Media Conference – Parliament House
Subjects: Doxxing and hate speech reforms, Defence Force recruiting, High Court decision.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS KC MP: The Albanese Government is committed to protecting the safety of Australians, and stronger privacy protections for individuals are essential. The increasing use of online platforms to harm people through practices like doxxing, the malicious release of their personal information without their permission, is a deeply disturbing development. The recent targeting of members of the Australian Jewish community through those practices like doxxing was shocking, but sadly, this is far from being an isolated incident. We live in a vibrant multicultural community which we should strive to protect. No Australian should be targeted because of their race, or because of their religion. The Albanese Government committed last year to stronger protections for Australians through reforms to the Privacy Act. We've had a long running review to the Privacy Act and late last year I announced the Government's response to that review of the Privacy Act. The Prime Minister has asked me to bring forward, as part of that set of reforms to the Privacy Act, some new provisions to deal with this practice of doxxing, with the malicious use of people's personal information without their consent. And we'll also be bringing forward provisions, and the Prime Minister has asked me to do this as well, some provisions that strengthen current laws that deal with hate speech. The work will complement work that is already underway right across government, as we seek to strengthen online safety for all Australians. It's work that my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland has also been working on.
REPORTER: Given that accounts can hide behind dishonest profiles when committing acts of doxxing. How will these measures actually be affected? Will social media companies be compelled to expose those who release private information?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've already got some provisions through the eSafety Commissioner that enable online platforms to be required to take down. We've seen the eSafety Commissioner not only sending takedown notices, but imposing penalties. That's one of the measures that we're certainly going to be looking at in relation to this practice of doxxing.
REPORTER: Can you define doxxing, in terms of which attributes it would be unlawful to maliciously reveal? Is it just identity, race and religion does it extends to other protected attributes, like sexuality and gender identity?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Doxxing is a broad term but I think it's generally understood to be the malicious release publicly of personal information of people without their consent. That takes different forms. It's clearly got different malicious purposes, depending on the context. But that's something that we're going to have to deal with when we prepare this legislation.
REPORTER: These group chats were released to the Nine papers originally where they were published. Would that leaked information and the group chat messages come under doxxing under this legislation?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We see that with massive changes in digital technology that is throughout our society, that the opportunities for invasions of privacy, the opportunities for the use of people's personal information without consent, the opportunities for really malicious actions to take place, affecting hundreds of thousands of people very, very quickly, has been made possible. Legislation has struggled to keep up. That's part of the reason behind this reform of the Privacy Act that we've embarked on. And clearly, all of those things are needing to be looked at.
REPORTER: You're on the NSC, are you confident Australia has enough troops for the future or that Defence can recruit enough personnel for the future?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think we've heard the Minister for Defence, the Assistant Minister for Defence, talking about difficulties that the Australian Defence Forces have experienced over recent decades in recruitment, and we've certainly taken steps to deal with both recruitment and retention.
REPORTER: But are you confident that there will be enough for the future or that we can get enough?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That's a question that's probably better directed to the Minister for Defence, the Deputy Prime Minister, but I know that he, and the whole government, have been working on recruitment and retention in our Defence Forces.
REPORTER: Can I clarify, bulking up the hate speech laws, that will be contained in the Religious Discrimination Bill? Will it? And when can we expect to see that?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've already been working on the hate speech provisions. It is our intention to bring them forward with the Religious Discrimination Bill that we plan to bring forward. The Prime Minister has asked me to accelerate the work on the hate speech part of that package.
REPORTER: You came into government promising greater transparency but yesterday in the House you were questioned multiple times about how many of these people who had been released had reoffended, and how many ankle bracelets. There was no answer to those specific questions. Will we get an answer to those questions?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, this is a matter that's been fully examined in Senate estimates. And my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, I think was here just a moment ago answering your questions.