The Federal Government has called for all Australian states and territories to support a national public registry for child sex offenders, in what Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has called the “toughest crackdown on paedophiles.”
Mr Dutton said families would be safer if child sex offenders were publicly listed online, claiming parents should be able to see if sex criminals are working with children or living nearby.
“Thwarting the exploitation of children is my key priority as Minister for Home Affairs,” Mr Dutton said.
The first of its kind register will make details such as an offender’s name, date of birth, photo, the offence and their general location available to the public.
The government has begun consultations with state and territory governments as well as law enforcement agencies.
It has called for their support to proceed with the proposal, as a result of requirement of states and territories to feed information into the national database.
Mr Dutton said the register would keep parents informed about potential sex offenders in their area.
“It would have a strong deterrent effect on offenders and ensure that parents are not in the dark about whether a registered sex offender has access to their children,” he said.
“The abuse and exploitation of children is a global epidemic that is becoming more prevalent, more organised and more extreme.”
“It will send a clear message that Australia will not tolerate individuals preying on the most vulnerable members of the community – our children.”
Law enforcement agencies currently have a database similar to the proposed registry. However, it is not available to the public.
The idea of the registry has previously been rejected by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2014, who said he was “disinclined to single out particular crimes for particular public registers.”
“I am disinclined to pursue such a thing nationally,” Mr Abbott said.
“We don’t have a national murderers register, we don’t have a national thieves register, we don’t have a national white collar criminals register.”
Opponents of the proposal claim a national public register will raise the potential for vigilante attacks on offenders as well as an offender’s right to privacy.