Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Enhancing Online Safety (Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Bill 2017; In Committee

7:15 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

I move opposition amendment (1) on sheet 8364 revised:

(1) Page 2 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:

   4 Review of operation of amendments

  (1) Within 3 years after the commencement of this section, the Minister must cause to be conducted an independent review of the operation of the amendments made by this Act.

  (2) The Minister must cause to be prepared a written report of the review.

  (3) The Minister must cause copies of the report to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the day on which the report is given to the Minister.

I'd like to put a few remarks on the record. Labor circulated sheet 8364 containing a review clause. This sheet was today revised and recirculated to deal with the contingency that the amendments proposed by the Nick Xenophon Team are yet to be determined in this place or agreed to in the Senate. Whether or not a civil or a civil and criminal scheme is established by this bill, Labor believes that it should be reviewed in due course. I appreciate the commentary in contributions by others that they will support that.

As I stated in my speech on the second reading of the bill, Labor believes that, within three years of its commencement, the minister should cause a review to be conducted of the new statutory regime for the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, along with the preparation and tabling of a report in each house of the parliament.

While the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 already includes a review clause, at section 107, this review is due to commence in the very near future, and we believe that would be an inadequate time frame for the proper testing of this piece of legislation. If conducted in a timely fashion, that review will assess the cyberbullying regime that first commenced in 2015 but will be of limited efficacy given that the new regime for image based abuse won't have been in operation for very long at all.

I detailed the concerns of various stakeholders in my second reading contribution this morning. These included commentary from the DIGI Group, who gave evidence about the efficacy of measures in this bill. In accordance with best practice, Labor thinks there should be a further meaningful review of any new regime for image based abuse once it's been in operation for a substantial period. I seek the support of the Senate for Labor's detailed amendment.

7:17 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I indicate to colleagues that we have been in discussion with the opposition about this amendment. We think it is a practical amendment. It's consistent with the existing requirement that there be a statutory review of the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 conducted three years after the commencement of that act. This is a similar mechanism and one that we support.

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

As I mentioned in my speech on the second reading, the Australian Greens are disappointed that this legislation was brought on for debate in such haste that it didn't allow for scrutiny, despite our best efforts to refer the bill to an inquiry. The government, as I mentioned earlier today, has tried to dismiss our request for a review, citing previous consultations; however, as I have also previously noted, consultation does not negate the need for scrutiny. You consult, you formulate and then you scrutinise the result. I'm sure that isn't a concept beyond anyone in this chamber and I find the fact that we are bypassing that critical final step to be a really sad reflection on the ways in which other, external political motivations sometimes drive the process of legislative review in this place.

We're also disappointed, I have to say, that this kind of approach has been taken despite repeated attempts, both within this chamber and without, to have that be otherwise. In the absence of scrutiny, it seems that we are left with this review process. Therefore we support the ALP's amendment to put in place an independent review to examine the effectiveness of the regime and the operation of the amendments made by this legislation.

Question agreed to.

Progress reported.