House debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Child Abuse

2:51 pm

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister please update the House on the Morrison government's Australian approach to child protection and how this approach is implementing world-leading child protection policies?

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

I thank the honourable member for Robertson for her question and her passion about making sure that we protect children. That is exactly what the Morrison government is about. We have worked continuously over a number of years to be the world leader in the fight against those perpetrators who are online, and also in the real world, who would seek to exploit young people.

The government is very proud of the achievement that we are seen as a world leader, particularly in relation to legislation. We've stopped people from getting Australian passports to travel overseas to countries like the Philippines—those who are recognised as sex offenders. We have worked to increase penalties for people who have been charged with the most serious offences. We have worked with our Five Eyes partners in the collection of intelligence and have been working with companies, including Facebook and others who have encrypted messaging apps, where there are paedophiles who use those apps to convey messages, videos et cetera, to make sure that we can deal with that reality as well.

We've invested some $70 million into the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. That centre is now recognised as a world leader. It's a collaboration between the states and territories but also with international partners—particularly in South-East Asia—to make sure that we can bring the world's best expertise together. The work that they do has resulted, just last year alone, in 191 people being charged with more than 1,800 federal child sex offences. The work that they do makes sure that we can identify perpetrators online, particularly those who operate on the dark web. The government has been working for a period of time on legislation which will help the Federal Police and help the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to bring together the expertise that we need to defeat these people online. They gather in the dark places—in the sewer of the internet, the dark web—and we know that they conduct themselves in a way that is offensive to any parent and to any decent and right-thinking Australian.

We will continue to invest in the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and in the Australian Federal Police for the work that they do, because we know that parents want a safe environment for their children to grow up in. We want to protect the innocence of children. We want children to be safe in the real world and we want them to be safe online. The same laws that apply in the real world should also apply online. It's why we need to continue to work with companies like Facebook, who, at the moment, are proposing a change in their encrypted messaging apps which would protect those paedophiles online. It's unconscionable, it cannot continue and we'll continue the pressure on those companies to do the right thing.