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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1532


Senator HINCH (Victoria) (19:25): Members of the chamber are aware of my passionate support for a national public register of convicted sex offenders. It was one of the main policies of the Justice Party in the July federal election. We have more than 160,000 signatures on our petition, and I hope to garner Senate support for a committee of inquiry.

Such a register would make it easier for authorities, businesses and sporting organisations to ensure that convicted paedophiles are not working with children and to make sure that child molesters do not get blue cards—do not get working with children permits. In the meantime, I have discovered terrible discrepancies in the granting of permits across the country—dangerous flaws in the blue card system in most states. Did you know that in Queensland and Victoria you can start working with vulnerable children the minute you post off an application for a working with children permit even if it takes four to six weeks for your application to be processed. Once your application has been sent off and you have your postal receipt, that is it. You are in.

One constituent wrote to me and said: 'I went through the necessary process and firstly was astounded when I was told that, so long as the application has been sent away, I can now legally work with children. Are you for real? So I could be a sex offender and, while my application is being processed and background checks are being made, I could be around kids.'

That could not be true, right? Well, we checked with the Queensland government and, according to their website, paid employees who require a blue card or exemption card can commence regulated child related work once they have lodged an application with Blue Card Services and while their application is being processed.

I was telling this to a lawyer friend of mine in Melbourne. It is no different in my own state of Victoria. My lawyer friend has just taken up an honorary position with the Variety Club, the best children's charity in the world. He applied for a police check and a working with children permit and was told he could start as soon as he produced his post office receipt showing his application had been sent off. We checked the Victorian government's website for its official policy. And it says most people can work with children while their application is processed. It only states that a person must not work if they have previously been charged, convicted or found guilty of a serious sexual, violent or drug offence.

This is madness. This is Noddyland. You reckon a convicted sex offender is going to tell you the truth? To me, this is a bit like the old McDonald's job application form which asked if you had a criminal history or not. You simply said no and you were in—until we got that one changed last month.

In Western Australia, according to that government's official working with children website, your application receipt is proof that you have a pending application and they will let you start work or continue your child related work. It's a little bit different and a bit better in the Northern Territory. It is not automatic that you can work with children once the application is in. The employer must apply on the applicant's behalf for a short-term exemption which is processed by SAFE NT.

It astounds me that anybody could be permitted to work with children for an hour, for a day, for even one moment without first having a full working with children check. When a colleague worked for the Department of Justice and Regulation in Victoria, he was unable to even start until all criminal background checks were completed, and he was not even working with kids.

Finally, I will give you another shocking example which shows why our national public register is vital. I am indebted to FACAA for bringing this up. They are the children's support group Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia. Let me introduce you to a scumbag named Mick Aboud, a child rapist. Somehow he managed to hold a working with children permit at a surf club in Queensland even though he had been charged and convicted of sex offences against kids in New South Wales. When Aboud was being charged and convicted in NSW, over the border in Queensland at the Tugun Surf Life Saving Club he was in charge of kids lifesaving activities. He was even elected to the surf club committee after the charges were laid. He was sentenced to seven years jail recently, but that was the first the surf club had ever heard about the charges.

This is a man who supervised kids at a surf club, prowled the internet for vulnerable young girls, used the White Pages to find home numbers and threatened to tell the kids' parents about their sexualised conversations if they did not provide him with 'sexy' and 'naughty' photos. He called one young victim—excuse me—a cunt and a whore when she threatened to go to police. He sent another girl a photo of his penis. One victim was so distraught that she threatened self-harm if he did not stop. And this man was still supervising young girls at a surf club in Queensland, just across the border.

FACAA is calling for a national supervision committee on blue card registrations. While we have to wait for that national register, it is a good idea. As I used to say on radio: 'Who's looking after the children?'