The Australian government on Tuesday announced a bill — considered a first in the world — to prevent paedophiles registered in the country from travelling abroad in search of potential victims, especially in Asia.
“This is a world first. Australia is leading the way when it comes to protecting vulnerable children overseas from the actions of paedophilia. We are ensuring that child sex offenders are not able to take part in the growing child sex tourism trade,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said at a press conference in Canberra.
According to the bill, a convicted paedophile registered in the lists of the states and territories, which totals about 20,000 people, cannot leave the country or obtain an Australian passport.
Ms. Bishop explained that the government intends to penalise any convicted paedophile who leaves the country without permission from competent authorities and can have their passports cancelled.
It is estimated that some 800 registered child sex offenders left the country last year — almost half of them without fulfilling the obligation of informing the police of their travel — to take advantage of the child sex tourism trade, especially in poor countries in Southeast Asia.
“About half of them had been recorded by police as having medium high or very high risk of re-offending. (…) Almost 40% of them had been convicted of offences against children under the age of 13,” Ms. Bishop stressed.
Last year, Australian national Robert Andrew Fiddes Ellis, 70, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing 11 girls, aged seven to 17, over a two-year period in Bali (Indonesia).
This legislation is “the strongest crackdown on child-sex tourism ever”, said Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
“No country has ever taken such decisive and strong action to stop its citizens from going overseas, often to vulnerable countries, to abuse kids,” Mr. Keenan noted.