Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Media release

New commonwealth laws to better protect children

The Government's ongoing efforts to combat the sexual abuse of children in Australia and overseas has culminated today in the passage of the Combatting Child Sexual Exploitation Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the measures in the Bill will provide important extra protections for the most vulnerable members of the community—our children—and ensure our laws are adapted to any emerging forms of child abuse.

"These important reforms build on this Government's strong record of keeping our children safe," Mr Dutton said.

"The range of measures in the Bill send a clear message; the safety of our children should always be put first.

"The sexual abuse of children is becoming more global, prevalent, organised and extreme, with the rapid evolution of technology posing new and evolving challenges for law enforcement."

Since the establishment of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, 89 children have been removed from harm as a result of Australia's efforts, 89 people have been arrested by the Australian Federal Police in relation to child abuse matters, resulting in 411 charges being laid.

A further 380 referrals have been made to State and Territory police. Importantly, 44 'new' victims have been identified.

"This Government will take no backward steps to combat these heinous crimes, which have a serious and long-lasting effect on victims, survivors and the community," Mr Dutton said.

"We have listened to the experiences of survivors. We have listened to the views of frontline officers about the challenges they are facing. We will keep working to ensure these crimes have no place in our society.

"The measures in the Bill put perpetrators on notice."

The Combatting Child Sexual Exploitation Legislation Amendment Bill 2019:

  • responds to key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's Criminal Justice Report, including by creating new offences for failing to report and failing to protect children from child sexual abuse.
  • better equips our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to tackle offenders and respond to alarming new trends, including the proliferation of online child sexual abuse and importation of child-like sex dolls.
  • will further tackle the morally reprehensible practice of child marriage by defining all marriages to children under 16 years old as 'forced marriages' and closing the loophole so that offenders can no longer use marriage as a defence for sexually abusing children overseas.

The important measures in this Bill are part of the Morrison Government's broader package of reforms to combat child sexual abuse. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill, introduced by the Attorney-General on 11 September 2019, will strengthen the way in which the criminal justice system deals with child sex offenders.

The safety of our children must be our first priority.