Crimes Amendment (Intimate Images) Bill 2017

Revenge porn occurs when someone shares or broadcasts, or threatens to share or broadcast, a private sexual image or video recording of someone else—often, but not always, of a former partner—without their consent. Revenge porn occurs when a former or current partner shares or distributes intimate images or video, but it also occurs when those images are stolen and distributed by a third-party.

I note and applaud the work of Labor members of Parliament elsewhere in Australia who have done considerable work in this regard.

Two Federal members of Parliament, Terri Butler from Queensland and Tim Watts from Victoria, have been campaigning for Commonwealth legislation to criminalise revenge porn. In October 2015, Mr Watts and Ms Butler co-sponsored a private member's bill to the Federal Parliament to criminalise revenge porn. That bill would have seen offenders jailed for up to three years for either sharing or broadcasting, or threatening to share or broadcast, private sexual imagery or video.

Disappointingly, the Federal Liberal Government did not lend its support to that bill and it lapsed with the proroguing of Parliament in April 2016, before Malcolm Turnbull's double dissolution election.

The Butler-Watts bill also included harsher provisions for the prosecution of offenders who possessed, controlled, produced, supplied or obtained revenge porn for a commercial purpose or for the purpose of obtaining a benefit. This would have had the effect of criminalising both the production and initial supply of revenge porn as well as further criminalising any enterprise seeking to profit from revenge porn. This would attract a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment, reflecting the aggravated nature of that offence.

Notwithstanding the fact that this bill before us today does not go as far as the Butler-Watts bill, Labor will support it in its current form because legislative change of this kind is now long overdue.

We must, as a society, set down markers about what we consider acceptable conduct. Until now, it has been too easy for offenders to shrug off their culpability in producing and distributing revenge porn by saying to themselves or to their victims, "There is no law against it."

At this point, I acknowledge those who are impacted by revenge porn—I acknowledge their pain and anger—and those good, extraordinary people in our community who are standing up and fighting back.

I noted just recently in a news article the story of a man who has had enough and is fighting back after he saw something on Facebook and reported it, but Facebook refused to delete it. It was a fat-shaming revenge porn post, published in a secret gender-exclusive group.

That shocking post generated a number of comments. It was a brave post and the fellow who asked Facebook to take it down and was fed up with Facebook's efforts to police the platform has received comments such as:

Hayden, THANK YOU so much for standing up for what's right.

and:

I have a son and you have given me hope that there is other decent young men out there.

Facebook said it was looking into the matter. This bill should also put an end to the victim-blaming mentality that has become pervasive in conversations about or analysis of this issue. It is not the victim's fault for allowing an intimate image to be created, if it is created with their consent.

It will be now be illegal for that image to be distributed or shared without their consent. In the case of former or current partners who threaten or go through with a threat to distribute revenge porn, there will now be a law against it—it will be a crime.

In the case of intimate images or video being stolen, either physically or electronically by a third party, this legislation will create an additional offence over and above existing criminal laws against the initial physical theft or unauthorised electronic access to data held in a computer.

I share the concerns of my Labor colleagues, however, that this bill does not include provisions for immediate take-down orders. I note the work of the shadow Attorney General, the member for Liverpool, in this respect and thank him for it.

The explanatory notes to the bill acknowledge that it has been crafted in line with some of the recommendations of the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice report, "Remedies for the serious invasion of privacy in New South Wales", so I am perplexed as to why the bill does not go further and adopt the recommendation included in the report that take-down orders be made possible without a conviction first being required. Images and video circulate on the internet at astonishing speed.

They also circulate between mobile phones and on instant messenger apps. It is therefore absolutely critical that take-down orders be made available at the earliest possible opportunity when a victim becomes aware of intimate images or video. We cannot wait for the lengthy judicial process to conclude before such material is ordered off the internet.

I will sidestep for a moment and mention—because it should be recorded in this place—some of the impacts of image-based abuse. In a recent article on online forum TheConversation, we learned that these impacts are greatest for those who have experienced threats to distribute an image.

It stated:

80% of these people reported high levels of psychological distress, consistent with a diagnosis of moderate to severe depression and/or anxiety disorder. This is a very important finding: it demonstrates the severity of the harm associated with image-based abuse victimisation.

Finally, I reiterate that despite this limitation of judicial process—which we will agitate to update or review in future—Labor supports the bill.

Labor has been at the forefront, both nationally and in New South Wales, of legislating against this abhorrent practice.

I commend the bill to the House.

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