Scott Morrison’s wife Jenny joined the prime minster on the campaign trail as he outlined his bold new plan to tackle anonymous trolls on social media.
Speaking at Batyr, a youth-focused mental health organisation in western Sydney, the couple were in a relaxed and lighthearted mood as Mr Morrison underscored his commitment to addressing the issue of online abuse.
As part the pre-election promise, funding will be increased for schools to combat the problem, victim support services will get a boost and laws will be beefed up to laws to target harassment – with tech giants also warned to do their part.
But the prime minster was later grilled about his support for Warringah candidate Katherine Deves, who has a long history of posting anti-transgender remarks on Twitter.
Our kids should be able to learn, be entertained, or connect with their friends and family without facing abuse, humiliation or online predators,’ he said on Sunday.
‘Big tech and social media giants must be held to account. Our plan will force them to do more – they cannot create it, and wash their hands of all consequences of it.’
He said the plan will ‘help to prevent harm by raising awareness in every school’ and by improving our support for those harmed online.
The upbeat mood at the campaign doorstop quickly changed when the prime minister was asked about his support for Katherine Deves, who he handpicked to win back the marginal Sydney seat of Warringah at the May 21 election.
The controversial candidate has previously claimed on social media that ‘half of all males with trans identities are sex offenders’ and also described trans people as ‘surgically mutilated’.
Mr Morrison hoping to distance himself from the fallout noted that Ms Deves has since deleted the post and withdrawn the remarks. He also stressed that he in no way supported the comments.
The Coalition’s proposed measures to tackle online abuse includes increased funding for schools to stamp out the problem, a boost in victim support services and tougher penalties for online trolls.
Mr Morrison has also vowed regulate parental controls on smartphones to protect children, if tech companies refuse to introduce effective controls themselves.
However, earlier attempts to amend defamation laws at the federal level have so far proved unsuccessful.