Australian Prime Minister Press Conference – Sydney

Prime Minister

Thanks very much for joining us. Today’s National Cabinet was a constructive discussion with the Premiers and Chief Ministers, together with the Family and Domestic Violence Commissioner, Micaela Cronin, who reported to the National Cabinet meeting. Was then followed by a report from the Victorian Premier, Jacinta Allan, about the 2016 Royal Commission and that experience arising out of that. We heard from every state and territory jurisdiction about the work that they were doing in their respective states and territories. And we determined to move forward in a range of ways, practical, immediate steps, as well as setting a further meeting for the next quarter to report back on issues, including the different systems in states and territories and how there can be more uniformity going forward as well. That work will be undertaken with the leadership of the current CAF chair is Premier Malinauskas of South Australia. This is indeed a national crisis and it’s a national challenge, and we’re facing this with a spirit of national unity. Today is about who we are as a nation and as a society. We recognise that governments need to act, but we also recognise that this is an issue for the whole of society, not just for governments. It’s an issue for civil society, it’s an issue for the media, it’s an issue for all of us to work together in the national interest to deal with what is a scourge of violence against women that is having a real impact out there, with once every four days, a woman losing their life at the hand of a domestic or former domestic partner. This is indeed a national crisis, which is why we convened this meeting. We also recognise that this has a traumatic impact on children. Too many children are growing up in households or witnessing violence, or in the worst cases of course, children growing up without their mums because of their murder at the hands of a domestic partner or a former domestic partner. We want to change this. We want to change this in a way in which we all have to take responsibility, because violence against women is not a women’s problem to solve. It is a whole of society problem to solve, and men in particular have to take responsibility. There was a determination around the National Cabinet table. For some of us this is deeply personal, and for all of us this is very, very important. So today we determined some actions we could take immediately, but also looking towards how we change behaviour, how we change the agenda. Today in terms of outcomes it builds on the work that our government has already done. The $2.3 billion we’ve committed, the ten days family and domestic violence leave, the changes to the single Parenting Payment, the increased funding for community workers, the increased funding for housing for women and children escaping domestic violence through the Housing Australia Future Fund. We know that when a woman is killed by a violent partner, too often some people will say, why didn’t she leave? And it’s because of there not being options, which is why it is very important that we don’t put people in a situation where they can’t afford to leave a violent relationship. So today we can announce the government will invest $925 million over five years, will be included in the budget in two weeks’ time, to permanently establish the Leaving Violence Program so that those escaping violence can receive financial support, safety assessments and referrals to support pathways. Those eligible will be able to access up to $5,000 in financial support, along with referral services, risk assessments and safety planning. This commitment builds on measures put in place by our government to help address financial barriers to escaping violence. Some of those measures I spoke about before in terms of domestic violence leave, investing in crisis accommodation. Today also we’re announcing a suite of online measures to help combat toxic male extremist views about women online. When I’ve spoken to parents around the country, they expressed their concern about the exposure of young boys and young men to violent videos and imagery online. And that is something that was mentioned by states and territories when they went around, what their jurisdictions were doing. We will introduce legislation to ban the creation and distribution of deepfake pornography. Sharing sexually explicit material using technology like artificial intelligence will be subject to serious criminal penalties. A new phase of the Stop it at the Start campaign will launch in mid-June and will run until May 2025. This new phase will include a counter influencing campaign in online spaces where violent and misogynistic content thrives, to directly challenge the material in the spaces that it’s being viewed. The government’s undertaking long overdue classification reforms with states and territories, which will examine options to reduce exposure to violent pornography, informed by engagement with experts and best available evidence about harms. Finally, we’ve brought forward the reporting data of the review of the Online Safety Act, a year ahead of schedule, to ensure we’re keeping up with emerging online threats and harms. This was a particular focus of debate, so that when the Victorian Premier reported on the royal commission, one of the things that was very stark was just how much technology has changed the nature of the threat and the damage which is being done by this new use of technology, and it’s something that we’re very, very conscious of. The government will also bring forward legislation in early August to outlaw the release of private information online with an intent to cause harm. This is known as doxxing, of course, and has been a debate. Finally, I want to acknowledge the very important work that the Attorney-General is leading to strengthen penalties targeting the creation and non-consensual sharing of sexually explicit deepfakes, which is there. I do urge parents to visit the website and to look at their resources, which are based on research and expert advice. We, of course, have quadrupled funding for the eSafety Commissioner because of the increased role that online activity is calling across a range of areas, not the least of which though is in attitudes towards women, attitudes towards violence. This is a debate that we have to have as a society because it is having an extraordinary impact and I think that that was a common theme of the contributions this morning. It was a very constructive meeting and I thank the Premiers and Chief Ministers for making themselves available for this. I’ll now turn to the Family and Domestic Violence Commissioner and then we’ll hear from the Ministers about their respective reforms that are being proposed in their areas. Commissioner.

MICAELA CRONIN, COMMONWEALTH DOMESTIC, FAMILY AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Prime Minister. It was a real honour and responsibility to be able to present to National Cabinet today, the first National Cabinet we have had on men’s violence against women. I began as Australia’s first Domestic Family and Sexual Violence eighteen months ago, but I began my career as a domestic, working as a social worker, working in a women’s refuge over thirty years ago. And in that time I have seen some incredibly dramatic change, but as we are all talking about today, some failures of our society changing enough in some very important areas. It’s really significant that we have had a National Cabinet today. It’s been triggered by the appalling spate of deaths, as the Prime Minister and others have referred to, one woman every four days, being murdered. Every next one of those women is too many. Like many of you I wake up every day and pick up my phone worried about what news I’m going to see and the impact that that will have on communities. But we also know that that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I met yesterday with the National Lived Experience Advisory Council, which I think is one of the most important things I’ve been able to achieve as I’ve undertaken this role, bringing together people from across the country who have direct lived experience of domestic, family and sexual violence. And the message from those men and women was that they are very triggered and distressed about what is occurring at the moment, but really pleased that we are finally having such a united national conversation. I agree with what the Prime Minister said about the National Cabinet today. It was a very unified discussion, there were very consistent themes, and I was very pleased to hear the commitment to come back next quarter to report on the efforts that are being made across the country and to keep a spotlight, and to keep efforts really on the national agenda to end domestic and family violence. We have a national plan which is a very good national plan, but no plan in such a complex area can be a set and forget plan. We need to be constantly looking at what is emerging and changing and absolutely technology changes are part of that and we need to be looking at what do we need to prioritise. We’ll be holding a roundtable next week and bringing together experts to talk about what are some of the things that need to be prioritised to prevent these homicides.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Commissioner. Minister Rishworth.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you, Prime Minister. Well today’s announcement is building on what has been a significant investment by our government to address violence against women. But of course we know that violence against women and children has been a national crisis for some time and is a national shame. Every time a woman loses her life at the hands of a man, it is one death too many. But the rates of this in this country are unacceptable. Now we also know that financial insecurity can be a barrier to women leaving a violent relationship. And knowing they have the support, the financial support that they need is critically important. That’s why I’m very pleased today that our government is announcing the permanent leaving Violence Program. This program will provide victim survivors with the financial support, risk assessment, safety planning and referrals to other essential services at that critical time when they are making the decision to leave. Through the evaluation and redesign of the pilot programs, we know that this program not only assists with financial support, but also helps women that may have otherwise fallen through the cracks to connect with other supports. Recent evidence has shown that many people who access this support, it will be the first time they’ve ever had contact with a service. Now today we’re also announcing that the government will soon be launching the next campaign as part of Stop it at the Start to directly counter the influence that rising levels of social media and online content are having that promote violence against women. This will directly challenge the material online and encourage conversations with families about the damaging impact. I know as a parent of two young boys that there is a lot of stuff that I’m not aware of and don’t know and don’t understand what they might be influenced or being challenged about on the online world. So we do know that we need a conversation about this. We do know we need to give parents the support and resources to have those conversations. And we do need to counter this violent online material. We know that to end violence against women we do need generational change and we need positive role models for young boys to ensure that those negative stereotypes are counted and that influences that promote damaging attitudes towards women are also counted. It’s time that this ends and our government has and will continue to put policies and programs in place to help with the goals in line with our national plan. I finally want to say we need persistent, consistent and sustained attention and action on this issue. And all governments, businesses, all civil society individuals need to work together to achieve change.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Minister. And we’ll now hear from Minister Rowland.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you, Prime Minister. Like most Australians, I am deeply distressed by the increasing violence against women that we are seeing. As a nation we all need to take steps forward to foster a more respectful society, and that means we need everyone to come to the table. That includes parents, teachers, faith and community leaders, employers, state and federal governments and digital platforms. The reality is that digital platforms are influencing our culture and our social lives. They have a fundamental responsibility to step up and do more. The content that digital platform service, through algorithms and recommender systems, particularly to young Australians, has an impact in reinforcing harmful and outdated gender norms. While digital platforms may not be creating the content themselves, they play a major role in determining much of what people see. We must ensure that our community standards are respected online as well as offline. We need a multipronged approach to help support a healthier online environment for children and all Australians. And today I’m announcing the following next steps. First, the Australian Government will commit $6.5 million in the May Budget for a pilot of age assurance technologies to better protect children online and reduce their exposure to harmful content. The pilot will identify available age assurance products and assess their efficacy, including in relation to privacy and security. The outcomes of this pilot will support the eSafety Commissioners ongoing regulatory work to implement codes or standards under the Online Safety Act to reduce children’s exposure to inappropriate content, and that includes online pornography. ESafety is already well engaged in discussions with representatives of all eight sections of the online industry in Australia, including Digi and Comms Alliance, about the scope and outcomes relevant to the next phase of mandatory industry codes. A major focus of these codes will be on children’s access to online pornographic material, but they will also address other types of content that are unsuitable for minors to see such as detailed and graphic portrayals of real violence. The codes will be registered by the eSafety Commissioner only when they are satisfied that they provide appropriate community safeguards. Should the Commissioner assess any code as falling short of that requirement as set out in the Act, they may elect to instead determine a standard that applies to that section of the online industry. The eSafety Commissioner sees benefits in having the trial run in parallel with the codes development process, which eSafety expects to conclude as soon as possible. Second, there is growing concern about the role of violent online pornography in normalising gendered violence within the Australian community. In response to these concerns, the Government is undertaking a long overdue classification review with states and territories which will examine options to reduce exposure to violent pornography, informed by engagement with experts and the best available evidence about harms. Reducing this exposure to harmful and degrading pornography will better protect the women and children of Australia, and we will have more to say about our plans to strengthen online safety. As the Prime Minister said, the Albanese Government has taken decisive action to improve the safety of Australians online by quadrupling ongoing base funding for the eSafety Commissioner in our last budget. The Government has also commenced our review into the Online Safety Act, which is brought forward one year ahead of schedule, to ensure our laws are keeping up with emerging online threats and harms. Finally, I’m well aware as a parent myself of two young girls, there is a weight that parents are feeling about how to help their children navigate the online environment. As the Prime Minister said, eSafety has evidence-based resources freely available to help parents to support their children, including around discussions about healthy and respectful relationships. And I urge all parents to visit and make use of these free resources.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Minister. There will be a range of media releases, if they are not out now, they will be out soon, with the communique from the National Cabinet. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how difficult is it to police the Internet in terms of this? I mean, it looks a very noble pursuit, what you’re looking to do here, but you’ve seen, even with trying to get this Wakeley image down, video down, it’s not that easy. And secondly, was there discussion about bail laws, how they’re adjudicated on and on electronic monitoring of violent offenders during the National Cabinet?


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