POLITICS

Turnbull Government To Pursue Civil Penalties For Revenge Porn

And Australia has a new eSafety Commissioner to manage the push for it.

23/11/2016 10:47 AM AEDT | Updated 23/11/2016 11:40 AM AEDT
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Jamila Toderas, Fairfax
New eSafety Commissioner Julie ​​​​​​​Inman Grant

CANBERRA – The Turnbull Government has announced it will be pursuing civil penalties for "revenge porn" as it revealed a new expanded position of "eSafety Commissioner", an official role to provide leadership on the intimidating and humiliating offense.

Former Twitter executive and online safety expert, Julie Inman Grant, was announced Wednesday at parliament house by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as he marked White Ribbon Day, the annual awareness raising effort to combat violence by men.

It's a renaming and broadening of what was the Children's esafety Commissioner to encompass adults, with Inman Grant expected to work closely with the Prime Minister's Special Adviser on Cyber Security, Alastair MacGibbon.

Said to affect one in 10 Australians, revenge porn offenders -- both in ongoing or broken relationships -- share intimate images, without permission, on websites and social media.

While Federal Labor wants nationally consistent commonwealth criminal laws that cover revenge porn, Inman Grant will advise on the pursuit of civil penalties as she consults around the nation next year.

The Minister responsible for women, Michaelia Cash said the laws would be targeted at both perpetrators and sites which host intimate images and videos shared without consent.

A discussion paper would be expected in early 2017 to kick of the consultation process with people including revenge porn victims and police.

Andrew Meares, Fairfax
Julie Inman Grant between Pauline Hanson and foreign minister Julie Bishop

Inman Grant is looking for a "new era of online civility".

"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," she told reporters in Canberra.

"It is only with these concerted and coordinated efforts that we can truly make an impact and reinforce the importance of respect and usher in a new era of online civility."

There are already state laws and a commonwealth criminal penalty that covers -– but is not specific to -– revenge porn. It is a telecommunications law which covers using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.

Communication Minister Mitch Fifield said it has been used for 691 charges against 397 defendants, including the infamous Jedi Council case which was exposed with Defence ranks.

"We do have a Commonwealth criminal provision which is there to be used by the Federal Police," he said.

"We recognise that the criminal processes can be involved and time consuming and that some people would appreciate the option of a civil penalties regime which is why we will be doing that and starting consultations shortly."

Labor MPs Terri Butler and Tim Watts are behind a federal move to criminalise revenge porn. They have introduced a private members bill to amend the criminal code and create a maximum five year jail term for revenge porn offenders.

They insist Australia needs consistent national legislation so offenders can't hide in various jurisdictions.

Watts wants a message sent to perpetrators and potential perpetrators.

"Personally I don't know why the Prime Minister has made a very simple issue so complicated," Watts told The Huffington Post Australia.

"This behaviour is criminal."

"The government I think is putting the horse before the cart. Before we start considering civil remedies we need to get that baseline of a national criminal offence squared away."

But, Minister Cash insists the government will work with states and territories through COAG to support a nationally consistent approach to criminal offences.

Addressing a White Ribbon Breakfast in parliament house, the Prime Minister said a big cultural shift is needed in Australia.

"All of us are leaders and have to be role models," Turnbull said.

"Above all, as parents, we have to raise our sons from the earliest age to respect women, beginning with their mothers and their sisters, the women closest to them, the first women they meet, they learn to live with, they must be taught to respect them."

"And we must encourage and teach our daughters to have greater self-esteem."

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