly raised weren’t properly addressed.
According to McKim, the scrutiny period for the widely criticised bill was short and didn’t give adequate time for the concerns to be resolved.
The bill, first introduced to Parliament last February by Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, seeks to considerably enhance the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to allow them to remove websites from search engines, remove online abuse and rapidly block sites that show abhorrent violence and/or terrorist material.
While many of the requests of the bill seek to protect us from terrorism and online harm, anything that gives one single person such immense power deserves to be heavily scrutinised before we simply roll over and allow it.
Since its introduction to Parliament last year, the bill has been criticised heavily criticised by many, including Facebook and Twitter, Google and people who like to watch porn without having to scan their faces.
In addition to many key stakeholders airing their frustrations with the new bill, McKim has asserted that the government is “ramming these bills through this Parliament without adequate consideration and without adequate scrutiny,” which is a fair criticism considering the bill was introduced to Parliament just eight business days after consultation of the draft legislation closed and before more than 400 submissions were published.
McKim also flagged that the bill has been so rushed that the text contains spelling errors, seemingly illustrating the lack of consideration and care given to such an important piece of legislation.
“And as an example of the indecent haste with which the government has operated, these Bills were so rushed that the government is needing to use amendments to fix typos in the original Bill,” he said, addressing the Senate on Wednesday.
“So these Bills which are intended to protect people from cyber bullies, from cyber abuse, from the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and from violent and extremist materials — commendable objectives — are being rushed through this place.”
Considering the serious nature of the legislation – which is designed to protect Australians from cyber abuse, non-consensual pornographic content and terrorism – and the hefty amount of power it will give a single member of government, it’s perhaps unsurprising for people to demand the bill be further tweaked and discussed before being signed into law.
Another extremely valid point raised by McKim is the fact that although the current eSafety Commissioner may be trusted not to exploit and abuse these powers, it’s impossible to know for sure that all future holders of this role will do the same. And by signing over these powers, we must consider the future, not just the present.
“It should be incumbent on Parliament to make sure that we legislate not just with one particular person in one particular position in mind, but with a clear-eyed focus on the need to make sure that protections will exist past the incumbency of any one person in any one particular position,” he said.
In his lengthy address to the Senate, McKim also flagged that while the bill seeks to protect people, it may ultimately end up doing the opposite, with people of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community and sex workers potentially being negatively impacted by the proposed legislation.
“The Greens absolutely commend the stated objectives of these Bills to keep women children and the broader Australian community safe in online environments …. but we need to make sure that we don’t protect one set of rights by trampling over other rights.”
However, it’s worth noting that the eSafety Commissioner has repeatedly stressed that these new powers would allow her to better protect women, flagging that she has only been able to action 72 out of 3,600 of the adult cyber abuse complaints she has received with her current powers.
The whole situation is extremely complex and convoluted, and will impact millions of Australians in different ways. You can read the proposed bill for yourself and make up your own mind here