Minister Rishworth interviewed on Radio National Breakfast.


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Have you used a dating app? While it's a far cry from the organic encounters or blind dates of the past, many Australians have logged online to find connections. But in shifting the nature of the way we try to form relationships, apps have also exposed their users to new dangers. Later today, the Government will host a roundtable in the hope of reducing misuse and abusive behaviour. The Minister for Social Services is Amanda Rishworth. She'll be attending the meeting today and she's our guest this morning. Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.


PATRICIA KARVELAS: You'll be sitting opposite representatives from the likes of Tinder, Grindr, Bumble – they're just some of the dating apps. What are your biggest concerns with these apps going into this roundtable?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that, as you highlighted, the increasing use of these apps. More and more Australians are using them and what we also know is that this presents a situation where technological facilitated violence can occur. So they can occur online where people get unwanted pictures, abuse, harassment or it can translate from meeting online to actual physical abuse in person. My concern is that there isn't enough protections put in place in the design of the apps and the technology companies that do keep people safe. So I think there is a really important conversation about how we can do better in keeping people using these apps safe online.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: A survey by the Australian Criminology Institute found over the past five years three quarters of respondents were the victims of sexual violence by someone they'd communicated with on a dating app or website. So what will you be doing to make these companies clean up their services? What tangible changes will come out of these meetings?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think having this meeting is a really important first step. There's been big interest from technological companies to actually address this issue. But what I would like to see is some of the ethos of our National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children embedded into the design of some of these apps. And I'll give you an example. A lot of the conversation has been putting the responsibility onto the person that's experiencing the harassment rather than actually looking at what can we embed in these apps to prevent or intervene early. Can we put, for example, education about respectful relationships on the platforms? Can we use the technology to look at patterns of behaviour and intervene early? I think there is a conversation to be had. The other area I really want to have a conversation about is making sure that any responses are informed by those that have experienced harassment and violence. For example, a complaints process, that many of these organisations have, needs to be trauma informed and it needs to have consulted with victims survivors. So they are some of the issues that exist and things that we've identified in our National Plan that I would like to see translated into these dating apps and online platforms.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: What about the perpetrators behind this abuse? How can you stop this behaviour or deal with them? How can there be consequences?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There needs to be consequences. And that's one of the areas I'm really keen to explore today, because a lot of the responses put the onus on the user that could experience the harassment and violence. So I'm very keen to look at how we can use technology, how we can embed these responses within the apps to hold perpetrators to account. One of the examples has been Bumble. I am aware they automatically block images that are explicit, they've got a technology response that does that. But how do we make sure that we do intervene? And those that are doing that get the right information that this is just not acceptable. So I think these are some of the things we do need to explore today.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant says more responsibility needs to be put on these companies to increase safety for users. So the question is, you've talked a lot in this interview about conversation and this is a conversation starter, but does law reform loom? Are you looking at actually changing laws to force these companies to take some stronger action?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Minister Rowland who also has responsibility in this space will be discussing that today. It's a good start that we are seeing companies want to do more in this space and this is part of the conversation we'll have today. But we do also need to see action so that's something we will be talking with companies today about. In terms of reform online, Minister Rowland will be working that through. But I would say that our National Plan talks about an obligation on the whole of community and there's been a lot of reform in workplaces. We need to make sure that our response online keeps up with the growing use and growing risk that is existing there.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just turning to another issue, big announcement out of Alice Springs last night. New restrictions will be put on alcohol in response to increased crime and alcohol fuelled violence. But in October last year, your government changed the governance of the cashless debit cards. Did you misjudge the impact of making them voluntary?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Not at all and I think there's a misconception here. Firstly, I would say that when it comes to income management, the rules and the laws applying to the Northern Territory have not changed. So those that are putting out there that somehow the abolishment of the cashless debit card, which was applied in other communities, and not a blanket, response, was in other communities, not in the Northern Territory. When it comes to income management in the Northern Territory the laws haven't changed. What we have committed to do is consult in a lot of detail with communities about what the future of income management looks like in the Northern Territory. So for those that have been arguing that, it is really disingenuous because nothing has changed in the Northern Territory.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But in the Northern Territory, what's changed is that we've seen a huge spike in violence, against women, alcohol fuelled violence. What are you looking at in your portfolio to try and turn this situation around?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we need to do is actually talk with communities about what they need and what support will actually improve things on the ground going forward. The Prime Minister has, as you've mentioned, announced, along with the Northern Territory, not only alcohol bans but also a regional coordinator and safe places for young people. So there is a range of responses that we need to take. Of course, in my portfolio we've been working with the Northern Territory Government about providing more funding for family and domestic violence services right across the Northern Territory and I'll continue in that space to work with the Northern Territory Government. We can't do this in isolation. We need to work with communities, we need to work with the Northern Territory Government. That's exactly what the Prime Minister's been doing and that's what I’ll be doing going forward.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Thanks for your time this morning Minister.