Australian child sex offenders are notorious for taking cheap holidays to nearby south-east Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.
In an attempt to bring an end to more abuse, foreign minister Julie Bishop says she will cancel the passports of some 20,000 paedophiles on the national child sex offender register under new legislation introduced soon.
She said: ”There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified.”
Nearly 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to south-east Asian destinations, according to the minister.
Ms Bishop said governments in the Asia-Pacific region wanted Australia to do more to stem child sex tourists.
She added: ”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…
”There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child sex tourism.”
Justice minister Michael Keenan said no other country had such a travel ban and 2,500 new convicted paedophiles would be added to the sex offender register each year and lose their passports.
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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 jailed twice as a radio broadcaster for naming paedophiles in violation of court orders, took credit for the government initiative.
Mr Hinch said he had not known that convicted paedophiles 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.
Ms Griffiths wrote: ”If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can’t we stop our paedophiles from traveling to Myanmar?”
Under Australian law, a bankrupt person cannot travel overseas without a trustee’s permission.
Mr Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to paedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for those living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire.
He said: “This will not apply to a teenager who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend.
Australia has attempted to crack down on child sex tourists by adding a new criminal offence punishable by up to 25 years in prison for citizens or residents who molest children overseas.