House debates

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Statements by Members

Child Abuse

10:03 am

Photo of Vince ConnellyVince Connelly (Stirling, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A close friend and a former colleague of mine, Mark Maxim, called me this week. He's let me know that he's launching a GoFundMe page, and he shared with me, for the first time, that when he was 14, two adult men who were in charge of his care on a soccer camp sexually abused him. Mark hadn't shared this with anyone until just two years ago. Mark's goals, through his online campaign, are threefold: firstly, to demystify reporting around child sexual abuse; secondly, to improve understanding about these predators; and, thirdly, to remove one of the most powerful weapons from child molesters, which is their ability to socially and psychologically isolate victims from their support networks. Mark shared with me that, in his view, current sentencing arrangements are inadequate to serve as a deterrence, and Mark is right. We can do better, we must do better and, through new laws which are entering the Senate this week, we will do better. In the last financial year, just 28 per cent of those convicted of a child sex offence under Commonwealth legislation spent a single day in jail. Too often, child sex offenders spend insufficient time in prison to undergo treatment programs and to receive any rehabilitation before re-entering society. Upon release, many are not subject to parole or any other form of supervision and, therefore, pose an ongoing risk. Such outcomes offend community values and expectations of how such crimes should be dealt with. They compound the pain and trauma of victims and they endanger the safety of the Australian community.

As a father of three teenagers, I take the issues surrounding child sex offences incredibly seriously. The bill which will go before the Senate this week will introduce mandatory minimum sentences and toughen up sentences for those depraved individuals who prey on the most vulnerable for their own gratification and/or financial gain. We are doing this because sexual crimes against children destroy lives. The bill will vastly improve justice outcomes and community safety, including through mandatory minimum sentences for the most serious child sex offences, through increased maximum penalties, including up to life imprisonment, and by ensuring that all sex offenders upon release from custody are adequately supervised and subject to appropriate rehabilitative conditions. I encourage the Senate to support these new laws in full. I also encourage those who might be listening to engage with Mark's GoFundMe page and YouTube channel, which I will provide the link for when I share this speech on my social media.