07 November 2021

SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to take down online scammers.
STEPHEN JONES: Scott Morrison has turned Australia into a scammers’ paradise. Everyday Australians are getting hammered. Text messages, fake phone calls, emails. Billions of dollars are being lost to criminals, $33bn in last year alone. It has to stop. It has to change. We need a Government that’s going to take it seriously. We need the Government that's going to be on the side of Australian families and small businesses. Labor will establish a tough cop on the beat. We’ll set up a new Anti-Scam Centre to ensure that in real time, we're monitoring and stopping this illegal activity. We should be treating this like any other criminal activity. But we're not, because Scott Morrison is asleep on the job. Of course, we want to stop this, but we know that some of it will get through. So we've got to do our bit to ensure that we are supporting the victims of illegal scamming. Labor will provide an additional $1m dollars to community organisations which are supporting online scammers every year to ensure if they've had their identity stolen that they can do the things to rectify and repair their ID theft to ensure that they don't get scammed again. We're going to ensure that the social media platforms are doing the right thing. They shouldn't be profiting from advertising from illegal activity. We're going to change the law if we need to to ensure that social media platforms do the right thing, look after Australians look after small businesses and households, to do whatever we can to crack down on this illegal scamming activity. Thirty-three billion dollars a year is being lost to criminals, $33bn a year from Australian households from Australian small businesses. We've got to do more. We've got to crack down on the illegal activity and we've got to do what we can to get the vectors of illegal activity, ensuring that they're doing their bit as well. So whether it's the bank's, whether it's the telecommunications companies or whether it's the social media platforms this is a team Australia moment. Scott Morrison should be doing his bit but he's not. An Albanese Labor government will introduce the policies to ensure that Australians can shop online safely, can pick up their phone can answer a text message without fear that they're going to lose their household savings and their life's net worth. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: What do you mean when you say Scott Morrison’s asleep at the wheel? Is there one particular aspect of this issue you think he’s failing in?
JONES: Scott Morrison should have already set up Anti-Scam Centre. They've done it in the United Kingdom. They've done it in Canada. In fact, successful countries around the world have put in place strategies to reduce the amount of scam material that's coming through and to ensure that you can react in real time when scams are detected. If the Brits can do it, if the Canadians can do it how come Scott Morrison can’t.
REPORTER:  If the Labor Party wins the federal election, how soon can these initiatives be set up and how much will it cost taxpayers?
JONES: Thirty-three billion dollars a year is being lost each and every year. There can't be a higher priority. We will act immediately to establish an Anti-Scam Centre. We’ll work with the telcos, we’ll work with the banks, we’ll work with the social media platforms. But we need a tough new code of practice, and if they don't do it voluntarily we’ll change the law to force them to do it.
REPORTER: And how much money will it cost taxpayers? How much will it cost to set up these initiatives and keep them going?
JONES: The crazy thing about this is most of it can be done within existing Government resources, which is why it's mind-blowing that the Government hasn't already acted. We can establish a new Anti-Scam Centre, bringing together the existing regulators and law enforcement officers, getting the banks, getting the telcos, getting the social media platforms in the building and on the job. All of this can be done. Industry wants it to happen. The obstacle is Scott Morrison.
REPORTER: Do you have an actual price tag?
JONES: We think we can do most of this within additional resources. But we want to increase by three million dollars over the next three years the amount of support that we're providing to community organisations that are helping victims of ID theft. Currently there's an organisation providing about 20,000 individuals with support every year. That's IDCARE. We reckon we can with very modest injection of funds, double the amount of clients that they're dealing with every year. That's one example of what we can do for a relatively small amount of money. But all of the other things that I'm talking about, a new Anti-Scam Centre, changing the law, a tough new code, a tough cop on the beat and increasing the penalties, the crazy thing it can all be done within existing resources. No new money needs to be spent to do those things.
REPORTER: And who’s behind these scams that you want to crack down on? Are we talking about hackers, you know, state-based hackers? Or are we talking about basically sending out fake DHL links?
JONES: Look, we think Australians should be able to pick up the phone and answer a call and not have some stand over merchant pretending to be from Border Force or the Tax Office threatening to take them to court if they don't pay up a debt that they don't have. That's a priority. We think the people should be able to answer an SMS message and do it with confidence. We think people, when they get a bill from there builder, from their carpenter from their plumber or from any of the other electricity or telephone organisations that they're dealing with, should be able to pay that bill with confidence and not be wondering to themselves is this legit? Or is this another scam? So these have got to be priorities. Giving Australian families and small businesses confidence to transact their business online. So whether it's people pretending to the representatives of the Australian government. Whether it's people scamming small businesses or whether it's people pretending to be a phone company or an electricity company or a water utility, people should be able to do this stuff with confidence. We've got to come down hard on this. Why is it we can spend billions of dollars a year on drug smugglers, but not a cent on people who are ripping off, thirty three billion dollars a year, Australian families and small businesses.
REPORTER: Just going back, are these state-based hackers?
JONES: We know a lot of this stuff is coming from overseas. But we also know that a lot of it is coming from Australia. Whether it's dating scams or puppy scams or used-car sales scams, whether its financial scams, it's happening in Australia. It's happening overseas. We're getting it from everywhere. And the reason that it's happening so prolifically is that Scott Morrison has turned Australia into a scammer’s paradise.