Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 19 April 2024


SUBJECTS: Knife crime responses; Bondi Junction incident; Wakeley Church incident; Online safety

NATALIE BARR: Returning to our top story this morning, there are new calls from New South Wales Police this morning for tougher penalties on knife crime, including parents facing sanctions if their children are found in possession.

New South Wales Police are urging for the crackdown following Saturday’s horrific Bondi Junction tragedy, and also Monday’s Western Sydney church stabbing.

There’s also pressure mounting on Premier Chris Minns to follow Queensland and police to use metal detectors to search people without having to obtain a warrant.

For more we’re joined by Education Minister, Jason Clare, and Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.


BARR: Jason, should parents face tougher punishments for the actions of their kids?

CLARE: G’day, Nat. I think almost every parent would stop their child leaving the house if they knew that they had a knife with them. If parents knowingly let their children out the door with a dangerous weapon like a knife, then yes, they should have the book thrown at them. It’s already a criminal offence.

I guess what police are arguing for here is that we should increase the penalties, and Premier Chris Minns has made pretty clear that he’s looking at this as well as whatever else is needed to be help make sure our community’s safe.

BARR: Yeah, so you agree with that, because we’re seeing ‑ these are not small knives; we’re seeing kids with large knives, we’re seeing machetes in suburban Melbourne supermarkets, shopping centres. It’s getting out of hand. People want something done, don’t they? So you support this, the parents being responsible.

CLARE: They’re deadly weapons. In less than a week we’ve been horrifically reminded of that. Thank God that there weren’t guns involved at Bondi or at Wakeley, where even more people could have been killed or injured, but knives kill, and unfortunately we’ve been reminded of that in the last few days, and if parents knowingly let their children out the door with a deadly weapon like that, then yes, they should have the book thrown at them.

BARR: Sussan, do you want parents locked up too?

SUSSAN LEY: Nat, they’re deadly weapons, they’re silent weapons. The police are telling us that knife crime is a problem, and that parents do have a role to play. So, yes, they do.

Now I want to say I understand that it’s difficult to be a parent; I’m a parent, I’m a grandparent, there are so many things that parents need to deal with. But this is critical, and it’s critical to human safety, and people are scared in the wake of these attacks.

Now the eSafety Commissioner has resources online. Now we’re all on our phones a lot of the time. There is time to just scroll to the eSafety Commissioner’s website and have a look at the section that says, “Advice for parents.”  It’s really sensible; it’s common sense, it’s got resources, it’s got help, it’s got places you can call, it’s got translations, it has got a lot of help.

So for parents that are feeling overwhelmed, have a look there. And I say to parents, if your child is locked up in their room in the dark with the door closed, ask yourself, what are they doing, because it’s so easy for social media to capture the minds of vulnerable young people.

BARR: Yeah, let’s talk about that. The Federal Government urged to crack down on social media giants that aren’t acting quickly enough to take down all those awful pictures that we saw of Monday night’s church attack in Western Sydney, also what we saw of Bondi Junction.

Jason, we know we saw the eSafety Commissioner saying, you know, to the big social media companies, “You’ve got 24 hours to take it down.” Is that enough, because by then basically everyone in Australia had seen it?

CLARE: This is where a lot of Australians found out what was going on on Saturday afternoon, and for some of us, we saw things online, whether it was Saturday, or whether it was Monday night, that we’ll never be able to unsee. And worse than that, we saw flat-out lies that help to ferment division and fear in the community.

So the powers that the eSafety Commissioner has are important, to tell Facebook, to tell Twitter to take down violent images that are going to do that.

The advice I’ve got is that Facebook did a reasonable job, but Twitter hasn’t, that there was still information days and days after these attacks took place. Again there’s penalties there of half a million dollars for companies, $100,000 for individuals. We’re looking at what more needs to be done here as well.

BARR: Can’t we fine them?

CLARE: We can.

BARR: Can’t we do something? And also, can’t we do something sooner? They all tell us that they can’t do this, they need all these hours and all these days to take it down, but our kids and our young adults are seeing this almost immediately. Why can’t they work out their algorithm? There are smart people working for these companies, why can’t we get them to do it sooner?

CLARE: I think that’s a rubbish argument that they’re making to us, Nat. Of course they can do this at a click of a button, and in the case of the attack that happened in the church on Monday night, people were seeing that live on YouTube, watching that ceremony, the congregation in the room was watching the service, but so were people watching that live online, and then it was quickly cut and pasted and put on Facebook, put on Twitter. There were people that were sharing that, liking that.

And if I can send a message to all of us, don’t like it, don’t share it. That just means that it spreads like wildfire, but these companies can act a lot quicker than they are.

BARR: So, what’s the answer here, Sussan? How can we crack down on these companies, because even the police say they were playing catch‑up because they were seeing everyone fly into that area in Wakeley because of what they saw online?

LEY: I’m so sick of these social media platforms, Nat, I’m so sick of their excuses. They’re parents too, they have a responsibility. Young, impressionable people cannot unsee these images, and they can be radicalised, and increasingly, there’s obviously fake news, fake images, artificial images.

So, we’ll support the government in cracking down, getting tougher and finding ways of getting outside this sort of voluntary compliance routine that exists right now, and actually getting tough on these platforms and what they’re allowing to be seen.

BARR: Yep, you’re right. We need a better answer, don’t we? We thank you very much for your time. See you next week.