Wednesday, 15 August 2018
Questions without Notice
Enhancing Online Safety (Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Bill 2018
Thank you Senator. Today, the Enhancing Online Safety (Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Bill 2018 will be read a second time and debated in the House of Representatives. As colleagues would be aware, this includes a new civil penalties regime. Colleagues will also recall that the bill was initiated in the Senate and passed on 14 February, with amendments moved by NXT, now Centre Alliance. Those amendments sought to create new criminal provisions in the Criminal Code Act 1995. I acknowledge Centre Alliance's deep interest in this issue and, indeed, that of the opposition as well. However, upon consultation with various stakeholders across government, including law enforcement officers and prosecutors, issues were highlighted with regard to the workability of the proposed amendments. We appreciate that drafting amendments from the non-government side can be a challenge, so the government has created substitute amendments that will retain the intent of the Centre Alliance amendments to criminalise the non-consensual sharing of intimate images but do so in a way that's more consistent with the existing criminal justice system.
The government will introduce two aggravated offences for the existing offence of using a carriage service in a way that a reasonable person would consider menacing, harassing or offensive in all the circumstances. The current offence has a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment. These amendments will increase the maximum penalty to five years imprisonment for dealings in private sexual material and seven years imprisonment for repeat offenders of the civil penalty regime. I know that the parliament will want to join in cracking down on the online creeps who want to harm, distress, humiliate or embarrass their victims, whatever the reasons, by sharing intimate images without consent.
Under Commonwealth law, it's an offence to use a carriage service in a menacing, harassing or offensive way. The maximum penalty for this offence is three years imprisonment. Under this offence, since 2004, there have been 947 charges proven against 475 defendants, including a number of cases in relation to image based abuse.
We do have laws that address these matters at the state and territory level, but they do differ across jurisdictions, which is why the Commonwealth is working with the states and territories through COAG to support a nationally consistent approach to criminal offences relating to the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. In 2017, the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council issued the national statement of principles on the criminalisation of these activities. The two new offences that we are talking about here will impose a Commonwealth lever and higher penalties for more serious forms of abuse.
The central part of the legislation introduces a federal civil penalties regime targeted at perpetrators and content hosts. Penalties of up to $105,000 for individuals and up to $525,000 for corporations can be applied for breaches of the prohibition. Civil penalties will allow the eSafety Commissioner to take action within hours to quickly remove intimate images and to prevent them being shared.
The bill complements current criminal laws and the two new offence provisions that will be introduced. It will also complement the online complaints portal launched by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in late 2017. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has had a great deal of success in working cooperatively to have offending material removed. These measures give the eSafety Commissioner the power to pursue a range of responses should informal cooperation be insufficient. So we are facilitating the rapid removal of intimate images and increasing deterrence for would-be perpetrators.