ABC News Australia
30 May 2017
Convicted paedophiles could be blocked from travelling abroad in a bid to prevent them sexually abusing children in developing nations.
The Federal Government will soon introduce legislation making it illegal for thousands of child sex offenders to leave Australia without permission.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the measure was a “world first”.
“There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified,” Ms Bishop said.
“Last year alone, almost 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas from Australia,” she said, with about half travelling to South-East Asia.
There are about 20,000 child sex criminals on the Australian National Child Offender Register.
Those who still have reporting obligations would have passport applications refused or passports cancelled, including while they are overseas.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the measure was “the strongest crackdown on child sex tourism ever”.
“No country has even taken such decisive and strong action to stop its citizens from going overseas, often to vulnerable countries, to abuse kids,” he said.
In one case last year, Australian man Robert Andrew Fiddes Ellis was jailed for 15 years for sexually assaulting 11 girls in Bali.
Ellis abused the children, aged between seven and 17, over two years.
The legislation follows a push from Victorian senator Derryn Hinch — a long-time campaigner against child sex offenders.
“Protecting kids is why I ran for a Senate spot in the first place,” he said.
“This is what people can expect from me, and it’s only the first of a number of child protection measures which I am working on with the Government.”
Exemptions could be granted to those with a valid reason for travel.
Offenders are currently obliged to tell authorities when they are travelling overseas but often do not.
Travel ban on child sex offenders: AAT deserves to be stripped of power
The announcement today that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will be vested with power to stop a registered child-sex offender travelling overseas is a triumph of common sense, justice and sound policy.
There are about 20,000 registered child-sex offenders in Australia who, having served their time, are subject to supervision and reporting obligations because they remain a risk. They must also be stopped from fuelling the child-sex tourism trade overseas.
A decision by the Foreign Minister to cancel, deny or refuse a passport to a registered child-sex offender will not be reviewable on its merits by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The decision can be appealed, on a matter of law, only to the Federal Court.
This critical change shouldn’t surprise the decision-makers at the AAT. That tribunal — already under fire for making dreadful decisions to reinstate protection visas for asylum-seekers who have lied and committed serious crimes in Australia — is also responsible for shocking decisions that potentially have added to child-sex tourism.
Consider this 2007 case: convicted child-sex offender ‘‘A’’ was convicted more than 50 times in 25 years for indecent assaults on a child, indecent dealing with a child, and wilful indecent exposure to children. After escaping custody, he reoffended against a child before being recaptured. He travelled to Bali and was deported for alleged assaults on children in Bali. After another custodial sentence in Australia, he travelled to Thailand in breach of his conditions. The Foreign Minister refused A a passport, only for the AAT to set aside that refusal. The AAT acknowledged that, “except when he was in prison, (A) tended to be committing offences”. The AAT concluded federal police could not reasonably suspect that A was likely to reoffend in the future.
And this 2010 case: when ‘‘B’’ returned from The Philippines, he was found with photographs of Filipina girls, condoms and Vaseline. When B returned from South America, he was found with child-sex toys, articles about child-sex tourism and child prostitution, sexual games, photographs of children and falsified travel documents. Police executed a search warrant on B’s storage shed, finding printouts about child-sex tourism, child-sex toys and photographs of foreign children.
The Foreign Minister cancelled B’s passport. The AAT overturned the cancellation. The AAT considered the evidence gathered by police demonstrated only that B had a “general interest” in children, and that his chance of offending against children overseas was “only a remote possibility”.
If the AAT continues to make repugnant decisions, it shouldn’t be surprised if its powers are further curtailed.
Australia plans to ban pedophiles from travelling abroad
New legislation would cancel passports of some 20,000 convicts on child sex offender registry
The Associated Press Posted: May 30, 2017 9:54 AM ET Last Updated: May 30, 2017 9:54 AM ET
Australia plans to ban its convicted child sex offenders from travelling overseas in what the government said Tuesday is a world-first move to protect vulnerable youths in Southeast Asia from exploitation.
Australian pedophiles are notorious for taking inexpensive vacations to nearby Southeast Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would cancel the passports of around 20,000 pedophiles on the national child sex offender register under legislation that will be introduced to Parliament soon.
“There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified,” she told reporters.
Almost 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to Southeast Asian destinations, she said.
“There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child sex tourism,” Bishop said.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said no country has such a travel ban. He said 2,500 convicts would be added to the sex offender register each year and would also lose their passports.
The register contains 3,200 serious offenders who will be banned from travel for life. Less serious offenders drop off the register after several years of complying with reporting conditions and would become eligible to have their passports renewed.
Independent Senator Derryn Hinch, who was molested as a child and was jailed twice as a radio broadcaster for naming pedophiles in contravention of court orders, took credit for the government initiative.
Hinch said he had not known that convicted child sex offenders were allowed to travel before he received a letter from Australian actress and children’s rights campaigner Rachel Griffiths soon after he was elected to the Senate last year.
“If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can’t we stop our pedophiles from travelling to Myanmar?” Griffiths wrote. Under Australian law, a bankrupt person cannot travel overseas without a trustee’s permission.
Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to pedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for pedophiles living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire.
“This will not apply to a teenager who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend,” said Hinch, referring to sexual phone communications.
“I know sometimes, I think unfairly, they go on registers, but we’re trying to work it out so they don’t,” he added.
Bishop said governments in the Asia-Pacific region wanted Australia to do more to stem child sex tourists.
“There’s most certainly deep concern among countries in our region about the number of registered child sex offenders in Australia engaging in the child sex tourism industry,” she said.
Australia has attempted to crack down on Australian child sex tourists by adding a new criminal offence punishable by up to 25 years in prison for Australian citizens or residents who molest children overseas.