House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Questions without Notice

Child Abuse

2:46 pm

Photo of Bridget ArcherBridget Archer (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister update the House on recent steps the Morrison government has taken in the fight to protect Australian children from exploitation and abuse? How will this support the efforts of law enforcement authorities? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for her question and, in doing so, I acknowledge that she is a survivor of child sexual abuse and an advocate on behalf of other people, other adults who faced this terrible injustice as a child. She's an incredibly brave woman, and I pay tribute to Bridget.

On behalf of all victims of child abuse and, in fact, all those investigators who do that very difficult job of working in this area of police investigation, the government has, for the last three years, fought to get legislation through the Senate to make sure that we could have meaningful jail terms for people who had committed these heinous crimes against children. We have fought tooth and nail against the Labor Party and the Greens, but eventually we have got this legislation in place, which will make a big difference to the victims and to the police investigators. It will give more meaning to the efforts and the sacrifice that those police investigators make. The work that they do with families and survivors is quite remarkable and is a great tribute to their professionalism.

We recognise that the numbers are quite significant—unbelievably significant—and that this is a very difficult topic to talk about as a country, but, as I've said to the House before, it's a topic that we must discuss. We can't allow it not to be aired in this parliament or in lounge rooms across the country, because parents need to speak to their children. We need to have a greater awareness and children need to have a greater ability to speak up to their parents or to a person of responsibility in their community.

I want to give you one example. In 2012, the Crown had a case against an individual named Van Der Zyden. This offender sexually abused three young boys aged between 11 and 13. He was convicted of eight counts of sexual conduct involving a child under 16 and seven counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 16. He was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment, with a nonparole period, unbelievably, of just 21 months. The Attorney-General and I, along with the Prime Minister and others, have been absolutely determined to introduce this law, and I thank all of my colleagues for their support, because, in this case, it would have meant that the offender would have been subject to a mandatory minimum penalty of six years imprisonment and up to a maximum of 25 years for each incident of sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia.

We know that many of these children don't recover—that the mental health issues continue throughout their life. That is why we do need to put in place a deterrent. It's why the government was absolutely determined to act on behalf of these children and also the investigators. I commend the Prime Minister and everybody involved in our leadership team for making sure that this became a reality.