Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020


Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019; Consideration of House of Representatives Message

3:15 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | Hansard source

As I outlined in my second reading speech in the original debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019, there is a lot that this bill gets right and Labor will always work with MPs and senators from all sides of politics to strengthen our laws to protect our children. Nothing should get in the way of this objective. There is nothing more sickening than child sexual abuse. Children are the most precious and vulnerable members of our community, and Labor will always support strong and effective laws to protect children from abuse and to punish their abusers.

From the very beginning, Labor have signalled our strong support for the key measures in this bill, including: significant increases to maximum penalties; the introduction of a presumption against bail for serious Commonwealth child sex offences; the replacement of the existing definition of 'child pornography material' with a broader definition of 'child abuse material' in various acts; and the introduction of new grooming offences. Given our support for those measures, Labor also made it clear that we would support this bill whether our amendments succeeded or failed. That is what Labor did in the Senate last night: Labor supported the bill. For that reason, while we maintain our opposition to mandatory sentencing—because it doesn't work and makes it harder to catch, prosecute and convict criminals—we will not insist on our amendments. Protecting the welfare of children will always be Labor's overriding priority and concern.

Given some of the commentary over the last 12 hours, I'd like to conclude by reading a statement from Sonya Ryan, the founder and CEO of the Carly Ryan Foundation. This statement was issued this morning, and it is something that all of us in this place and in the other place should reflect on carefully. The statement reads as follows:

"This bill will genuinely help so many people and so many victims of crime.

"There is no question that we want child sex offenders put away for a long time and off the streets, this is an absolute given. As a mother who has lost a child through the actions of a heinous child sex offender, I implore all sides of government work together, compromise and pass this bill as soon as possible with or without mandatory sentencing."

Victims of crime, innocent children, the Australian community are looking for leaders who will stand up for those who cannot defend themselves, who put political battles aside for the greater good of humanity, who are able to push their egos aside and do what's right.

As we see it there are two practical options;

1. Pass this legislation with mandatory—a review in three years.

2. Pass this legislation without mandatory—work with the judiciary to increase sentencing overall and make sure adequate sentences are being applied—a review in three years.

Either way our children win. This is a huge step in the fight against those who wish to harm families.

On that basis, I commend the bill to the Senate.


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