JULIE BISHOP: I’m pleased to be here this morning with Minister Michael Keenan because today new passport laws come into effect that will stop convicted child sex offenders from travelling overseas. About 12 months ago Michael Keenan and I promised to develop new laws that would tackle the child sex tourism trade. About 800 Australian registered child sex offenders travelled overseas last year, about 40 percent of them did so in breach of their reporting obligations. People who are on the National Child Sex Register have committed the most serious child sex crimes, including in some instances against children under the age of 13.
I can report that today a registered child sex offender was stopped here at the SmartGates and has been prevented from travelling overseas.
As the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have the authority to deny a passport to a child sex offender, cancel existing passports, or order the surrender of a foreign passport. Registered child sex offenders have reporting obligations in Australia because of the ongoing risk that they present to children in Australia, but we are aware that they have a high propensity to reoffend if they are in a country where they are not monitored and where child sex exploitation is rampant. These laws are designed to protect children at home and abroad, and I’ll now ask Michael Keenan to say a few words.
MICHAEL KEENAN: Thanks Julie. This is the most comprehensive crackdown on child sex tourism that has ever occurred, anywhere in the world. This is world first legislation and the rest of the world is looking to Australia to see how this is going to progress.
From today, it is an offence for people that appear on the child sex offender register to travel overseas. That will mean that Australians will no longer be able to prey on children in our region. We know that in our region there are different levels of law enforcement capability, there are different approaches to the abuse of children, there are different community attitudes. We are making sure that Australians will not be able to leave this country to abuse vulnerable children, particularly in South-East Asia.
This is only part of the comprehensive approach that this Government has to tackling paedophiles abroad and here in Australia. In September, I introduced comprehensive new legislation that will make the offender cycle for paedophiles more difficult in every facet. We will have a presumption against bail, we will have a presumption against parole and we will ensure that the most serious child sex offenders serve a minimum period of time in prison. That legislation is before the Parliament, but it has been opposed by the Labor Party. I call on them to rethink their attitude towards this because what we are doing here today in cancelling the passports of paedophiles and making it an offence for them to travel overseas and what we are doing about making sure they spend serious time in prison here in Australia is part of a comprehensive package to keep children safe in our region, to keep children safe here in Australia. I ask the Labor Party to rethink their attitude to make sure they join with us on this crackdown on paedophiles.
JULIE BISHOP: Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Where was the offender travelling to?
JULIE BISHOP: The man is currently being interviewed by the Federal Police, so I don’t want to go into any more details, I don’t wish to prejudice the interview but he was stopped here at the SmartGate because of these laws, because his name appeared on the watch list.
JOURNALIST: Just a question on comments made today by Barnaby Joyce speaking to New Zealand radio. He said that Jacinda Ardern should stay out of Australia’s business on refugees. He went on to say that otherwise Australia would return the favour at a time they think is most opportune to them. Is that a threat and is that appropriate language to use to New Zealand?
JULIE BISHOP: The point our Deputy Prime Minister was making is that we now have tough border protection laws that have prevented the people smuggling trade from continuing the work that they were doing under the previous Labor Government. We have stopped the boats and we have also worked very hard to get children out of detention and to close down detention centres. We will not allow the people smuggling trade to start up again under a Coalition Government. The only risk to the people smuggling trade starting up again is if Labor were to be elected and would weaken the laws as they did previously. Under Labor’s weaker border protection laws, 50,000 people tried to come to Australia via the people smuggling trade, 1,200 drowned at sea. We have put a stop to that and we will not do anything to encourage the people smuggling trade to start up again.
JOURNALIST: But is that appropriate language to be using to New Zealand?
JULIE BISHOP: The Deputy Prime Minister feels very passionate about this issue, as we all do. 1,200 people died at sea under Labor’s weaker border protection laws and we’ve worked very hard to instil integrity and order back in our border protection laws.
JOURNALIST: Is it appropriate, just on Sam Dastyari’s resignation, that he continues to receive a Senate salary in the meantime?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe that Sam Dastyari’s resignation from the Senate should be effective immediately.
Sam Dastyari should leave the Senate effective immediately. Why should the Australian taxpayer continue to fund his salary when he has resigned for his appalling behaviour? Now he’s admitted that he is unfit to sit in the Senate so his resignation should be effective immediately.
JOURNALIST: Is it possible to have an update on the investigation into Border Force Chief Roman?
MICHAEL KEENAN: I can’t provide that update. We’ve already said what we can say about that on the public record. Obviously those matters are still ongoing and when the Government has something further to say we will.
JOURNALIST: Is he still on leave without pay?
MICHAEL KEENAN: There’s nothing further that I can say about that. The Government said there were matters that required investigating. That investigation hasn’t been concluded. Once it has been concluded, and once those matters are concluded then the Government will make a further announcement.
JOURNALIST: Is there an ongoing dialogue with Labor in regards to the mandatory minimum sentencing?
MICHAEL KEENAN: They were very clear in the Parliament, when this legislation came before the House of Representatives, that they do not support mandatory sentencing for the most serious child sex offenders in Australia. I thought that was quite remarkable. My expectation was that they would join with us in the same way that they joined with us on this legislation about cancelling passports and cracking down on child sex tourism. My expectation was that they would do the same thing and that this legislation would attract bipartisan support. Yet they have refused to provide that support and they have actively opposed mandatory minimum sentences for the most serious child sex offenders. I’m very happy to continue to talk to them. But they did make their position clear in the parliament when this legislation came up before it several weeks ago.
This transcript has been redacted in accordance with Digital Transformation Agency guidelines.
For a full transcript please visit juliebishop.com.au.
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