Private Members Business – Cyber Security

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Mr PITT: Can I congratulate the member for Fisher for bringing this motion before the Federation Chamber. Before I get to the substance of the motion, I’d say to those opposite: I don’t understand this fascination with the member for Dickson. I mean, he is the Minister for Home Affairs. He has been around a long time. Perhaps you could wonder why it is you are on the opposite side and not on this side. However, in terms of this motion, if people ask whose side are we on, we are on the side of the Australian people. Whose side are we on? We are on the side that will stop scammers in this country. We are on the side that will stop online bullies. We are on the side of Australians just like Violet.

Violet Burley is an 86-year-old in my electorate and this is a story from the local paper, the News Mail. Violet was approached by telephone from a man who allegedly called himself Michael. He told Violet she had a problem with her Telstra account and she needed to go to a store that sold Google Play gift cards and purchase four $50 cards. Violet, being a long-term Telstra customer, went and did that and returned to her home. Fortunately, she was intercepted before she could actually provide the numbers to this scammer. This is the type of scam which has been around for a while but happens constantly. In fact, one of my staff received a call not an hour ago for this exact scam here in the parliament. It is people like Violet who we are standing up for. It is for people like Violet that we must ensure, as things move in the cyberspace, the government moves with them in defensive positions.

On one night, Violet also received 42 calls from these scammers wanting the serial numbers from the gift cards, obviously so they could take the money and use it. That is 42 calls for a woman who is 86 years old. Clearly this is dreadful. Once again, I thank the member for Fisher for putting this PMB before the Federation Chamber. According to Scamwatch, more than $5 million was lost in Australia last year because of these scams. Clearly that is unacceptable.

I will go through some of the things we have done and provide advice for those who might be listening to or watching the broadcast, but we need to crackdown on online bullies. I have been public about this. I am on the record any number of times in terms of social media and I do not see the necessity for someone to have a pseudonym—a name which is not them. Our digital life has become one which is our life. I think that you should be identified online just as you are in reality, as when you set up a bank account. It should be exactly the same. Look at what online bullies are doing particularly to our youth.

The people in this place, members and senators, get used to this. It’s an unfortunate position, but we get this sort of stuff all the time. I just thought I would grab a quick quote from the last 24 hours from an alleged Elizabeth Maher on Twitter to me: ‘My goodness, what a dog of a politician Keith Pitt is. He is a low-life piece of work’. As someone who turns 50 next month, I’ve been around the block a few times. I know that that is just nonsense and I’m not too concerned about what some coward might say online from their house without the courage to front up or make a phone call. But can you imagine the effect that it has on a young girl who might be 13 or 14, who is developing, who is going through a difficult time of life? Imagine what it does to their confidence and their levels of anxiety. I continue to see no purpose in having fake names online and I think we should act to do something about that.

In terms of action, we already have the Australian Cyber Security Centre. For those who are listening to the broadcast, you can go to the web site, which is There is a wealth of information to help those Australians protect themselves from cybercriminals. Obviously, we have Scamwatch in place, which is a great resource. I am sure others in the room certainly get a lot of calls with regard to scams. This is, unfortunately, a regular and ongoing problem. The reason it’s ongoing is that these scammers have been successful. They are taking millions of dollars from Australians. In fact, it has happened to my own family. It’s quite easy when an individual might be paying dozens of bills to find one which looks like a Telstra card bill and, unfortunately, throw in your credit card number to pay that bill. Fortunately enough, it was a few hundred dollars. But, for someone like Violet, who I spoke about earlier, that is an enormous amount of money for an age pensioner.

So we continue to crack down. Scamwatch is a great website for those who might want information about what scams are out there, and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is a wonderful resource for parents, children and anyone else looking for advice or information about staying safe online. I have the opportunity for a plug in the few seconds I’ve got left. There is a parent online safety seminar being held in my electorate in Bundaberg Wednesday night at 7.00 o’clock by the Carly Ryan Foundation. I would suggest to anyone out there concerned about what their children may need in terms of protection online that they take the opportunity to come down to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

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