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Wednesday, 24 February 2021
Page: 1789

Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldMinister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts) (09:45): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill operates in conjunction with the Online Safety Bill 2021, which I have just introduced. Together, these bills will strengthen and extend Australia's world-leading online safety framework by adopting and building on the effective elements of the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 and schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

This bill repeals the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 upon commencement of the new Online Safety Act. The Online Safety Bill will become the new enabling legislation for Australia's eSafety Commissioner, and will strengthen and extend the commissioner's powers to keep Australians safe online.

The bill will repeal schedule 5 and some sections of schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which is the enabling legislation for regulation of online content, known as the Online Content Scheme. These functions will be transitioned to the new Online Safety Act. This will create a single act containing comprehensive measures.

The bill will give effect to the government's election commitment, made in the lead up to the 2019 election, to strengthen maximum penalties for use of a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence. Accordingly, the bill increases the maximum penalty under section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995from three years' imprisonment to five years' imprisonment.

The bill will also makes changes to section 474.17A and 474.17B of the Criminal Code Act 1995 to ensure that offenders who show a pattern of causing online harm through dissemination of private sexual material continue to be given a higher penalty than first-time offenders. These changes reflect the Australian public's expectation that the punishment for this type of conduct should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.

The bill makes general amendments consequential to the enactment of the Online Safety Act. These include repealing redundant provisions, updating definitions and omitting and substituting references in other legislation that refers to the original legislation.

The bill also provides transitional provisions and consequential amendments for other acts arising from the enactment of this act to provide continuity for the operation of the eSafety Commissioner, associated administrative arrangements, legal proceedings, schemes and processes.

Both of the online safety bills have been developed following election commitments and substantial public and stakeholder consultation, including stakeholder workshops and an analysis of over 370 submissions received in response to an exposure draft of the Online Safety Bill that I released in December 2020.

This bill, together with the Online Safety Bill, will extend and strengthen Australia's already world-leading online safety arrangements. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.