Speech to the Australian Internet Governance Forum - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Speech to the Australian Internet Governance Forum

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to elders past and present. I also acknowledge Chris Disspain and the Hon Tony Staley, and everyone at auIGF. Thank you for having me.

Well, as I was on my way, a friend texted me and said: I'm going to live tweet what I think you're saying.

I said "Ok  - remember I levelled up my balance druid but never got far with my orc."

It's an exchange that wouldn't have happened a decade ago. And I thought it was a nice reminder of the way that the internet is, in fact, transforming society. 

Social media is one example. It's transforming our society and, some people will tell you, our democracy. Not everyone agrees those changes are for the better, but I think improving access to information and two way communication - not just broadcast communication - is positive.

I can see from your agenda that you have a diverse range of topics to cover. I am really pleased to see that you're doing a session on gender and the internet.

Making sure that people of all genders can participate in online spaces is important. Last year gamergate revealed some of the gendered aspects of engagement online. The internet, like other forms and means of human interaction, is susceptible to gendered abuse. It's also a great way of distributing information broadly and quickly. This does not make the internet inherently good or inherently bad. But it does give rise to new opportunities, and new challenges. One challenge is the rise of "revenge porn", which seems gendered, though there's not yet much empirical evidence about it. That worries me, so Tim Watts, the Member for Gellibrand, and I have given notice of a private members bill to criminalise it. 

As for opportunities, there is an opportunity to be found in increasing women's involvement in ICT jobs. A 2015 Australian Computer Society and Deloitte report says women comprise only one-quarter of Australian ICT workers, earn on average 20% less than men in the sector, and reportedly face discrimination. Making women more welcome online may help engage them with the ICT sector, which may in turn help make online spaces more welcoming to women. 

And of course, just continuing to bust stereotypes is important. I referred to World of Warcraft earlier. My mum started gaming at age 50. It was a great, new opportunity for social contact for her at a time my dad was very sick and things were hard. And I took it up after she did. The demographics of gamers are different to the stereotypes. 

So I wish you success in discussing gender, and for all your sessions.

You meet at an interesting time. Only a few days ago, on 1 October, the first of two NBN satellites, commissioned and contracted under the previous Labor Government, was successfully launched into orbit.

We have a new Prime Minister: someone who Delimiter Magazine had said was Australia's worst communications minister.

I wasn't particularly happy with his time as Communications Minister either.

My electorate is the inner suburbs on the south side of Brisbane. The ADSL is very slow, and for some people, so is the cable. There are people who can get neither cable nor ADSL and rely on satellites. We want the real, fibre to the home NBN. But we're not getting fibre at all.

The NBN is a mess. In April 2013, Mr Turnbull said the Coalition's broadband would cost $29.5 billion. In December 2013: $41 billion. Now the cost is estimated at $56 billion.

And recently NBN Co CEO Mr Bill Morrow also revealed that NBN Co plans to replace degraded copper with new copper in some cases. He said:
“…where the copper is insufficient, we have planned for that, we have budgeted for that, if we need to go in and retrofit that copper." 

Seriously. More copper? Welcome to the 1940s.

Those are among the reasons that Labor believes that Malcolm Turnbull's broadband isn't good enough.

So we've called on the new Communications Minister to: 

1. Release the financial model that underpins the NBN Corporate plan.

2. Abandon copper altogether. 

3. Release detailed rollout information

4. Ensure that key NBN Co executive and board appointments are made on merit

5. Engage with industry and the Opposition about how we can work together to enable a digitally connected future with the National Broadband Network as the backbone.  

The last is important. We need more bipartisanship, and to work together to face some of the challenges. Because the Internet poses challenges for legislators, too.

A recent example was data retention. It was a challenging issue with vehement and diverse views expressed. Most of the sector commentary focussed on the dataset: what is to be stored. That's crucial, of course, but it wasn't the only issue. Given the hundreds of thousands of incidences of warrantless access to metadata that had already occurring each year, as a legislator I wanted to know that the law:

  • applied the privacy act explicitly for the first time
  • increased the threshhold for warrantless access
  • decreased and explicitly listed the organisations that could get warrantless access; and
  • increased ombudsman and inspector general oversight.

As an opposition member your task is generally to look at legislation not from a perspective of what your party would do in government, but from the perspective of a negotiator. The question isn't: does this legislation meet my every demand. It's: what's the best and worst alternative to this negotiated outcome? In the case of data retention the best alternative to the legislation as passed was the status quo. And the status quo was pretty worrying.

There are other examples of challenges for legislators. The recent update to the definition of computer in national security laws is another.

I believe bipartisanship and access to expert knowledge can assist legislators in working through these difficult issues. For that reason and others, I and others - including Jane Prentice MP and Senator Scott Ludlam- have formed a cross partisan group - the Parliamentary Friends of the Internet. Many of you were at the launch, for which I thank you.

Thank you for inviting me to speak today. Labor is working to build a digital future. You can see that from our innovation policies, and from the importance we place on computational thinking in schools. I was just showing Tony Staley the coding app that my three year old uses on my iPad. Toddlers are using computational thinking apps: it's about time we had coding in primary schools. And you will have seen our promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths skills, including amongst current day teachers. These issues were the focus of announcements we made recently, and were the centre of Bill Shorten's budget reply speech in May.

As a Labor MP interested in the future, I very much welcome the opportunity to play a small role in opening your deliberations today.

And I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of your sessions. Thank you again.



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  • Angus Sutherland
    published this page in Speeches 2015-10-06 15:37:13 +1000

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