Thursday, 12 November 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Consideration in Detail
My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. But, before I get to the question, I want to provide the House with a little bit of context first. As I've spoken about before, I'm a dad of two wonderful young children, and, like all parents, there is nothing that worries me more every single day than keeping my kids safe and the kids of Australia safe. For many of us, as a prosperous and secure nation, what we want is a safe future for our kids—and, for many of us, it has brought us to this place. But, unfortunately, the reality of the world we are living in is that there are lurking threats that are prevalent that we must always be guarding against—threats that are of the most vile and sickening nature that we can imagine.
Criminals are using technological advances to collaborate in order to commit these kinds of child sexual offences and then to circulate child abuse material. An increase in criminals' online capability and the advances, such as end-to-end encryption, have seen the rise of these types of crime, and it's becoming a lot harder for our experts in our law enforcement agencies to find. I really want to commend the Minister for Home Affairs for recently calling out some of these technology companies for simply not doing enough to take responsibility for the technology that they have created that is thereby facilitating this kind of horrific act. They're also, frankly, using the cover of COVID. Using a global pandemic in such a way to hide their crimes and to increase their crimes is sickening to all Australians. I can think of nothing more abhorrent than these acts, and nothing should be more important to the parliament, frankly, than stopping these predators in their tracks. I particularly commend this government for the efforts that it has made to find these criminals, to stop them from reoffending, to remove these children from harm and exploitation and to prevent further offences.
Recently, I visited the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, known as ACCCE. The centre was put together and pioneered by the Morrison government, under the stewardship of the Minister for Home Affairs. The centre is a hub with one important goal, and that is to tackle the online exploitation of children, and the organisations that the ACCCE brings together are world-leading in achieving this goal. Obviously, I would prefer that the risk simply didn't exist, but the reality of our world is that it does—and, if it does, then we must have the most up-to-date and best resources for our crime-fighting agencies in order to bring them to justice. So I'm delighted that the ACCCE is located in my home of Brisbane and brings together resources from a number of government agencies, law enforcement agencies and non-government organisations.
The ACCCE allows for a centralised hub where specialists have the tools and capabilities they need in order to achieve their mission. And their mission is very simple, and one that we all embrace and support them in every single day, and that is children free from any exploitation both online and in the real world. Frankly, I have never met a group of people like those that I met at the ACCCE, who are so steadfastly focused on their goal at hand. Every individual that I met is focused and motivated by the importance of their role to Australian families and to the Australian community. They are truly remarkable individuals, and I think we should take absolutely every opportunity at hand to thank them for the incredible work that they do. We can only imagine what is involved in identifying these threats, working through thousands upon thousands of reports and sifting through some of the most truly horrendous images that would ever confront anyone—and many of them do it as parents themselves. They show a resolve which is uplifting, which is to be commended—a resolve that we can all aspire to in this House—to go about their job in a way that protects Australia's kids.
I am proud to stand as part of this government, who have committed over $68 million over four years to the establishment and continuation of the ACCCE. Already the unit has seen significant results. Last financial year, 134 children were removed from harm thanks to the partnerships at the ACCCE and those dedicated police officers. That is 134 children who are no longer in harm's way because of the incredible work done by these officers. To the Minister for Home Affairs, my question is simple: will he further outline how the Morrison government is keeping Australian kids safe from these vile acts of child exploitation both online and in the real world and how they are actively being removed from harm because of the work of the officers at the ACCCE and because of the funding provided by the Morrison government?