Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


Passports Legislation Amendment (Overseas Travel by Child Sex Offenders) Bill 2017; Second Reading

1:41 pm

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | Hansard source

The opposition will be supporting the Passports Legislation Amendment (Overseas Travel by Child Sex Offenders) Bill 2017. This bill is intended to prevent Australians, including dual nationals, listed on a state or territory child sex offender register with reporting obligations from travelling overseas to sexually exploit or sexually abuse vulnerable children in overseas countries where the law enforcement framework is weaker and their activities are not effectively monitored. It goes further than the existing provisions, which currently provide for a child sex offender's passport to be refused, cancelled or surrendered on the basis of a competent authority's assessment of the offender's likelihood to cause harm.

The government argues that the existing process is impractical, with the states and territories not utilising it. Labor strongly agrees that the principle expressed in the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, that countries must protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. In our platform, Labor commits to act against the exploitation, including sexual exploitation, of children either in Australia or overseas. Labor also has a platform commitment to support international campaigns to end sexual exploitation of children, including sex tourism and trafficking.

The opposition recognises that this bill provides a means to sharply reduce the opportunity for reportable offenders to engage in sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children overseas. Whilst this bill will provide increased power to the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the minister's delegate, this is only to be available following a request by a competent authority, such as a court, sex offender registry or the police. Currently there are 20,000 registered child sex offenders and an additional 2,500 offenders are added to these registers each year.

The bill also insert a new offence into the Criminal Code which will apply to an Australian registered child sex offender with reporting obligations who travels overseas without prior permission from the relevant competent authority. Whilst these are strong restrictions, the amendments contained in this bill will not amount to a permanent travel ban for persons who are listed on the register. Child sex offenders who are listed on a register will only be subject to passport restrictions for the period that they are subject to reporting obligations under the register. The reportable offender may also seek permission from the relevant competent authority to travel overseas.

We all agree that sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a scourge at home and abroad. Labor supports legislative action that aims to limit the capacity of registered child sex offenders to travel overseas, where reporting and investigative practices are often not as robust as they are here in Australia.


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