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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 November 2010) . . Page.. 5399 ..

such as sexual conduct with a child while outside Australia and profiting from child sex tourism. The bill today will significantly expand the list so that it will now include 48 separate commonwealth child sex offences.

The new crimes were created earlier this year by federal parliament. They have taken a broader view of the problem of child sexual abuse. Whereas the legislation five years ago focused on actual sexual intercourse and sex tourism offences, there are now new crimes such as grooming a child for sex and using the internet to distribute child abuse material. These new offences follow an international trend of legislating to outlaw the use of the internet for child abuse purposes and the grooming of children for sex. As the Minister for Justice said in federal parliament earlier this year when debating the bill:

We have a duty to ensure that with overseas travel commonplace, and the internet making information about destinations more accessible, Commonwealth laws provide a significant deterrent to abuse and a sound basis for prosecuting offenders.

Equally, rapidly changing technologies and the anonymity that the internet provides have resulted in unprecedented opportunities for child sex offenders. Our laws need to keep pace with the speed of technological change.

So the federal parliament has taken a more sophisticated approach to child sexual abuse. The new offences target more discrete aspects of the overall problem.

Turning to the bill being debated today in the Assembly, the policy question up for debate is whether this new suite of commonwealth crimes warrants an offender being registered on the child sex offenders register. Are the new crimes of the same magnitude as the existing offences and should they be treated equally? Put another way, is grooming a child for sex as serious as actual intercourse with a child or profiting from child sex tourism? The Greens see them as essentially the same type of behaviour. The new crimes all put children in imminent danger and we agree that they are sufficiently serious to trigger the ACT legislation. On that basis, the Greens support the bill.

It is worth noting there has been recent commentary on the overall effectiveness of the ACT’s register and how well it actually prevents the chances of reoffending. The debate is around what level of intervention in the life of an offender is warranted. Currently, the key intervention authorised by the act is to prevent a registered offender from working with children. Questions have been raised about whether the ACT should have more power to dictate other aspects of an offender’s life, such as who they live with and who they spend time with.

For the Greens’ part, we are interested in having a clearer understanding of what police are currently doing with the information kept on the register, what risk assessments they currently perform and what their powers of intervention are. We would also be interested to see evidence from other states of how their schemes are operating. We believe this additional information is important so that we may remain at the forefront, in the ACT, in ensuring that we protect these vulnerable members of our community.

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