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TV - Interview Today on Saturday, Channel 9

ALISON LANGDON:
With seven in 10 parents worried about their children being online, the Federal Government is today committing more support to keeping our kids safe from bullies and predators when using the computer. Here to explain is Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield. A very good morning to you, Minister. Now, you're promising $10 million to improve cyber-safety. How will that money be spent?

FIFIELD:
Ali, we're announcing a couple of additional elements of our full court press on keeping kids safe online.

Part of that is a $10 million grants program for community and not-for-profit organisations who will have good ideas about how to keep kids safe in the community and safe in the classroom and further protect them from online bullying.

But we're also announcing today support for an idea that Dr Michael Carr-Gregg came and spoke to me and the Prime Minister about a couple of weeks ago. And that is the idea of a digital license for primary school kids. A bit like the old pen license. We should have something in place where students don't get access to devices in the classroom until they've passed a test which shows that they've got an awareness of the dangers and how to handle themselves online.

So, we're always looking to do more to support kids online and their safety. And these are two practical things.

ALISON LANGDON:
I think this is a commitment that has been warmly welcomed.

Now, the Government could be facing an historic defeat in the House of Reps this week, where you've got a vote expected on an independent bill to allow the medical transfer of asylum seekers to Australia. But we're now hearing this morning claims that this could lead to the reopening of the Christmas Island Detention Centre. Is this the Government using scare tactics to avoid losing the vote?

FIFIELD:
This is the Government talking about the facts, which are that we have ended the practice of the people smugglers putting people in harm's way on the high seas. We have basically broken the people smugglers' business model. What Labor want to do is to systematically unpick our protections. And if Labor do that, then the boats will come again. People will be on the high seas. People will die. And we will again have people going into detention.

We don't want anyone at risk on the seas. We don't want anyone going into detention. Labor are showing that they're true to form. That they say one thing for most of the parliamentary term, but when you get close to an election Labor start to show their true colours.

ALISON LANGDON:
This was a vote that you delayed at the end of last year and it now looks like we're seeing today that Bill Shorten has actually softened his language. Are you feeling confident that the bill will be defeated?

FIFIELD:
This is really a matter for the Australian Labor Party. This isn't a matter for the Government. We have a good and a strong border protection policy. The onus is on Bill Shorten to come out and say that he too supports a good and a strong border protection policy.

So, Bill Shorten, this is a test for you: put yourself forward and say that you support the protection of our borders and that you will not do anything that will encourage the people smugglers to again embark upon their evil and deadly trade.

ALISON LANGDON:
Well, as we've just mentioned, Parliament is resuming this week, but your Government's been criticised for the lack of sitting days. Do you honestly expect to get anything done in the seven days you'll sit before we have an election?

FIFIELD:
Absolutely. The Parliament is scheduled to sit. We also have the important accountability mechanism of Senate Estimates, which is scheduled. Obviously, we have an election in the first half of this year. And the sitting schedule obviously is a reflection of that. It's also a reflection of the fact that we're having a Budget earlier this year as a result of the election.

ALISON LANGDON:
But you can't be that out of touch to think that this passes the pub test, seven sitting days before we have that Budget handed down in April.

FIFIELD:
There's always a break before the Budget each year to enable the Budget processes to be concluded. That's the case every year.

ALISON LANGDON:
So you're saying you think most people out there sitting at home think you guys meeting seven days between now and when the election is called is okay?

FIFIELD:
We've got the sitting schedule there…

ALISON LANGDON:
[Interrupts] That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking what are your constituents telling you?

FIFIELD:
What they're telling me is that they want us to keep our borders safe. That they don't want the Australian Labor Party to support legislation that will weaken our borders. What they're telling me is that they want us to balance the Budget, which we're on track to do. These are the things that the community are focused on. And they're telling me that they want us to do things to keep our kids safe online, which is something that I'm able to share some good news about today: the $10 million grant program for not-for-profit and community organisations, and that we're moving ahead with the idea of a digital license for primary school kids.

ALISON LANGDON:
All right, well Minister thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate your time.