Distributing an intimate image without consent is now a criminal offence in the ACT, after an ANU postgraduate student’s petition saw an accelerated process which fast tracked new laws with cross-party support in the Legislative Assembly.

Rhys Michie launched a petition in March which reached 520 signatures, compelling the ACT Legislative Assembly to discuss legislating against the distribution of so-called ‘revenge porn’. Michie’s petition attracted the support of the Greens and the Liberal Party.

Five months after the petition was launched – the fastest turnaround on this type of legislation in Australia – the Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a Liberal bill with Labor amendments which makes it an offence to distribute, or threaten to distribute, an intimate image with consent.

Offenders could face a three-year gaol term or a $45,000 fine in the broadly defined legislation which has been designed to capture changes in technology and all possible types of distribution.

The legislation also makes no distinction between distributing or threatening to distribute. A person can be charged for threatening to distribute an image even if there is no image.

A court can order the destruction of an image, and a recurring penalty will apply if a person does not destroy the image.

Michie said he was surprised by the bi- partisan support and willingness of different political parties to work together on this issue.

‘The government, opposition and ACT Greens all said that the consultation process had improved the quality of the law. They all agreed that our institutions worked well to collaborate in order to quickly pass this reform. Each party said this was a good law,’ Michie said.