Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (16:23): My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and the action I seek relates to online offending. Right now in our society we are experiencing an exponential increase in vile threats, abuse and harassment commissioned online and via social media. We heard last week during the Senate estimates how actor Magda Szubanski has been subject to volumetric and coordinated attacks. I have spoken at length in this place in relation to the experience of female journalists, female sports stars and many others who are getting these extraordinary attacks that not only put them at physical risk but also silence them in these online spheres. From my personal perspective, only this week the Queensland police charged a Queensland man as a result of the threats he made against me on a Facebook video.
For too long we have put these threats made over the internet into a different category to the threats made over the phone or in person. That approach just no longer reflects the way people communicate and interact in our society. Threats made online are just as real as threats made via any other medium, and it is time that they were policed as such. Stalking, threat to kill, threat to cause serious injury and using a carriage service to harass or menace are routinely charged offences that the Victorian police could utilise right now to capture this type of online conduct, and it is time they did.
I am someone who has fought for free speech most of my adult life and certainly for a lot of my career, so I do not take this lightly. I understand the tumble that happens online and I understand that kind of online harassment, but when it comes to the types of threats that are being made—the types of threats that would be treated very differently if they were done over the phone or via a letter, they seem to be treated quite differently when they are done via social media or even email. So the action I seek is that the minister cause a review of the way in which Victoria Police treats, investigates and charges threats, abuse and harassment commissioned online, to better address this type of offending in our community.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Adjournment matter 30/10/20
Ms NEVILLE (Bellarine—Minister for Water, Minister for Police and Emergency Services):
Bullying of any kind, including online, has profound effects on the community and on individual victims. I can assure the member that it is taken seriously by the Victorian Government and Victoria Police.
Victoria Police continues to work with partner agencies, including the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), to investigate and improve the response and capability for instances of cybercrime, including online bullying.
As online offending often transcends state, federal and international jurisdictions, Victoria Police recognises the importance of working with the Victorian community to prevent cybercrime, including online bullying, by increasing awareness and educating the community on preventative measures.