Politicians have voted against a law calling for a public child sex offender register in Australia that would ‘name and shame’ paedophiles – as victims warn the scheme is in danger of ‘withering on the vine’.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced the federal Government was putting $7.8 million toward a public register of convicted sex offenders in January 2019 – just before the 2019 election in May.
Under the policy, the names, aliases, photos and nature of sex offenders’ crimes would be made publicly accessible, as would their general location. But the register hasn’t become reality almost 18 months on.
Queensland Premier Annastasia Palasczcuk’s government recently voted down a motion supporting such a register, in a move Mr Dutton’s spokeswoman slammed as ‘very frustrating’.
Meanwhile, child protection advocates Bruce and Denise Morcombe – the parents of Australia’s most famous abducted boy, Daniel – have demanded to know ‘what is going on’ with the proposed register.
The pair are understood to be privately frustrated over the silence from most state and territory governments.
Queensland’s Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington introduced a motion on August 12 calling on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government to set up a ‘register to help parents protect their kids from serious sexual offenders’ earlier this month.
Ms Frecklington’s motion was defeated 49 votes to 42.
Labor MP Scott Stewart rubbished the idea, telling Parliament the Australian Institute of Criminology had found ‘public sex offender registers do not reduce recidivism.’
‘This government will always listen to and support the experts—unlike those opposite,’ he said, crowing that his government already had the ‘toughest’ regime for sex offenders.
Former police officer and LNP MP Dan Purdie said: ‘The system is broken and that is why the LNP government will introduce a public child sex offender register, giving every parent an effective tool to protect their children from paedophiles.’
But Ms Frecklington’s motion had little chance of getting across the line in the first place as it was tied to the ALP supporting a list of a more than a dozen unrelated Liberal National Party priorities.
That included voting to ‘stop Labor’s wasteful spending’.
Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said there were ‘mixed views about the merits of a public child sex offender register’ and genuine concerns that any introduction on a national level could have unintended consequences.
‘This includes that an increased risk of re-offending due to the likelihood that offenders would be driven underground.’
Ms D’Ath said there are 15 offenders listed missing by Western Australia’s online register of high risk sex offenders.
She added that former police commissioner Ian Stewart last year wrote to Mr Dutton expressing concerns about such a national register.
Support from the states or territories for the proposal is critical for a public register getting up, Mr Dutton’s spokeswoman said.
‘The Palaszczuk Government recently voted against a register which is very frustrating.
‘The national register only works if all the states and territories sign up, as it relies on the sharing of their data.’
Bruce Morcombe, whose son Daniel was abducted from a bus stop by a convicted paedophile in December 2003 and murdered, said state and territory governments have been very quiet on the issue recently.
‘It’s just withering on the vine and that’s what I’m afraid of.
‘I don’t want it to wither on the vine – I want it to grow bigger and stronger and actually be delivered’.
The Daniel Morcombe Foundation has issued its own plan for how a sex offender register could work.
Such a register would publish the names, aliases, geographical area, current photo, list of identifying features of offenders, and local statistics.
Mr Morcombe said his foundation’s plan was modest and would only see repeat or recidivist offenders, or people who have committed hideous crimes, named and shamed.
That would give more minor, one-off offenders a chance to get help and be rehabilitated.
Mr Morcombe has previously lashed state and territory leaders as ‘weak as piss’ for their lukewarm response to Mr Dutton’s $7.8 million proposal.
But the child protection advocate struck a more measured tone to Daily Mail Australia saying he ‘hoped’ it was still on the agenda.
‘And if it’s not, as a reasonable, level-headed citizen of Australia, please tell me why? Why am I on the wrong track.
‘I see a lot of upside. It’s all about kids, keeping kids safe and kids’ rights to be safe all the time, that’s what it’s about.
‘That should come before convicted multi-offending paedophiles.’