115 MR GRIMLEY — To move —
That this House —
(1) notes the —
(a) protection of children should be the highest priority for any government;
(b) valuable work undertaken by Victoria Police in investigating serious sex offences and
apprehending and prosecuting offenders;
(c) Government should endeavour to work alongside law enforcement agencies at every
opportunity in order to prevent opportunities for sexual offending and ensure
(2) requires the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by no
later than 30 June 2020, into the best means to —
(a) store data and information regarding convicted child sex offenders;
(b) prevent sexual offences from occurring through improved public awareness;
(c) investigate the circumstances in which the details of convicted child sex offences can
be made public;
and any other matters the Committee determines to be relevant.
[Notice given on 18 June 2019 — Listed for 3 days].
Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (14:49:19): Ms Patten said that this is not the answer, and she is right: this is not the answer. I wish that I knew what the answer was. This is a referral to the committee to investigate the circumstances in which—amongst many, many other things—details of convicted sex offenders can be made public. Nowhere in the motion does it mention a public sex offender register—I will just make that clear. This is entirely about an inquiry to see how we can do things better. The Victorian Auditor-General’s report that we have this afternoon, that I have just been flicking through, identifies a number of limitations in the current application and processes of how we are monitoring registered sex offenders (RSOs), as we speak. Things need to be better; things need to change. This is an avenue that the house can pursue through the inquiry to identify those areas where we are failing and those areas where we can do better. I welcome any member here who opposes this motion, by the way, to meet with child sex offender survivors just to hear their story and their thoughts on how we can do things better. But you are dead right: this is not the answer. I never said this was the answer. No-one has got the answer, unfortunately, but it is something at least that we can do. It is doing something. There has been talk of money and finances. I have always been of the opinion that you can never, ever put a price on justice. The many arguments against public registers include that research suggests that they are ineffective and do not reduce sexual offending. Academics reporting on the success or otherwise of public registers are one thing; listening to survivors of child sexual abuse is another. Ask any survivor their opinion of what academics think about sexual offenders and you will probably get a totally different response. That is because it is them—they have to live through the trauma every single day of their lives—and not some professor or doctor or whatever. We are about raising public awareness of those sexual offenders in the community that may pose a risk of further offending. If that saves one child from being sexually abused, then it will be worth all the academic arguments against such a model. What the stats will not tell you—and I have said this I do not know how many times—is how many children do not get sexually abused as a result of being aware of sexual predators in their community. I have mentioned before about the pill testing. It is a similar principle. How many people do you know will not take a pill? People might say that pill testing does not work, it is ineffective, but how do you know that? How do you know how many lives it saves? It is easy to say how many overdoses there have been, but how many lives do you actually know will be saved from one pill being tested? The actual number of studies into the effectiveness of public sex offender registers is limited. In relation to the low levels of sexual reoffending, most of the data that I have researched quite extensively over the years—it is over 10 years old—suggested that the reoffending rate among sex offenders in Australia was anywhere between 9.8 to 14 per cent. We bandy around these percentages left, right and centre as forms of our argument, but what they do not actually reflect is that these numbers and percentages actually represent child victims. Too often we get lost between the lines of statistics and reality. Each percentage represents many children, many hundreds of children, being sexually abused. Do not forget that. The rates of reoffending may be low, but that does not reflect the fact that only around a third of child abuse cases are identified and even fewer are reported. The rates may be low, but many, many more crimes against children are still being committed. It is the iceberg principle. Once again, talk to any child abuse survivor and they will tell you that they know of many, many associates and friends who have been abused but do not report. Those numbers are astonishing. Vigilantism is another one. If people knowing where a convicted child sex offender resided would attract vigilante attacks, then most states in America would have bloodbaths. It is simply not the case. If it came to the public release of information on a convicted sex offender, there are the obvious legislative provisions to deter vigilante behaviour. How about instead of insisting on the protection of revealing the identity of a sex offender we actually focus on protecting and supporting our children and victims? The other argument has been that public sex offender registers will lead to a false sense of security. This is all about increasing public awareness and the potential risks to the safety of the community. If you are saying that it leads to a false sense of security, then why do we have warning signs for anything? Why do we have warning signs in a park where there are snakes? It just makes you more aware of your surroundings. Why do we have signs on the sides of the roads about a potential hazard coming ahead? If you see a sign on the side of the road to say it is slippery, most people will slow down, because it is a hazard—you identify the hazard. I have heard arguments about how a public register may impact on an RSO’s reintegration into society in terms of jobs and housing. I could say a few things about that. Once you rape a child, you give up certain rights. How about we focus on the rights and support of the victim and their ability to maintain employment and relationships? A child abuse victim told me once, like I said before, that a bad day for a paedophile is maybe not being able to get a job, but a bad day for a child abuse victim is not being able to go outside. There is also talk that the familial, family, offending is the majority, and that may be so. However, around 25 per cent of victims, like I said, had sexual assaults committed upon them by people that they did not know. Once again, these statistics and studies are quite limited within Australia, but even if a public register saves one child, as I have said many, many times, then it is worth it. I do hope we get the support of both sides of the chamber for this motion. I think it is an incredibly important first step in doing at least something—an inquiry—to see how we can do things better and save further children from being sexually abused. House divided on motion:
Ayes, 35 Atkinson, Mr Hayes, Mr Pulford, Ms Barton, Mr Jennings, Mr Rich-Phillips, Mr Bath, Ms Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms Bourman, Mr (Teller) Leane, Mr Somyurek, Mr Crozier, Ms Lovell, Ms Stitt, Ms Cumming, Dr Maxwell, Ms Symes, Ms Davis, Mr McArthur, Mrs Taylor, Ms Elasmar, Mr Meddick, Mr Terpstra, Ms Erdogan, Mr Melhem, Mr (Teller) Tierney, Ms Finn, Mr Mikakos, Ms Vaghela, Ms Gepp, Mr O’Donohue, Mr Wooldridge, Ms Grimley, Mr Ondarchie
Noes, 4 Limbrick, Mr Quilty, Mr Ratnam, Dr (Teller) Patten, Ms (Teller) motion agreed to.