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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 6025


Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (09:58): Last night I admit that I was taken unawares because Senator Mason, uncharacteristically and shockingly, did not use his full 20 minutes. That is why I was caught on the hop. I broadly support this bill and I am glad that it goes some way to addressing a very serious issue in our society, a problem in which our children are particularly vulnerable—that is, cybercrime. For me and many fellow South Australians nothing brings home the seriousness of cybercrime more so than Carly Ryan's story. Devastatingly for Carly's family and friends, she is not with us today to tell it.

Carly Ryan lived with her mother, Sonya Ryan, in Stirling in the Adelaide Hills. In 2006, when Carly was just 14 years old, she started chatting online with someone she thought was a 20-year-old called Brandon Kane. Brandon was the boy of her dreams and the two formed a close online friendship. Her mother later said about her daughter, 'She was like a giddy teenager in love—really happy, really light and really excited.' What Carly did not and could not have realised is that behind the online conversation with Brandon was not a 20-year-old musician at all. Brandon Kane did not exist. Instead she had unknowingly developed a relationship with Garry Francis Newman, a 47-year-old man who lived with his mother. The divorced father of three had 200 fake identities, but it was that of Brandon Kane that he used to lure young Carly. Police would later to discover child pornography on Newman's hard drive, and it was also revealed that he had pursued two other 14-year-olds—one in the United States and one in Singapore.

Carly invited her new beau, Brandon, to her 15th birthday party. The so-called Brandon told Carly that he would be overseas and could not make it but that his adopted father, Shane, would go in his place. Shane and Carly began chatting online and the teenager convinced her mum that it would be okay for Shane to come along to her birthday party. Newman turned up to the party as Shane. When Ms Ryan learned he and Carly had become close, she warned him to stay away from her daughter. Newman became enraged and on 19 February 2007 he convinced Carly to go with him to Victor Harbor to meet her beloved Brandon. The next morning passers-by discovered Carly's body bashed and drowned at Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliot. She was just 15. A jury found Newman guilty of murder on 31 March 2010. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 29 years.

Having this predator behind bars is one thing, but we need to look at other ways we can protect young people like Carly so no child ever suffers the same fate. Carly's mother, Sonya, has set up the Carly Ryan Foundation to promote internet safety and support victims of cybercrime. Ms Ryan's bravery through her grief and her willingness to help others is incredible. We the people in this chamber also have the power to make a difference. We need to consider making it illegal for adults to misrepresent their age to minors online for the purpose of grooming and we need to support Ms Ryan in her push for more education in schools about cybersafety.

The bottom line is that we cannot underestimate the seriousness of cybercrime, and that is why, with some amendments, I broadly support this bill. We need to ensure that this bill is consistent with the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime so that we can become a signatory to the international treaty. That is the basis of this bill. I note the recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety, which was chaired by Senator Catryna Bilyk. The committee made a number of sound recommendations which balance the importance of being compliant with the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime with the need to maintain our own safeguards on privacy here in Australia.

I am also broadly supportive of the Greens amendments which seek to tighten the legislation in terms of Australia's privacy interests. Online is a new frontier not just in terms of the way we communicate and the way we go about our day-to-day business but also, sadly, in terms of crime. We need to make sure that it is appropriately policed and I think a legitimate concern that needs to be raised in the committee stage is: how will this bill be enforced and how difficult will it be to launch a successful prosecution in matters such as this?

Amending legislation to ensure we comply with the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime is just one important step in ensuring we are doing all we can to fight cybercrime. As always, the devil is in the detail, and that is why I think the committee stage of this bill is very important to ensure that this bill will do what it is intended to do and do it in a way that is effective. That is why I was disappointed when the parliament took the view not to support the bill I introduced some time ago, inspired by Sonya Ryan's work in relation to her late daughter Carly Ryan, that it should be made an offence to misrepresent your age to a minor. On the face of it that should be prima facie an offence. It does not have to carry a severe penalty in itself, but it needs to be an offence that will make a difference, because at the moment you need to show an intent or a prurient purpose if you misrepresent your age to a minor. But you need to ask the question: why would an adult misrepresent their age to a 14-year-old? Unless there is a good excuse, that in itself ought to be an offence. That is something that I am concerned about that this bill does not deal with. But I note that there does not appear to be the political will to deal with this particular aspect of it. Notwithstanding that, this bill at least is making some genuine attempt to deal with this very serious issue and I hope that, with amendments, this bill will be strengthened and ultimately be effective in dealing with cybercrime.