House debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


Child Sexual Abuse

12:44 pm

Photo of Jason WoodJason Wood (La Trobe, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Community Safety, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm going back a long time, to when I was a detective at the Boronia criminal investigations branch, but I will never forget every Monday morning. When you came in, you would speak to the weekend crew to see what jobs they'd had, and every single Monday morning, tragically and sadly, there'd been a sleepover or an event where a young child had been sexually abused. It was very sad, obviously, for investigators, but you cannot ever imagine what the poor victims and their families had been through.

Back in 2019, the home affairs minister at the time—and a former police officer too—and now Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, raised the issue of the need to have a national child sex offender register. Subsequently, in my role as assistant minister for community safety, I took over the fight to ensure we could do everything possible to have measures in place to protect our most valuable asset—our children. There's always been this view—even in law enforcement—when this has been raised, that it's mainly strangers who commit these abhorrent crimes. I knew better, from my days as a detective. There's also been a view that we don't want vigilante groups going after child sex offenders, which, obviously, is fair and reasonable.

It was at one of the police and emergency management meetings I went to with police ministers and attorney-generals where we got agreement to base it on evidence. If there was evidence there, the various states and territories would look at this, and, hopefully, then support the need for a national child sex offender register. So I was able to commission a great group of men and women to conduct research into repeat child sex offenders, and this was led by Dr Rick Brown and Anthony Morgan, research manager and the author of the report.

I very much thank the Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and WA governments, who provided that data. Sadly, Canberra's data was so low it couldn't even be used. South Australia couldn't provide data at all. It was the same with the Northern Territory and Tasmania. The data looked at offences committed by a child sex offender—and alleged offences were included—between 2005 and 2014, followed by a subsequent offence between 2015 and 2019. Over that four-year period, there were 1,321 alleged child sex offenders who committed a repeat offence, against another victim, and there were 1,780 victims abused, aged 15 years and younger.

There has always been a view that these offences occur at parks et cetera. Sixty-six to 82 per cent of these 1,780 offences occurred in residential locations. Fifty-one to 61 per cent of these offences involved a family member or a person known to the victim. It could be, as I said, a sleepover; it could be someone who's visited. The rates of reoffending were seven per cent or more, up to 11 per cent, and the offences were committed over a 10-year period.

Lastly, the offenders nearly always knew their victims, and the average age and sex of the victims was an 11-year-old girl. I'm calling on the Albanese government—I know that every member in this place would hate to see children being abused. But, sadly, we cannot provide information to, say, a mother in a relationship with a new partner—allowing that new person to get into their home and have access to their children. That's precisely—when I was talking to Dr Rick Brown—what these offenders are doing. They're making the most of opportunities; they're being predators.

What we need now is the leadership to go and look at a program, or look at what they do in the UK—it's based on Sarah's Law—where an application is made, and the police undertake an interview with the person making the application to determine what information should be provided. It's all done to protect children. I strongly urge this new government to support this proposal.