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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 561

Senator REYNOLDS —My question is directed to the Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction. Can the minister advise the Senate what the Australian Customs Service is doing in consultation with the organisation End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism to warn travellers of the consequences of infringing the Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Amendment Bill?

Senator SCHACHT —First of all I want to acknowledge that Senator Reynolds has raised this issue with me on a number of occasions. She has been a major supporter on this issue to try to end this dreadful practice whereby, unfortunately, some Australians have been going to Asian countries to participate in what is known as child sex or child sex tourism.

Senator Vanstone —The opposition supported the bill.

Senator SCHACHT —I do acknowledge that the opposition also supported the bill. The organisation that Senator Reynolds mentioned in her question—End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism—approached me via Senator Reynolds some time ago to see whether we could, through Customs, publicise the fact that there is now a law with penalties for Australians participating in this dreadful practice and bring it to the attention of travellers.

  Although it is not normal for the Australian Customs Service to automatically accept a request to distribute leaflets on behalf of various interest groups, after consultation with the ACS, we have decided that in this case for a trial period of two months we will distribute a leaflet prepared by ECPAT warning Australian tourists of the new law, which was recently passed in this parliament, of the practice and the fact that it is one that we all, as members of a civilised community, abhor. We will also in our own information pamphlet, Customs information for travellers, draw attention to this issue and warn against child sex tourism. We believe that this is a responsible attitude to take via the service and, of course, it is in accordance with what the parliament has carried.

  Also the Australian Customs Service, through its own intelligence operation, will be doing all it can to target child prostitution. It has been doing so and it will continue to do so in the future. On behalf of the Australian Customs Service, I say to Senator Reynolds and the members of ECPAT that we welcome this opportunity to work with a community organisation, and to do everything possible to stop this abhorrent practice of a very small minority of Australians going to Asian countries to participate in child sex activities.