Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Human Trafficking

7:56 pm

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

I speak tonight about alarming recent media reports on the surge in paedophile live streaming, also known as cybersex trafficking. In June last year the Senate passed the Passports Legislation Amendment (Overseas Travel by Child Sex Offenders) Bill 2017 with the support of the Nick Xenophon Team. The effect of this bill was to prevent convicted Australian child sex offenders who are on the sex offender registry from travelling overseas. This is to prevent them from sexually abusing vulnerable children in countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia, where the law enforcement framework is very much weaker and the activities of offenders are not monitored. This bill has proven very effective in its stated aims. However, the government's success in preventing registered sex offenders from travelling overseas to exploit children has had, very much, a sickening consequence. As reported by the International Justice Mission, a flood of paedophiles are now paying as little as $12 to watch a child be abused live via Skype. In many instances, this is also being facilitated by parents—$12 to watch a child being abused via Skype.

At the time of the bill's passage, former Senator Kakoschke-Moore foreshadowed this terrible unintended consequence and moved amendments to combat cybersex trafficking. The Senate did not support Skye's amendments in the circumstances where there was insufficient time to consider them after the government brought forward the bill. There has been enough delay in doing something about this. We all need to act now. I know Skye remains passionate about this issue. She travelled with the International Justice Mission last year at her own expense to see firsthand the incredibly powerful work the organisation does in rescuing children from sexual abuse. What she learned shocked her. She also learned that the demand for online sexual abuse is mainly from Western countries such as Australia. We need to take the responsibility for these evil people and do what we can do as legislators to stop them perpetrating abuse of vulnerable children, not just here but also overseas.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code does not adequately address the specific nature of cybersex trafficking, so we were happy to see the government make moves to do so last year. In September the government took up Skye's amendments to combat cybersex trafficking, along with other important measures to protect vulnerable children, with the introduction of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2017. That was over six months ago, and over nine months since the bill preventing Australian convicted child sex offenders from travelling. Let's bring this bill on—bring it on soon. Arguably, every other bill we are debating is not as important as this one. We need to act, and we need to stop delaying. The longer we wait, the more children are hurt.

The depraved acts being ordered by Australians are too appalling to describe. For the past three years the Australian Federal Police have identified the increase in the demand for and proliferation of overseas exploited children and child exploitation material as a significant challenge faced by law enforcement. A UN report from 2009, citing FBI statistics, stated that there were a quarter of a million paedophiles online at any point in time. That was nearly a decade ago. Imagine what that number is now. The same report estimated that the industry that produces child-abuse material generates between $3 billion and $20 billion per year.

The internet is creating even greater demands for new material of ever-greater levels of depravity. Those who pay to watch the sexual abuse of a child are every bit as complicit as those who facilitate it, and they must be brought to justice. The government must no longer delay in bringing the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill on for debate so that this parliament can work to protect vulnerable children.