COMMITTEES;Cyber-Safety Committee;Report – 14 May 2013

I seek leave to speak to the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety—second interim report—Cybersafety for seniors: a worthwhile journey.

Leave granted.

Senator BILYK: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

As Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, I want to speak to the report of the committee’s inquiry into cyber-safety and senior Australians. While the act of exploring the unknowns of the internet is one that many seniors are reluctant to take, it is the conclusion of this committee that it is a worthwhile journey for them to embark upon. The internet provides opportunities for all seniors, no matter their age. And, while the speed of the information technology revolution has meant that many older Australians have found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide, seniors should not let concerns about cybercrime, or unfamiliarity with technology, stop them from learning the skills required to being active online.

With an increasing trend of business and government services being available online, we need to help every senior Australian become active online so that they can reap the benefits of the new technologies. While there are many seniors who are active online, who may have gained their skills working with computers, there are also a large number of seniors who did not and who fear for their cyber-safety. However, education is the means by which they can overcome that fear.

Evidence was taken during the inquiry showing that education and training is the key to helping seniors move into the cyber-world with confidence and skill. The committee found across the nation that public libraries and various seniors organisations are doing excellent work teaching seniors about cyber-safety. Several seniors groups and representatives from the public libraries addressed the committee at public hearings, and I would like to thank them for their evidence. Some of these groups told the committee that they cannot meet existing demand from seniors for cyber-safety training due to lack of resources but with increased funding they could do more training.

The Australian Federal Police told the committee that cybercrime targets everyone, and even cyber-savvy people can become victims, so it is up to each individual to take the same degree of responsibility for their own actions when online as they do in everyday life. The AFP said that keeping seniors cyber-safe requires a multifaceted approach combining the right mix of law enforcement, policy, legislation, education and also some level of user vigilance.

The inquiry also found that access to the internet was a barrier for some seniors, particularly those who are housebound or who live on low incomes in remote places. Those living in metropolitan areas and larger regional centres who do not have an internet connection in their home can generally find free access to the internet in public libraries and various seniors clubs. The Broadband for Seniors kiosks are in community centres, retirement villages, libraries and senior citizens clubs across Australia. The committee has recommended that this worthwhile initiative could benefit from much wider publicity. The committee also found that when seniors experience cybercrime there is often confusion about how to report the crime, and therefore the committee recommended that a centralised user-friendly reporting and cyber-safety awareness portal should be developed with links to relevant regulators. The site should feature a dedicated seniors reporting tab, backed up by a telephone service which links individuals to appropriate victim support, training and other advice.

The committee is pleased to see that the government has recently launched a seniors helpline under its Broadband for Seniors initiative but believes that there would be merit in centralising reporting and support mechanisms for all cybercrime victims who need support or advice. The committee also recommended that cyber-awareness campaigns using clear and practical messages about cyber-safety could feature on the cyber-safety awareness portal. Another recommendation of the committee was to establish a consultative working group, with wide stakeholder representation to coordinate and promote government and industry partnerships and initiatives in support of a healthy and secure online environment. In total, the committee made 13 recommendations in its report and committee members believe that the adoption of the recommendations would greatly improve cyber-safety for seniors in Australia.

I would like to express my thanks to my colleagues on the committee, from across all parties in both the Senate and the other place, and especially to the Deputy Chair from the other place, as well as to the secretariat for the enthusiasm and dedication they have shown to this inquiry. I am pleased that we were able to work together to produce a unanimous report involving this important situation. I commend the report to the Senate. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.