TRANSCRIPT - TELEVISION INTERVIEW - SKY AM AGENDA - 18 MARCH 2019

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

 

SUBJECTS: New Zealand terrorist attack; Responsibilities of social media platforms.   

KIERAN GILBERT: Let's go live to Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland. Obviously Labor very keen to be receiving briefings as well. We're almost in the caretaker period and with the National Security Committee of Cabinet to be briefed by the security agencies today, obviously the Shorten team would want to get across as much of that information as possible given the atrocity of last week, Michelle. 

MICHELLE ROWLAND MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Certainly Kieran, and I think the nature of this tragedy would necessitate seeking a briefing. Briefings, as you know, happen quite regularly with security agencies when, unfortunately, incidents like these happen, but it's very important that these briefings occur and that we let the law enforcement agencies do their jobs.

GILBERT: The Minister was referring to defending the work, basically, of our intelligence and security agencies, saying that they've got to trawl through so much material online, and I guess in that context, referring to the fact that individual, the alleged perpetrator, had posted images of his guns and so on in the lead up to that atrocity. It is the challenge, isn't it, for our intelligence agencies to keep across the threat right across the spectrum, whether it's from the far right white supremacist or from Islamist groups?

ROWLAND: You're absolutely right Kieran, and I can attest to the Minister's words that we have the best law enforcement agencies in the world, and they will be doing everything they can to assist and work with our New Zealand counterparts, but certainly you have highlighted what is a critical issue here that is now coming to the fore, and that is the role of social media organisations and the work they do and what can be expected from these organisations when things like this happen. It's not an easy concept to get your head around. Back in the day, Kieran, we had interception of communications; that was probably the most high tech that we had in terms of a voice communication, we had external listening devices. That of course shifted to access, because we had data that was being intercepted, and now we have essentially global platforms, and the internet of course is a network of networks. It's not something that is easy to deal with, both in terms of legal and regulatory perspective, but also in terms of the various stages of content that finds its way on there.

And I guess it's easier to break this down into, I guess, three components: you're got the upload, you've got the monitoring component and then you're got the take down regime, and all of those, I think, are going to be very closely examined and the role of those platforms in doing what they do now and in doing more to try and help prevent this happening again. 

GILBERT: And prevent not just the shooting deaths of so many innocent people, but then the live-streaming element. Is there any way that that can be prevented, do you think, by the tech companies?

ROWLAND: It's a vexed question, Kieran, and I think the law enforcement agencies will have a view on that as well. But I guess in order to answer your question we have to look at, well, what is the regime that we have now. We have this take-down regime, but that operates in terms of content that is hosted in Australia, and the platforms like Facebook, they have their own content policies, which essentially reflect international norms. There's certain content that is refused classification, including child exploitation, violence, terrorist acts, and that's why Prime Minister Ardern was quite correct when she said in terms of this aspect it is up to the social media companies to be undertaking this monitoring work and also deciding what goes and stays on their platforms.

It's not an easy issue to resolve. It is extremely vexed in terms of the technology versus law and regulation keeping up with it, but what I would say is, of course, on the internet you have bad actors right around the world. Organisations like Facebook and the other platforms - they actually cooperate with law enforcement agencies. There are other ones out there. You've got plug-ins, you've got dark web, where there is no cooperation at all, and once content gets out there then that becomes a problem, even if it has been taken down from a reputable platform.

GILBERT: And just finally, the two major parties - bipartisan censure to be moved against that racist Senator Anning. That won't be supported, apparently, by Pauline Hanson. She says it's just posturing. What do you say to that?

ROWLAND: Well, clearly that is disappointing and I think that if you were to take a poll of people in the state of Queensland, which she represents, I think you would find that the vast majority of Queenslanders would want this censure motion supported. Certainly, as I went around my community yesterday attending a vigil at a Mosque in Western Sydney, attending a Catholic Filipino church service and a Hindu service, it is quite clear that the community of all backgrounds are united against hate speech and they expect more from their representatives, including Senator Hanson.

GILBERT: I appreciate your time Michelle Rowland, we'll talk to you again in the next week or so.