Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Questions without Notice
Child Sexual Abuse
My question is to Minister Fifield, representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Dutton. As everyone in this chamber knows, I've been calling for a national public child sex offender register for about 20 years. It was the passionate issue that got me into politics. I took it to the 2016 federal election. I know it resonates passionately with Australian parents.
Megan's Law has been in place in the US since 1996. I visited her mother, Maureen, in her home in Hamilton, New Jersey. I will be moving a motion this afternoon calling for the establishment of a national public child sex offender registration scheme, which I believe is a crucial and vital step in our fight against child sexual abuse in Australia, and it is a step towards publicly registering all sex offenders. My question: will the government support me?
Thank you, Senator Hinch, for the question. The government is absolutely committed to the protection of all Australians from the horrors of sexual assault and abuse. The violent and repulsive abuse of children in particular is, sadly, becoming more prevalent and has been further compounded by the evolution of technology. It's estimated that, every seven minutes, a webpage shows a child being sexually assaulted.
That's why the government has—I should note—provided $68.6 million in the 2018-19 budget to create the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. What this seeks to do is bring together the expertise of the AFP, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC, the office of the cybercoordinator, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Institute of Criminology and other areas of the Department of Home Affairs so that we have that capacity focused.
The coalition government is also proud to have passed Carly's Law, which makes it a crime for an adult to use a carriage service to commit an act in preparation or planning to cause harm to or engage in or procure sexual activity with a minor. Further, in a world first, the government has banned registered sex offenders from travelling overseas or holding an Australian passport—something Senator Hinch has been a strong advocate for. But we must do more. Let me assure Senator Hinch that the government is committed to further strengthening measures to protect children from known sex offenders, including considering the merits of a publicly-accessible national child sex offender registration scheme.
. Lenient jail sentences all over this country do not at all meet acceptable community standards, especially when it comes to perpetrators of heinous sexual offences. Will your government do what it can, in concert with state attorneys-general, to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for such crimes?
Through the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 201 currently before the Senate, the government's seeking to introduce new laws that represent the biggest crackdown on paedophiles in a generation. Current sentencing practices result in manifestly inadequate sentences being handed down to Commonwealth child sex offenders. Since 2012, only around 59 per cent of convicted offenders received a term of imprisonment and, for those that did, the most common period of imprisonment was just six months. To address this, the proposed new laws will see child sex offenders spending longer in jail, being less likely to be granted bail and parole, and they will be more closely supervised following their release, and the most serious Commonwealth sex offenders and repeat offenders will face mandatory minimum sentences. The mandatory minimum sentencing scheme in the bill includes mechanisms for courts to retain appropriate discretion in determining the most suitable sentences for each individual case.