Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 10 May 2024

FRIDAY, 10 MAY 2024

SUBJECTS: Chifley College incident; Joint Select Committee into social media

NATALIE BARR: Well, parents are demanding metal detectors be installed after a student pulled a knife on a teacher at a Western Sydney school. Chifley College St Mary’s, was forced into lockdown yesterday after a staff member was forced to wrangle with a 13‑year‑old girl to get the large kitchen knife off her. The teacher received only minor injuries, and police are now investigating what the teen’s intentions were in this case.

Joining us for more, the Education Minister, Jason Clare, and Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you, in the studio this morning.


BARR: Jason, do you have to consider metal detectors in the schools, because we talked to parents out there yesterday, and they said yes.

CLARE: First, thank God the staff member’s okay. You can only imagine this could have been much, much worse. The teachers at the school, the parents and the students must be reeling today.

And for all of Sydney, we’ve still got, the anxiety with Bondi and with Wakeley. We talked about this after Bondi a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about Jack’s Law in Queensland, and why we need that here in New South Wales. The New South Wales Government’s acting, giving police the power to basically have those metal detectors that they can carry around in designated places.

They’re looking at the final framing of those laws. I trust the New South Wales Government to work with the police and get this right.

BARR: So metal detectors in schools. This is your patch. Do we need them?

CLARE: What we’ve got to do is make sure we keep our children safe. I trust the New South Wales Government will craft those laws in a way that’s going to make sure that we keep our kids safe, whether they’re at school, or whether they’re on the train or the bus or anywhere else.

BARR: As the Federal Education Minister, would you consider it?

CLARE: Ultimately, it’s a matter for the State Government; it’s their decision to make here, but, I’ll work with State Governments on all of the things that we need to do to make sure that we keep our kids safe.

BARR: Sussan, what do you think?

SUSSAN LEY: Nat, as a mother, as a grandmother, I’m incredibly worried, when you think it might be your little one that’s going through those school gates, so small, so vulnerable, and who knows what’s on the other side.

But Jason’s right, this is a matter for the State Governments in terms of what happens in the school itself. But let’s stop this at the start. Let’s try to intervene where we can, where young people are running off the rails for whatever reason and get help to them early. 

And I never talk about teachers without giving a huge shout‑out to what they do every day in our schools. The teachers I talk to are facing some pretty big days, some pretty exhausting times, tat anxiety in the community, including from women, is spreading into the school community as well. So our thoughts are always with the teachers of Australia.

BARR: Yeah, you’re right, and we’ve all talked to them, and we all know the stories, don’t we, don’t they, and they’re feeling under threat. It feels very US though, and I don’t think we ever thought we’d get here.

Moving on, social media giants, Meta, TikTok and X are being put on notice this morning as the Federal Government prepares a large-scale probe into its effect on every day Aussies, spreading of illegal and age‑restricted content, scams, abuse, extremist material will all be examined by this inquiry. Jason, what do you want to achieve by this?

CLARE: I think we now know social media’s pretty toxic right now for our kids. Things like TikTok and YouTube shorts are like poker machines for kids, just addictive; I know mums and dads are grappling with that right across the country, but it’s not just for children, it affects all of us.

Violent material online, we’ve had trouble getting that taken down off Twitter in the last couple of weeks. When you’ve got misinformation, flat‑out lies on social media, it can lead to riots like we saw at Wakeley as well.

Then you’ve got the issue of companies like Facebook which are effectively taking the work of Australian journalists and not paying for it. So, I think there is a legitimate reason to look at all of this right across the board.

BARR: So Sussan, it’s tough, isn’t it? You’ve got Elon Musk saying, “If we take down people being stabbed in the head, that’s censorship.” How do we fight that?

LEY: It is tough. And while it’s always good for parliamentarians to be working together on committees, I’m a little bit worried that the Government is sending this issue, an important aspect of this issue into yet another review and yet another inquiry.

The age verification trial, which is about kids having to prove their age before they access some of the content, the vile content on the Internet, the Government has finally agreed that that’s a good thing. But they’ve excluded social media from that, so TikTok is not even in that.

Now I don’t want kids looking at the content that we’ve all heard about, thankfully some of us haven’t seen, but unfortunately our kids have. I don’t want them looking at that on TikTok, so I want that to be included as well in what will be an age verification approach, so that you actually prevent kids from seeing this in the first place, because once they see it, you can’t unsee it.

BARR: It is very difficult. It’s going to be a big inquiry, because we know how many kids lie about their aged to get online, if you’re a parent. Thank you very much, both, for coming into the studio.

CLARE: No worries.