Joint doorstop with Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
SUBJECTS: Announcement of $2.5 million for digital licence program for Year 3 students; Medical transfers from offshore detention centres; Embassy security measures.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody and thanks for coming to Eastwood, I’m delighted to be here with Michelle Rowland, our communications spokesperson, to make a very important announcement. Most of us remember being in year 3 and getting our pen licence, how important that was, how grown up we felt. But the world has changed a lot for Australian children. Today Labor is announcing a $2.5 million commitment to ensure that year 3 students in Australia will be able to get their digital licence. We know that the benefits of the internet and social media are many, children can learn from peers around Australia and around the world but with that freedom comes some danger as well. Today’s announcement is about keeping our kids safe online, protecting them from bullying and cyber bullying, making sure they are responsible users of social media and the internet as well. I’m going to ask Michelle to add a few words on this announcement.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Tanya is absolutely right that the benefits of access to the internet bring both benefits but challenges, particularly challenges in terms of young people and young people who are digital natives more and more at an earlier and earlier age. That’s why having examined the benefits of the e-smart digital licence developed by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, Labor today is pleased to announce this investment for $2.5 million in the pilot, evaluation and rollout of this very important initiative for all year 3 students in Australia. As we said, we know that it is an earlier and earlier age that young people are being exposed to online activity which in itself brings the challenges of potential bad actors and antisocial behaviour.
This digital licence has been demonstrated by the New South Wales Government in its own evaluation to have very important benefits and also the Western Sydney University evaluation that’s been done has also demonstrated those benefits. That’s why having consulted widely in the sector and also examining these outcomes, Labor is making this announcement because we believe that this is the age at which young people in Australia, all over Australia should have the opportunity to access this very important tool, it utilises quizzes, online activity and role plays online to demonstrate the importance of certain behaviours and at the end of it the students receive a certificate. It’s an interactive and fun way for students to learn through a variety of modules, how different behaviours are acceptable and what sort of behaviours are not tolerated and as I said, already we have seen studies that show the long-term benefits of this kind of investment. So I’m very pleased that as Tanya has announced today, Labor will be undertaking this as an initiative in a future Shorten Labor government.
PLIBERSEK: Any questions?
JOURNALIST: How is this going to work? Is it a program over a number of weeks that the students do one computing lesson a week or something?
ROWLAND: Sure, it’s over a number of modules depending on the age of the students but the design that is for the junior student category can be done in a variety of sessions and according to the needs of the school and those students. For example, we understand that some students may struggle with some of the areas and it’s important that this module process actually has some way of identifying where students may be particularly challenged and I would also emphasise that it’s important to note that different kinds of students have different needs, particularly at those ages, as students develop at different levels. For example, students in rural and regional areas may have different challenges to Indigenous students for example and those in metropolitan areas and certainly we appreciate that this might be an area where schools are considering taking up but the fact that over 2,000 schools have already registered for this program and some 250,000 students in that total, demonstrates that it is one that has been well received and one which benefit is obviously seen to accrue.
So it’s one in which in the design of the program we would certainly be looking for long term benefits. We are not in the business of designing it, we are in the business of referring to the experts, including the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and their partners who have been very active in this area to bring the most robust approach and indeed this will be borne out, we believe, in the evaluation of it, and ultimately its roll-out will be one that will be welcomed right across Australia.
JOURNALIST: Okay. On another issue, can I ask there are reports today that passing the asylum seeker medical transfer Bill would cost at least $1.4 billion. Where would a Labor Government find that money?
PLIBERSEK: Well I absolutely reject the proposition. This is another leak from a government that is desperate enough to say anything to get elected. It's a scare campaign, it's just not right. Labor's proposition is that if someone is sick on Manus Island or Nauru and needs medical evacuation, that that medical evacuation should occur swiftly and effectively. But our proposal is also that the Minister should always retain discretion to ensure that we can protect our national interests. This scare campaign from the Government is nothing other than a scare campaign.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that the Christmas Island detention centre would need to be re-opened if this Bill passes, as the Government argues?
PLIBERSEK: No, because Labor is absolutely committed to ensuring that the horrific trade of people trafficking and moving people in dangerous boats doesn't restart. We don't want people smugglers to be back in business and we are determined to ensure that doesn't happen. But we believe that we can tough on people smugglers, stop the vile trade in human lives at the same as being compassionate to those who remain on Christmas Island and Nauru and require medical treatment.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten has also spoken about finding a middle ground on this issue. What does he mean by that, and is Labor considering withdrawing support for the Bill in the Lower House?
PLIBERSEK: We are completely supportive of ensuring that people on Manus and Nauru can get the medical treatment they need. We are also very clear that we retain for the Minister the right to override medical advice if there is any suggestion that moving someone compromises our national security. We are very clear on that point.
JOURNALIST: Okay. What do you make of the fact that Australian Embassies were put on notice to upgrade travel information and travel warnings and boost security following the Government's Jerusalem announcement during the Wentworth by-election?
PLIBERSEK: Well Australian Embassies should never be under threat from terrorist attack overseas, and Australia absolutely has the right to set its national foreign policy in Australia's best interests. So I reject the notion that Australian embassies are ever a legitimate target for terrorist threat. But I do say that Scott Morrison showed by his behaviour during the final days of the Wentworth by-election that he was prepared to use foreign policy in a fast and loose way for domestic political gain, and the consequences of that are very serious. The Prime Minister's irresponsible behaviour in the final days of the Wentworth campaign certainly put Australian lives on notice overseas.
JOURNALIST: The fact that the travel warnings didn't have to be upgraded, do you think that shows that DFAT was being overly cautious?
PLIBERSEK: I think this whole episode shows that when you make foreign policy on the run for domestic political gain the consequences are serious and potentially dangerous.