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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4396


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (18:21): I would like to thank all senators for their contribution to this debate on this bill, which will combat the sexual exploitation of vulnerable children overseas by Australian child sex offenders. In particular I would like to commend Senator Hinch for his dedicated contribution to this debate over many years. I also thank the senators from the Nick Xenophon Team for their proposed amendments to the bill. We appreciate your shared concerns in ensuring that vulnerable children are protected from the dangers posed by child sex offenders. However, the government would like to consider those proposed amendments in further detail to ensure that they function with the existing provisions. We will progress this as part of the package of child sex offender reforms being progressed for the spring sittings.

This bill reflects the seriousness with which the government is addressing child sex tourism. These tough new measures send a strong message to child sex offenders that they cannot use overseas travel to sexually exploit and abuse children. Such abhorrent crimes will not be tolerated. The risk posed to vulnerable children overseas by Australian child sex offenders is utterly and completely unacceptable. There is currently no effective mechanism to stop Australian child sex offenders from travelling overseas to countries with weaker law enforcement frameworks where their activities are not monitored.

The measures are intended to capture all Australian registered child sex offenders with current reporting obligations. When an offender's reporting obligations end, they can apply for a passport as usual. This is necessary and appropriate because registered child sex offenders are subject to reporting obligations in Australia specifically because of their ongoing risk to children.

For these measures to be effective in stopping child sex offenders from travelling overseas to commit horrific acts against children, it is essential that passport decisions are mandatory and not subject to merits review following a competent authority request for passport denial. Unless these tough new laws are introduced, Australian child sex offenders will continue to travel overseas and be in a position to commit those offences. These laws will make Australia world leader in protecting vulnerable children from child sex tourism, and I urge senators to support this legislation as a matter of urgency.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.