Purpose of the Bill
On 4 February 2010, the Senate referred the Crimes Legislation Amendment
(Sexual Offences Against Children) Bill 2010 (the Bill) for inquiry and report
by 15 March 2010. On 15 March 2010, the Senate agreed to extend the
reporting date to 18 March 2010.
The Bill amends the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002, the Crimes
Act 1914, the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Surveillance Devices
Act 2004 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979
to ensure there is in place a comprehensive regime of sexual offences against
children, where those offences occur across or outside Australian jurisdictions
(such as over the Internet or overseas).
In summary, the Bill seeks to:
- strengthen the existing child sex tourism regime;
- introduce new offences relating to child pornography, child abuse
material and use of a postal service for child sex-related activity;
- enhance the coverage of offences relating to use of a carriage
service for sexual activity with a child, child pornography or child abuse
make minor amendments relating to existing and relevant law
enforcement powers; and
introduce a new forfeiture scheme relating to child pornography
and child abuse material.
The explanatory memorandum (EM) to the Bill notes that the sexual
exploitation of children is a devastating and widespread form of criminal
activity. In the second reading speech to the Bill, the Minister for Home
Affairs, the Hon. Brendan O'Connor MP, emphasised the government's commitment
to taking all necessary action to prevent harm to children from sexual
exploitation. The Minister noted that Australia has obligations at both the
national and international level to protect children from sexual exploitation
and child abuse, arising from Australia having ratified the (1989) Convention
on the Rights of the Child in 1990.
In Australia, responsibility for combating child sexual exploitation is
shared between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. While the states
and territories are responsible for child sex-related offences occurring
domestically within their respective jurisdictions, the Commonwealth has
responsibility for child sex-related offences occurring across or outside
Australian jurisdictions (for example, where the Internet is involved or the
offence is committed overseas). This sharing of responsibilities reflects the
division powers between the Commonwealth and the states under section 51 of the
The Minister's second reading speech states that consultation over the
proposed reforms to the sexual offences against children regime has been
undertaken. This process 'indicated strong support' for the measures in the Bill,
including from state and territory governments, child safety commissioners, and
child protection organisations such as Child Wise and Save the Children.
These groups reportedly commented that the changes would 'definitely strengthen
Australia's capacity to prosecute would-be child sex offenders' and would see Australia
'again be the leaders in international best practice in relation to the
legislation and policing of child sex tourism'.
In 1994, the Keating Government introduced the Crimes (Child Sex
Tourism) Amendment Act 1994 (the Act) to put in place a suite of new
criminal offences targeting Australians who engage in the sexual exploitation
of children overseas. The legislation was not limited only to child sex
tourism, but also covered a wide range of sexual offences committed overseas
against children (defined as a person under the age of 16). The premise
underpinning the legislation was that countries are themselves primarily
responsible for sexual abuse and exploitation of children committed in their
own jurisdictions. The extra-territorial application of the Act was therefore
intended to fill the gap only in those cases where another country was
unwilling or unable to take action.
In 2005, the Howard Government introduced the Crimes Legislation
Amendment (Telecommunications Offences and Other Measures) (No. 2) Act 2004,
which put in place a range of offences related to the use of a telecommunications
network or carriage service,
such as the Internet or a mobile phone, in relation to child pornography or
child abuse material, or to procure or 'groom' a person under 16 years of age
for a sexual purpose. These offences were enacted in response to the increasing
use by offenders of new technologies such as the Internet to engage in the
sexual exploitation of children.
In introducing the current Bill, the Minister stressed that the current
child sexual offences regime provides an extensive framework for the
prevention, investigation and prosecution of all forms of child exploitation.
However, he also noted the need to update existing laws in light of the volume
of overseas travel by Australians. Further, rapidly changing technologies,
particularly the Internet, have made information about overseas travel more
accessible, which has both fuelled the propensity of Australians to travel
overseas and provided offenders with unprecedented opportunities and anonymity.
The Minister commented:
This bill will implement a range of reforms to the...[existing]
offence regimes to ensure that they remain effective and continue to meet the
needs of law enforcement agencies in combating contemporary offending.
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry in the Australian newspaper
on 10 February 2010, and invited submissions by 19 February 2010. The
committee also wrote to over 50 organisations and individuals inviting
submissions. Details of the inquiry, the Bill and associated documents were placed
on the committee's website.
The committee received 8 submissions, which were placed on the
committee's website for ease of access by the public. These are listed at
The committee held a public hearing in Canberra on 9 March 2010.
Witnesses who appeared at the hearing are listed at Appendix 2. The Hansard
transcript is available through the Internet at http://aph.gov.au/hansard.
The committee thanks the organisations and individuals who made
submissions and gave evidence at the public hearing.
Note on references
Submission references in this report are to individual submissions as
received by the committee, not to a bound volume. References to the committee Hansard
are to the proof Hansard. Page numbers may vary between the proof and
the official Hansard transcripts.
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