Monday, 15 June 2020
Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019; In Committee
I can relate to Senator McKim's concerns about an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old. He might be 18 years and one day and he might get caught up. In his example, Senator McKim referred to the teenagers going to New Zealand but this is federal legislation we are talking about. There is state legislation for sexual crimes, but this is federal. So what we are discussing here really are the expectations of the public. People are absolutely fed up with seeing children abused, with paedophilia, with children being used in pornographic photos and with people going to other countries to abuse children. That is what this is all about. What Senator McKim is talking about is something that could likely happen but, then again, it is up to the federal Attorney-General to decide whether they will bring a prosecution case, and he will sign off on a case like that.
But what's happened, over a period of time, is that we've seen so many paedophiles and monsters in our society that abuse children, and 39 per cent of them have not spent one day in jail. The average jail term is about 1½ years. So we're not dealing with the public expectation. They fear for their children. That's why parents accompany their children everywhere. When I was growing up I could walk to school. There were no problems with that. These days parents are fearful of letting their children out of their sight. I think that we need to really look at this fairly. The issue of the 18-year-old and the 15-year-old was raised with me, and it did concern me. But, at the end of the day, we need to stop cases like that of the Australian I was informed about who paid $120,000 for someone else to go overseas on their behalf to take photos of people having sex with children and then send them back so that any sick mind can watch it on the internet.
If we introduce a four-year mandatory sentence, it may stop what is happening. There has to be a deterrent. There has to be punishment. For most of these people, as I've heard Senator McKim say, if there is no deterrent, do you think it will stop the crimes? It won't. I can understand your reasoning—put more police out there. But you've got these crafty criminals out there that will do whatever they can to get their pornographic photos. They're sick. They really are sick. And it's not about that; it's about becoming a society that intends to get tough with these people. Yes, these sentences have been increased, but, although the sentences were at 10 or 15 years, how often were those maximums imposed? 'Give me one case,' I asked, and they couldn't, because the judges are reluctant to impose those sentences. We've got to the point now where it's a slap over the wrist or they're let go. That's why we've got the 39 per cent of those who have committed sexual crimes against these kids and nothing has happened.
It's up to us in this chamber, as legislators, to put it before the courts and say, 'This is the minimum.' And if they do plead guilty, it won't be the four-year minimum; there will be 25 per cent taken off that, so it'll be three years. So I don't know where Senator McKim is getting the six years from. We have to look at the balance of it. The balance is: do we want to let those monsters who will continue to abuse children through our system, or will we rely on the right people, like the DPP and the Attorney-General, to look at it realistically if someone who's 18 sends a text to their 15-year-old, 16-year-old or 17-year-old girlfriend? That's what we have to consider here. It's very important.
The amendment has now been passed, and a review will be done. That was my suggestion to the government—that it have a review. I think that's a good place to be in. Then we can look at what has happened over the three or four years and see if it is working, because what we have now is not working. We have to send out a clear message to the people of this nation: if you want to commit these crimes against our children, you are going to be dealt with. So I have no problem with this, and I commend the government on bringing this legislation through. I know that any clear-minded person in this chamber with children of their own could not possibly oppose this legislation, and I think that we are doing a good thing for our society by passing this legislation as is.