eSafety Commissioner set for funding boost

Brandon How

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner will likely receive additional funding in the Albanese government’s May Budget, with Labor ministers continuing to criticise the former Coalition government for not providing ongoing funding.

Total administered expenses for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is budgeted to fall from $51.1 million in financial year 2022-23 to just under $21 million in financial year 2023-24.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland described the Office as facing a “funding cliff” as overall funding is currently budgeted to fall by around 50 per cent.

During parliamentary question time on Monday, Ms Rowland claimed that eSafety “has been operating without funding certainty”, claiming that its baseline funding of $10.3 million per annum has not increased since 2015.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland

According to the former Coalition government’s 2021-22 federal budget, funding for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner’s ordinary annual services would cease at the end of financial year 2023-24, when it would receive $4 million.

Funding was later stretched in the March 2022-23 budget to 2024-25 by splitting the $4 million figure equally across 2023-24 and 2024-25.

Funding for programs run by the eSafety Commissioner is also expected to fall from almost $43 million in 2022-23 to just under $15 million following the end of two budget measures. These include the three-year $39.4 million Online Safety Reform Measure and the four-year $10 million Online Safety Grants Program.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant is doing “amazing work” and similarly criticised the former Coalition government for not funding the Office beyond 2023-24. He then said this part of the evidence that the Coalition have put together a “nonsense Budget”. This was reiterated by Treasurer Jim Chalmers during parliamentary question time on Monday.

The Albanese government committed to a three-year $6 million program to fund digital literacy learning tools for schools, in line with an election commitment. It also committed $31.6 million over five years for additional online safety measures for women and children, which was an expansion of an equivalent $26.6 million commitment made in the Coalition’s March 2022-23 budget.

Ms Inman Grant is currently awaiting the final submission of online safety codes developed by industry. Initially given a deadline of March 9, this was extended to March 31 after the groups requested additional time to undertake public consultation on the final draft.

The eSafety Commissioner previously rejected the draft industry codes in mid-February for failing to provide appropriate community safeguards. If Ms Inman Grant rejects the final draft codes, her Office will design and register its own in consultation with the public.

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