Radio National with
15 August 2018
the Federal Government will introduce new amendments today to toughen up a bill
tackling so-called revenge porn; in response to what many say is a growing
problem. Research has found that one in five Australians have had intimate
images or videos taken or shared without their consent. The bill passed the
Senate earlier this year but today it will go into the lower house with some
new amendments; provisions bringing tougher penalties for individuals, social media
services and websites that post intimate images without consent. Mitch Fifield
is the Communications Minister. Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.
we come to revenge porn, can I ask you first, were you in the Senate last night
to hear the maiden speech of Queensland Senator Fraser Anning, in which he
called for a return to the European Christian immigration system and a ban on
Muslims migrating to Australia?
wasn’t in the Senate chamber for Senator Anning’s first speech, Fran, but I do
absolutely condemn what he said. Australia is an open, generous and
warm-hearted nation. We accept people on the basis of their character. We
proudly have an immigration policy that’s non-discriminatory and that’s as it
used very provocative language, including the phrase final solution – the final
solution to the immigration problem, of course, is a popular vote, is what he
said, which has prompted outrage across the divide. I think a lot of people are
probably asking how a person who secured only 19 votes is there, with 19 votes
on Election Day managed to get a seat and a platform for dangerous views in the
Senate of Australia.
each of us in the Senate is judged on our contribution. Senator Anning will be
before the voters at the next election. And, as with all us, the opportunity is
there for the Australian people to cast their verdict.
free speech or not though, do you think it’s acceptable for a parliamentary
representative to say Muslim immigration should be banned? Are these times to
play around with views like this just for a headline?
I don't think those views are acceptable, Fran. I condemn them. Colleagues
across the Parliament have done likewise. What we want is a nation where people
come here, they sign up to our values, they contribute. We judge them on their
character. On nothing else. We welcome people through our immigration program.
We welcome people through our humanitarian program. And we have a proud record,
a proud bipartisan record, of not discriminating against people on the basis of
race or religion.
let's turn now to the amendments you're going to introduce today - beefing up
penalties for so-called revenge porn. What do these amendments do?
the moment we have some general criminal provisions that relate to using a
carriage service to menace or harass people. And there have been people who have
received jail terms of up to three years. But we don't think the penalties are
tough enough for this particular category known as revenge porn, or the
non-consensual sharing of intimate images. So we want to establish some new
offences. Some aggravated offences. So that someone can be jailed for five
years, or if they're a repeat offender they can be jailed for up to seven
years. We want to send a really clear message to the creeps that do this sort
of thing. That it's not acceptable. That the same set of laws and standards of
behaviour that apply in the real world, in the physical world, also should
apply in the online world.
are these criminal penalties? At the moment we don't have - do we have criminal
penalties in the current law?
currently are Commonwealth criminal penalties in relation to using a carriage
service or platforms to menace or harass. But we don't have a specific criminal
provision that relates to revenge porn. We also have in this legislation some
civil penalties so that you can be fined as an individual up to $105,000. But
we want to have a range of measures. We want to have a range of tools that are
available to punish this behaviour and to send an unequivocal message that it's
am I right in saying that you didn't support criminal sanctions in the past?
Have you changed your mind on this?
We do already have some criminal provisions in the law. What we put before the
Parliament was a civil penalties regime because we don't have civil penalties
in relation to this sort of activity at the moment.
is a lower standard of proof required for civil penalties and that's a path
that a lot of people have said they'd like to go down. So we said, look, let's
complement what we already have in criminal law with civil penalties. But we're
now taking it a step further to say let's increase the fines - sorry, let’s
increase the penalties for criminal activities. Let’s introduce some aggravated
dimension of the problem? Can you tell us a bit more about that? And what’s the
evidence to show how penalties effect that or can have an effect on lowering
Commissioner that we’ve established which is a world’s first undertake
extensive research in this area. And their survey work finds that one in five
people have been subject to this sort of activity at some stage. The eSafety
Commissioner has received in excess of 200 complaints about this sort of behaviour,
this sort of activity. To date, the eSafety Commissioner has been able to
remove about 80 percent of this material. What we want to do is give the
eSafety Commissioner more powers, more teeth, so that we can stamp on this.
who will those powers be aimed at primarily? The perpetrators? Or I know it’s
also aimed as you said social media services and websites which host these
images. Are we looking at the giants? Are we looking at Facebook, Instagram,
Google? Are they the ones that come to mind? Are they doing enough on their own
to fix this problem?
Look they can
do more. There has been good cooperation to date between those platforms and
the eSafety Commissioner in taking down this material. But they can always do
more. And what we want to have is a greater capacity to address these. So as
well as civil penalties for individuals, as well as criminal penalties for
individuals - in the civil penalties regime that’s before the Parliament we
also have fines of $525,000 for social media platforms that don’t co-operate.
Now we expect that they will cooperate, that we don’t need these. But it’s
still good to have them on the books.
And you know
it’s always pointed out this is a grey area and sometimes subjective. I mean
not with everything obviously. How, who is in charge of imposing these
penalties and whom makes this judgement?
civil penalties and for criminal penalties it will be the courts who determine
what is the appropriate level of sanction, but also…
those, will those who are the victims of it have to be responsible for bringing
it forward themselves? Because the statistics show that 30 percent of reported
cases are victims under 18 and we know that a lot of people might be too
embarrassed or too scared to come forward.
We have the
eSafety Commission there as a one stop show so that the eSafety Commissioner
can take actions forward. The eSafety Commissioner also has the capacity to
issue infringement notices where they can be a penalty of several thousand
dollars. We’ve got a graduated range of measures so the eSafety Commissioner can
seek voluntary action on behalf of an individual or a social media platform.
They can issue notices to individuals and platforms to cease and desist. They
can issue infringement notices with fines. Or they can go further an initiate
listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is the Federal Communications Minister
Mitch Fifield. The research on this shows that 79 percent of reported cases
involve female victims and this is a lot of these penalties are to protect
women and young women in particular from this particular kind of humiliation.
On a different kind of humiliation. The Senate yesterday censured Liberal
Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm over derogatory, defamatory and sexist
comments regarding the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. You and the Coalition
didn’t vote for that, voted against it. Why?
Well some of
these matters are likely to be before the courts in the near future. There have
But a Senate
censure doesn’t get in the way of that does it?
Well there have
been actions which have been initiated. Legal actions. And we’re careful to
consider matters in relation to sub judice.
And can I ask
you a question? I really can’t let you go without asking about the ABC. The
Federal Government has launched yet another Efficiency Review of the ABC and
SBS. We had the last review in 2014. Now we’ve got another one. Why is the
Government trying to dictate how the public broadcasters spends their money
when that’s the province of the Boards isn’t it? We are a public broadcaster
not a state broadcaster.
one of the great underpinnings of public broadcasting is the legislated
independence that the ABC and SBS have. And we’re not seeking to change that.
But the ABC and SBS as community taxpayer funded organisations need to make
sure that they are the best possible steward of taxpayer dollars. And the
Efficiency Review is aimed at supporting the ABC to make sure that it is just
Do you think
we’re not spending money wisely at the moment?
Commonwealth agencies should strive for continual improvement. The last
Do they all
have efficiency reviews though all the time?
Well, yes all
Commonwealth agencies are subject to efficiency reviews to make sure that
they’re doing their work the best that they can. The last Efficiency Review
into the ABC was about three years ago. And in the fast evolving world of media
that is an eternity. But Fran the good news for your listeners is that the ABC
will continue to receive in excess of a billion dollars a year. And that does
represent a very important underpinning of media diversity in Australia and a
significant Commonwealth contribution to civic journalism.
you very much for joining us.
Good to be with
Authorised by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra.