Thursday, 16 August 2018

6PR – Mornings with Gareth Parker



Subjects: NEG, Revenge Porn

GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter, good morning.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning, Gareth. How are you?


ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Interesting morning over here as well.

GARETH PARKER: Well indeed. The NEG, which no one understands but we do know we want to land it, is it about leadership or is it about policy?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think it's about good policy for the country. Obviously WA's not in the national energy market, so it's less relevant to us in WA, although there are a range of issues about power pricing and our utilities in WA. But essentially what the NEG attempts to achieve is certainty in the investment environment. Like, you can't get downward pressure on prices unless fundamentally you've got people investing in baseload generation, whether that's gas or other baseload-consistent generation. So what the National Energy Guarantee does is at the point of supply into the market, it says to the suppliers: you have to supply bundles of electricity that represent both reliability on a certain standard and also an emissions standard, which reflects our Paris Agreement, which is the 26 to 28 per cent mark. So, the policy is simple, but the effects of it will be profound because when people know that there's certainty in the policy framework, they may be largely inclined to invest in baseload generation. No one at the moment feels particularly inclined to invest in a 30-year investment, which is what it is if you build a gas-fired power station for instance, unless you know what the policy framework's going to be going forward.


ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That's why you don't have the type of downward pressure on prices that you really need going forward.

GARETH PARKER: So the issue raised by Andrew Hastie on the program this morning is that the Paris targets and legislating those; why do you need to legislate the Paris targets in order to provide policy certainty?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The reason why the Paris targets are included in the National Energy Guarantee is because you're saying to suppliers, compelling them that the electricity supply that they put into the market has to meet certain requirements (a) about reliability and (b) about emissions. And our emissions reduction standard or target is what we signed on to in Paris, which is the 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels. So that is simply requiring the suppliers of electricity to supply bundles of electricity that meet the target that we've already agreed to. I mean, the fact is that we agreed to the Paris target…

GARETH PARKER: So just on that- yeah, and Tony Abbott says that you should junk that agreement because no one else is meeting their emissions targets and it'll make prices higher than they should otherwise have been, hurt Australian jobs.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: With great respect to the former Prime Minister, it was the former Prime Minister that agreed to that target.

GARETH PARKER: Yeah, and he says he's changed his mind.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, it's every politician's prerogative to change their mind. But when Australia gets into an international agreement that we will reach a target, we don't breach those agreements. We don't pull out of those agreements and we do our level best to make our targets. And we are the country who has consistently made targets that we have signed on to. So we met our Kyoto target for emissions reductions, reductions of CO2. Our best estimates are that we will, with hard work, be able to make the Paris target. But we are a country that enters into these things far from lightly. We enter into them soberly and cautiously knowing that we will do the right thing and try and meet those targets. So, I for one think it would be a terrible idea, and it's not something the Government would ever countenance, to simply withdraw from an agreement that we'd previously entered into. And we can meet those targets. It takes good work and good policy work, of which the National Energy Guarantee's a part. But the point that Malcolm Turnbull's making is that there's been so much focus on meeting the emissions reductions target that we've had circumstances, like those arise in South Australia, where there's been so much investment in renewables, that on one day in the South Australian market all of their electricity, near on 100 per cent came from renewables, and then several days later it's virtually none. And they relied on an interconnector, like a cable effectively, into Victoria to produce their baseload generation. So the point about this is that you can't just meet your emissions targets. You've also got to ensure that the organisations supplying electricity are able to meet demand whether or not the wind is blowing or whether or not the sun is shining. And that's the important distinction with this policy, is it gives that investment framework going forward.

GARETH PARKER: Can we talk about another actual piece of lawmaking, a policy decision, these revenge porn laws?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yep. So what we've done here is two things; we've set up a civil penalty system so, what we know is occurring with increased frequency, very unfortunately, is what people call revenge porn but basically Person A having a naked picture of Person B, a relationship breaking down or them having a fallout or the person just being stupid and sending that image without permission or consent around to a bunch of people. And so when we've spoken with people who've been individual victims of this type of behaviour - which is terrible behaviour obviously - what they say is what they really want is some ability to really quickly compel that person to stop doing it and to compel people who've received it to take it down if it's posted on Facebook or to remove it if it's been texted or emailed to someone. And so we've set up this civil penalty regime, which basically allows for this really quick take down, if you like, of that type of posting.

In addition to which, we've looked at the existing offences and we've toughened them up, so that it will now be the case that if you send an image which we have defined as a private sexual image of someone and you do that in a way that's unreasonable - including obviously consideration as to whether or not the person consented - then you can face a penalty of five years. If you do that and you've been the subject of three or more of these civil penalty orders - which is the regime that sits underneath it - then you can be guilty of an offence with a penalty up to seven years so…

GARETH PARKER: Well, we hope it works, we hope it works.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah. Well, I mean, this is obviously fairly new behaviour in the scheme of wrong and terrible and mean spirited behaviour and criminal behaviour, but what people have said is that the thing that concerns them most is having a civil regime that they can really simply access which can compel people to stop doing it. But if people persist in doing it then there are very serious criminal penalties that they can be looking at.

GARETH PARKER: Appreciate your time this morning.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No problems, Gareth, cheers.