Australian Senate Debates Strengthening Child Sexual Abuse Laws

While Senate debates the proposed bill, multiple child sexual abuse offenders are brought to justice
By Sophia Jiang
Sophia Jiang
Sophia Jiang
June 15, 2020Updated: June 17, 2020

The Australian Senate resumed debate on June 11 on the Coalition government’s landmark bill to amend laws relating to sexual crimes against children. Attorney-General Christian Porter has called for the Labor Party to change its stance and support the tough new reforms.

The bill proposes a swathe of reforms intended to fix loopholes in the law that, for example, saw 28 percent of convicted federal child sex offenders spend only one day in jail in the 2018-19 financial year—a figure that jumped to 39 percent this last year.

“Sexual crimes against children destroy lives,” Porter said in a statement on June 11.

“The depraved individuals who prey on these most vulnerable members of our community for their own sexual gratification or financial gain, are too often the subject of short jail terms and are released into the community without any supervision,” said Porter, referring to an average 18-month jail sentence under the current law.

In the statement, Porter noted that this fell short of community expectations on penalties for such crimes.

The attorney-general said that as well as introducing mandatory minimum sentences, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019 includes a new maximum life penalty for the most serious Commonwealth offences and a presumption against bail to help keep offenders in custody while they face trial.

“To date, Labor has not supported these initiatives,” said Porter in the statement.

Porter noted that Labor once previously supported legislation introducing mandatory sentences for people smugglers “during the failed Labor-Greens alliance government” in 2010, and expressed his hope that cracking down on child sex offenders “should now also warrant Labor’s support.”

Greens Party Candidate Charged with Child Sex Offences

An Australian Greens Party candidate, 57-year-old Sydney man Jonathan Doig, faced court on June 10 and was granted bail, for allegedly paying to direct and view the live abuse of a child in the Philippines online.

According to an Australian Federal Police (AFP) press release on June 10, the offender was uncovered by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre that provided intelligence to the AFP about the details of a payment from a New South Wales resident to a known child exploitation facilitator in the Phillippines.

During a search of the man’s home police seized a number of electronic devices including a mobile phone, two laptops, and a hard drive for forensic examination.

Tasmanian Jailed for Less Than 2 Years for Child Abuse and Bestiality Material

A 20-year-old Tasmanian man was jailed on June 15 after he repeatedly obtained, accessed, and transmitted child abuse material and bestiality material, according to the AFP.

The man was sentenced by the Hobart Supreme Court to 20 months imprisonment—2 months longer than the average “short jail term” that the proposed bill aims to correct. His imprisonment comes with a non-parole period of 10 months.

The Tasmanian Joint Anti-Child Abuse Exploitation Team arrested and charged the man on Dec. 19, 2019, following a 10-month investigation.

Former Teacher Released on Bail After Pleading Guilty

A 31-year-old Queensland man and former teacher pleaded guilty on June 12 to a number of child sexual abuse offences following an investigation by the AFP.

It was alleged the man had been sending indecent images and videos to female students under the age of 16 in the UK, as well as engaging with them in sexualised chat. The two students made formal complaints to UK authorities, who reached out to Australian authorities for assistance.

A search warrant was executed on Jan. 29, 2019, with the assistance of NSW police child exploitation unit and AFP. Authorities seized a number of electronic devices from the man’s Bella Vista home in Sydney.

He was later released on strict bail and suspended from the NSW Department of Education.

The AFP laid additional charges on the man following a review of all evidence. He pleaded guilty to three charges. The matter is adjourned until Aug. 18, 2020.

Sydney Man Charged for Possession of Extreme Child Abuse Material

A 68-year-old Lakemba man faced court on June 12 over allegations he transmitted the most serious category of child abuse material online, the AFP announced in a media release.

The AFP investigation was launched following a report from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States. The report alleged an Australian internet user had uploaded abuse images involving children, categorised as involving torture and sexual abuse.

Authorities searched the man’s property on June 11 and seized a number of devices, which they allege contained child abuse material. It will be alleged the man obtained the child abuse material from the dark web.

AFP Commander ACCCE and Child Protection Operations Jamie Strauss said: “In homes across Sydney, we unfortunately have people who are seeking to view the most depraved acts of abuse committed against children.”

“We will not stop in our pursuit to bring this type of offending from the anonymity of the online world and before the courts.”

Federal Government ‘Determined’ to Reform the Law to Protect Children

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton spoke about the proposed bill in Parliament on June 10, saying: “The government’s been determined for a long time under the Prime Minister’s leadership to make sure that we can reform the laws wherever they’re needed so that our policing agencies can protect children.”

He said the Australian Federal Police and AUSTRAC were detecting “more and more people” using the dark web and encrypted devices who “deserve to be caught” and “punished.”

While admitting the means of committing the crimes are sophisticated, Dutton said police were now able to “understand what it is going on” and his department would continue to work with the policing agencies to combat child abuse.

“I am determined to make sure we can protect Australian children, and I know we’re supported in that task by all Australians,” said Dutton.

Labor Votes Against the Bill then Backtracks

Labor, the Greens, Centre Alliance, and independent Senator Jackie Lambie opposed minimum sentences using what MPs called a “procedural trick.”

Their decision prompted swift criticism from Senator Mathias Cormann, who said on Tuesday: “The legislation that we’ve put forward, was entirely appropriate – about 39 percent of child sex offenders don’t do any time in jail.”

Following the decision, the prime minister told Parliament his government would not negotiate on laws meant to protect children, saying they would send the bill back to the Senate “time and time again.”

“We are proud—we stand up for kids, especially the most vulnerable and defenceless,” Morrison said.

Labor later backtracked and indicated it would not oppose the amendments when the bill makes its way back to the Senate.

Epoch Times reporter Caden Pearson contributed to this article.