Child Sex Tourism Bill in Australia


On March 23rd 1994 the Child Sex Tourism bill was introduced into the House
of Representatives. This act, which amended the Crimes Act of 1914, enabling the
Australian government to prosecute Australian child sex offenders overseas.
Before the introduction of this new legislation, if an offence was committed
overseas and not punished whilst in the country, Australian law officials were
powerless.

The proposed changes in the law are to deal with the following issues:
Firstly sexual offences committed by Australian Residents overseas, particularly
in relation to acts of paedophilia committed within the major trouble spot, Asia.
This section refers to anyone who commits a sexual act on a child under the age
of sixteen, at the time that the offence was committed. Also the changes intend
to deal with organisations that may run or promote child sex tours, such as
travel agencies and the like, who have specifically run sex tour packages.
Defences to these offences such as stating that the defendant had no knowledge
of the child's age will be also targeted, as currently, this is a major
stumbling block on the course to justice. Finally to save time and cost, video
link hearings will be setup between the child in question overseas, and the
Australian courts.

The changes stated above were required to not only protect abused children
residing overseas, but to prove that the Australian Government is in touch with
the community values within Australian cities. The amendments made to the law
were needed because of the shameful amount of Australians indulging in sex
practices with minors in countries other than Australia. Before the law was
amended the general feeling among those involved in the process was that the
Child Sex Tourism Act would have to carry severe penalties with it. The reason
for such hefty penalties is that the law had the potential to be more of a
deterrent to 'would be' offenders and to also reflect the desire of the
Australian community. It was obvious ever since the Act was drafted that it
would, by no means, be an easy law to enforce.

Within the Australian community many high ranking authorities expressed
their attitudes towards the new law publicly. Several of the comments spoken
appeared one sided, also, many conflicted with opinions already offered to the
public in regard to fair trials.

"If Parliaments adopted this (Bill) it would be an absolute outrage, firstly,
because you would have people wanting it in other legislation. You would throw
aside 200 years of criminal justice with fairness for the accused. Fairness for
the accused is also fairness for the community." This statement was expressed by
Mr. John Dowd. Another statement that supports the argument Mr. John Dowd
presents, is the response Mr. Martin Sides, QC, offers. "It is my view that
there are significant and powerful procedures that are not available to accused
persons or, for that matter, the prosecution, in this legislative scheme."

In conflict with the views of Mr. John Dowd and Mr. Martin Sides, Senator
Margaret Reynolds presented this argument. "I do not propose to comment on the
technicalities of the Bill except to emphasise that it is essential that the
intention of the Bill be fully maximised. The significance of the Bill's
deterrent effect must not be jeopardised by any legal uncertainty which could
result in an unsuccessful prosecution."

The first two statements mentioned in the above paragraphs offer the view
that the Bill will obstruct the right of an individual to undergo a far trial.
In conflict with these statements, Senator Margaret Reynolds accentuates that
the Bill enforced with its full potential, as act as a deterrent, against 'would
be' offenders. She expressed that if this task is accomplished, there would be
no question of an unfair trial.

During the campaign to introduce the new act into the law, many groups of
individuals and institutions played an active role in the process of introducing
the new law. Whether their part be major or minor, all of the institutions
mentioned in the following paragraphs helped to introduce the amendment into the
Crimes Act.

ECPAT is a well known institution that has played a leading role in the
campaign to stop child sex tourism in Asia; as the name suggests: ECPAT (End
Child Prostitution In Asian Tourism). ECPAT consists of several community minded
groups who all gel together to shape a well rounded institution with a lot of
influence within the nation. The institution as a whole carried out an education
campaign within Australia. This education campaign focussed on the abundance of
child sex tourism.

LAWASIA is another group of individuals that devoted many hours of their
time in assuring the new legislation was passed in