Senator the Hon
Minister for Women
Julie Inman Grant
Parliament House, Canberra
23 November 2016
E & OE
The Government has three important announcements to make this morning, and it
is appropriate that we do so as we acknowledge White Ribbon Day. You’ll recall
that Malcolm Turnbull as the Minister for Communications honoured an election
Commitment through the establishment of the Office of the Children’s eSafety
Commissioner. Now, the remit of that office has grown beyond children,
particularly in relation to online safety of women at risk of domestic
recognition of the enhanced and evolving role of the Office beyond children,
we’re announcing today that the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner
will be renamed the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. And this recognises
it’s evolving role to better help women manage technology, and risk and abuse.
And it also acknowledges that part of that is the new online reporting tool
that is being developed which will allow victims to report and get help in
cases of non-consensual sharing of images.
extremely delighted to announce today with Michaelia Cash the appointment of
the new eSafety Commissioner: Julie Inman-Grant, who joins us this morning. She
is an online expert with 25 years of experience. She was instrumental in the
development of the 2015 Enhancing Online Safety for Children legislation. She
also helped shape the first Online Safety Summit for Children in 1996. And she
has held senior public policy and safety roles at Twitter, Microsoft and Adobe.
And she has vast domestic and global experience. So we’re very excited that she
will be filling this role.
I should take
this opportunity to acknowledge the inaugural Commissioner: Alastair MacGibbon,
who did an outstanding job in that role. And is now the Prime Minister’s Cyber
Security Advisor. And also pay particular tribute to Andree Wright, who’s been
serving as the Acting Commissioner and is one of the nation’s experts in this
The third thing
that we’re announcing today is that the Federal Government will be looking at
introducing a new civil penalties regime for perpetrators and sites that host
intimate images or videos without consent. We’ll be commencing consultation on
this. We’ll be issuing a discussion paper early next year. And I should point
out that in parallel with this, we’re working through COAG to support a
nationally consistent approach to criminal offences relating to the
non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
Cash has at the forefront of the Government’s efforts to best support and
better protect women. And I’ll now ask Michaelia to talk about the Government’s
wider efforts in that regard. And we’ll then introduce Julie.
and gentlemen, it’s an absolute delight to be here today in the lead up to
White Ribbon Day with Minister Fifield.
in relation the announcement of Julie Inman-Grant as our new eSafety
Commissioner and congratulations, Julie.
gentleman, the Turnbull Government is committed to reducing violence against
women and children. As the Prime Minister and I have often said, it’s all about
disrespecting women. Not all disrespect leads to violence against women, but
all violence against women ultimately begins with disrespecting them.
commitment as a government is to ensure that all women and children in
Australia are safe at home, safe on the streets, and safe online. And that is
why I’m very proud that the first cabinet decision of the Turnbull Government
was the announcement of our $100m women’s safety package.
have also provided a further $100m to support the Third Action Plan (under the
National Action Plan) to reduce violence against women and their children.
In terms of
technology facilitated abuse, no one deserves to be abused online. This issue
obviously we have with technology though, is that we all love it. We all have
it, and it can do some really fantastic things. But as we also know, technology
is another weapon in the arsenal of tools that the perpetrators use to stalk
their victims. And that is why the Government last year, put the issue of
technology facilitated abuse on the COAG agenda. And as Minister Fifield has
stated, we’re working very closely with the states and territories to ensure we
have consistency across governments in relation to the criminal penalty involved.
Prime Minister hosted the COAG summit on domestic violence. All of the states
and territories were represented at this summit. We had two round tables held
on technology facilitated abuse. Again, the overwhelming feedback from stakeholders
who have worked for decades in this regard, is that we need an educated
response to technology facilitated abuse, along with a civil penalty regime.
And that is why I’m delighted by the announcements that Minister Fifield has
made today that we will now be working with Julie Inman-Grant (our new eSafety
Commissioner), we will be taking this out to stakeholders and working with them
to ensure that we get the right processes in place and have a holistic
delighted with the announcement today of the renaming of what was the
Children’s eSafety Commissioner (and what a very important role that was and
remains), but to remove the word ‘children’ to focus more broadly on technology
facilitated abuse, and in particular the impact that it does have on women in
reaffirming the Government’s commitment to reducing violence against women and
children, and in particular being delighted to be here with Minister Fifield to
announce the appointment of Julie Inman-Grant as our new eSafety Commissioner.
Thank you very
much Minister Fifield and Minister Cash for your kind words. It’s an absolute
privilege, honour and a challenge to be taking on this new role. I also want to
thank my predecessors Alastair MacGibbon and Acting Commissioner Andree Wright,
and all of men and women at the eSafety Office for creating an incredible
foundation on which to work.
At last count,
there were over 3,000 websites posting so-called ‘revenge porn’ all around the
world. 90% of these images are of women. That is why it’s critical that we
provide support and redress for victims. Key among these efforts the rolling
out of the new online safety tool for removing non-consensual porn. But also
critical to these efforts are the prevention, protection and education efforts.
These education efforts need to start as early as in the nursery, be reinforced
in the classroom, in the lounge room, in the bedroom, and ultimately in the
board room to have the kind of societal and systemic impact that we need to
Finally, it is
very important that we have this public consultation process to take the
broadest feedback from a range of Australian stakeholders on a potential civil
penalties regime. It is only with these concerted efforts that we can truly
make and impact and reinforce the importance of respect, and usher in a new era
of online civility. Thank you very much.
you explain how the new role will work given that so few states actually have
criminal penalties against the practise of so-called ‘revenge porn’?
Sure, thank you
for that. There is already a criminal penalty at the federal level and I’ll
cite that to you. It’s section 474.17 of the criminal code. And it says that
‘it’s an offence to use a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence’.
specific to revenge porn
specific to revenge porn but already that’s been used to make 691 charges
against 397 defendants. That includes 15 months in relation to an individual
who was involved in the Jedi Council matter. Also, as an example, is 7 years
prison for individual who used social media to encourage teenage girls to share
images of themselves, which that individual then threatened to expose to their
family and friends. So we do have a common criminal provision which is there to
be used by the police. We recognise, though, that criminal processes can be
involved and time consuming, and some people would appreciate the option of a
civil penalties regime. Which is why we’re going to be doing that, starting
consultations shortly. As I mentioned already we do have the COAG process where
the Commonwealth is working with states and territories to ensure a more
uniformed approach to criminal matters.
assume then that new commissioner’s role will be more looking at the civil
penalty side of things rather than laying criminal charges or potentially
taking them to state and territory authorities.
relationship is between the civil penalties regime and the Office of the
eSafety Commissioner is something that is to be determined. So that will be the
subject of consultation.
And on that
point, the overwhelming feedback as we travel around Australia and you talk to
people about what is the appropriate policy response it is acknowledged at a
federal level, there are already in place criminal laws. Minister Fifield has
taken you through that and there has been successful prosecution.
matters are taken care of at a state and territory level and that is why the
COAG process to ensure consistency across our states and territories in
relation to those laws is so important.
actually talk to people who have been subjected to it many of them say to you:
“all I wanted was the image removed. I just wanted the image removed.” That is
very much going to be a focus of what Julie is going to be looking at; how do
we respond in the first instance to the person coming forward and saying “just
get the image down?” When you then say: “what further processes could we take
you through?” A lot of people don’t want to go down the criminal path – it
takes a very, very long time. Obviously they have to be heavily invested in
that process as someone who has been subject to the colloquial term of ‘revenge
porn’ or the sharing of non-consensual images. That is something they often
also don’t want to do. So, the civil penalty regime is also far more attractive
in terms of getting a more prompt response for those involved.
as Julie has also acknowledged, this is why we need a holistic process.
Education is key to this, in particular for young people whose language they
now speak is literally on their mobile device that is attached to them
constantly. But understanding when you do share an image - it’s shared. When
you take an image in an intimate relationship and you both agree that that was
a great photo to take, but then the relationship breaks down, what are then the
consequences of sharing that image online? So that is why it is a holistic
response that is involved, but very much looking at the overwhelming feedback
we have received from stakeholders in the area.
is it to expect overseas websites to take images down? I mean, they’re out of
our jurisdiction aren’t they?
Well I believe
this will be part of the issues we canvas through the consultation. It is a
perennial challenge. There is no great Australian higher law, there is no
button to push. That’s why international engagement and stakeholder management;
law enforcement to law enforcement as well as in my role as regulator working
with other regulators around the globe and getting to know the trust and safety
people that work at these websites, these social media organisations. We need
those relationships to be able to address these issues and bring them down
quickly, particularly when it’s out of our jurisdiction.
But some guy
running a dodgy website out of his bedroom in Eastern Europe, there’s not much
hope we can do anything about this is there? We don’t even know where he is.
is the whack-a-mole phenomenon. This is what I call a ‘glocal’ issue. The
internet is global but what we can do locally, the most effective tools we can
enact here, we need to focus on. And we work with groups such as Interpol on
the virtual global taskforce to help us with the international issues.
There’s one key
component of this discussion that’s kind of missing from the debate it was
brought up in the New South Wales Parliament last week, I’m expecting maybe a
Senate response today, it is the issue of opt-out internet filtering. A lot of
groups are still calling for the mandatory opt-out of mandatory internet
filtering for adult content and have it opt-out like the UK has, is that
something that the Government is considering at all?
Look that’s not
something we’ve addressed. That’s a debate that’s been going on for some time.
The approach that we’ve taken as a government is to initially establish the
Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner because there was a particular
concern about young people. We’re now expanding the role of the Office to be
one for the whole community. We want to do some practical things. We’ve
outlined what those are. But the option you put forward isn’t something that
we’re looking at.
Those state and
territory consultations, when are they going ahead?
actually been ongoing in terms of the COAG process. I understand COAG is
meeting in December and this will be further discussed there. But it is
something that the states themselves recognise that they also do have a role
here – as you know some states have implemented legislation, some are
considering implementing legislation. Again though that’s why it’s so important
- normally the prosecutions are undertaken by the state or territory police -
so as to ensure that we do have consistency across the board.
you take us through what the civil nature of the penalties discussed today?
From a victim’s perspective, why do you think that the civil component would
work and step by step from the moment where they might see an image – how would
the ideal civil penalty system affect their experience?
Well, we’re not
outlining today the construct of the civil penalties. What we’re announcing is
that it’s our intention to put in place civil penalties. It’s important that we
engage in consultation with the sector to get their views. And by the sector I
mean law enforcement agencies, women’s groups, other organisations. We want
civil penalties that will work. And the structure of that will be informed
through those consultations. We have a discussion paper that will be issued
early next year. But I think civil penalties are an important alternative to
the criminal avenue. As I said before, criminal prosecutions can be time
consuming. They can be distressing for individuals. Obviously that is an avenue
that should open to people if they want to pursue that they should. But what we
want to do is provide an alternative.
mentioned education earlier, one of the things that we see particularly in the
States is sort of slut shaming where people say don’t take the photos in the
first place, how realistic is it to expect education to be able to remove those
particular kinds of discrimination or those particular kinds of comments from
this particular environment.
I chose my
comments very carefully when I was talking about supporting victims because
that is what they are. They are victims. They may have engaged in consensual
having their image taken. But the image has been shared without their consent
and with malicious intent. So, I think of drink driving laws. Obviously there
is a legal drinking age. We don’t want people to be drinking under the age of
18. But when we put out our advertising and education campaigns about drink
driving, we do know that people are going to drink and drive and what the
intent is to keep them safe, and keep them from getting in the car or driving.
I think that
we’re going to need to look at the education around sexting and revenge porn in
a similar way. Obviously the best case scenario is if these images don’t exist
at all. But often these are shared with malicious and they may be images that
were taken without their knowledge. They may be hacked. There are a number of
reasons. We need to focus on the perpetrators in acting with malicious
behaviour, not the victims who have had a very distressing, devastating
experience. We need to provide them support.
just on another matter, given the government’s focus is on industrial relations
through the Senate have you shelved Media Reform for the year is that going to
put on hold until next year?
Well we do have
a fairly full legislative agenda for the remaining week and a bit of the year.
Obviously the Australian Building and Construction Commission is a key
objective for the remaining period of parliamentary time. But I should point
out, on media reform, that the great delayer of media reform has been the
Australian Labor Party. Very shortly after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime
Minister, we announced that we were going to undertake media reform. Early this
year legislation was introduced into the Parliament. Immediately, the Senate,
with the support of the Labor Party, referred it off for inquiry to a Senate
Committee. Which means that the Parliament can’t touch it while it’s before a
Committee. That Committee reported two days before the election was called.
In the first
week of the new parliament we reintroduced the media reform legislation “Quelle
surprise” the Senate and Labor immediately referred that legislation back off
to a Senate Committee, again. The same legislation which had just been inquired
into a matter months before. That Committee has recently reported. The Labor
Party have announced that they will not be supporting the abolition of the two
out of three rule which is extremely disappointing that the alternative
government can’t see their way clear to helping bring our media laws to reflect
the world that we live in. We want media organisations to be able to configure
themselves in a way that best supports their viability. It’s an important
underpinning of diversity is to have good, strong, viable media organisations.
So I’m going to be continuing to talk to the Crossbench who, as they have
demonstrated recently, with the Registered Organisations Bill, amongst others,
are people who want outcomes. They want to engage constructively. So, those
discussions will continue and because of the limited number of sitting days
left and Labor’s ongoing delay in relation to media reform legislation, it may
well be, and probably will be, next year, that we can conclude that
And there would
be no way you would split that
intention to continue to have that as a package. Putting forward both abolition
of 75% audience reach and the abolition of the two out of three rule.