technology facilitated abuse - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Make 'revenge porn' a crime

Why is the Turnbull government taking so long to deal with non-consensual sharing of intimate images? 

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (10:50): I welcome the continued political attention being given to family violence. I also call for that attention to be matched with action. There are delays from the Turnbull government in relation to the national plan to reduce violence against women and their children. The government is also slow to address technology facilitated abuse, which is the subject of this motion, and the government is refusing to deal with some other areas in urgent need of reform, like cross-examination in family law.

The national plan is underpinned by three action plans. I am very concerned that the third action plan, which was due to commence in July this year, has yet to be published even in draft form for comment. The government's website claims the third action plan is due for release in mid-2016. I wrote to the government on 3 August 2016 asking when it would be published. It was not until 30 September that I received a response from Minister Cash, who blamed her delay in publishing the action plan on state elections. Minister Porter also wrote to me indicating that the national plan would be published after the ACT election in October. But there is not even a draft or proposed version of the plan available. I also wrote to the government on 4 October asking when we can expect to see the 2015-16 progress report on the national plan.

The government published a national evaluation plan in June 2014 and that national evaluation plan said:

Annual progress reports will be made publicly available. They will be a key mechanism for governments to share key learnings, discuss barriers to implementation, identify gaps and emerging issues and to make necessary amendments to activities as required.

The annual progress report for the year 2014-15 is publicly available, but the annual progress report from the 2015-16 year does not appear to be. So I have asked the government for a copy or, if it has not been done yet, which is possibly the case, to let me know when it will be done. I sent a request on 4 October and I am looking forward to receiving an answer.

I turn now to the subject of this motion, which is technology facilitated abuse. This is the second time in recent months that a motion of this kind has been moved in the parliament. The last one was in the 44th Parliament, towards the end of it. It was in very similar terms. But in fact the government has failed to move promptly on technology facilitated abuse. The opposition, as it has been so often the case with the Turnbull government, has had to take the running on this issue. So last year in October, the member for Gellibrand and I moved a private member's bill in this place seeking to criminalise the phenomena that is colloquial referred to as 'revenge porn', which is the sharing of intimate images or videos without consent or threats to do so. That bill was tabled in October last year. We sought the government's support for the bill. In fact the then member for Dobell actually spoke in favour of the bill, and I was very grateful to her for doing so.

But the government has dragged the chain on responding to the challenge of non-consensual sharing of intimate images and videos in this country and the consequence is even though some of the states have started to seek to criminalise this conduct, certainly not all of the jurisdictions have done so and there is no overarching Commonwealth law that can provide some consistency across the nation. In fact, there was a Senate inquiry into that bill. And in that Senate inquiry, the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions submitted that there should be Commonwealth law in relation to this phenomena. It was made very clear that there should be law in relation to this egregious conduct that is deeply harmful and hurtful, particularly to the victims of it, who tend to be women and young women.

The government has refused to support legislation to criminalise revenge porn in federal legislation. Originally, Minister Cash wrote to the member for Gellibrand and I saying it was a matter for COAG, but, of course, in November, at the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council, there was a working group paper put up to that council, for consideration subsequently at COAG, that dealt with issues of technology facilitated abuse. That working group paper ultimately did go to COAG, and yet, nine months later, there has been no action from the Commonwealth on revenge porn.

Labor committed, at the federal election, that we would legislate to criminalise revenge porn if we were to win the election. We also committed to working with the states to criminalise covert installation of surveillance apps on mobile phones. These things are urgent, as is the reform of cross-examination, which the Liberal government has also refused to commit to or even agree to. The government should be ashamed.

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