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2GB with Ray Hadley


Subjects: Sexual Crimes Against Children legislation

RAY HADLEY: Front page of The Daily Telegraph, front page of newspapers all over the country, the Federal Government has slammed Labor for helping paedophiles avoid jail time by failing to support mandatory minimum sentences for child sex abusers. That comes despite on the 10th of June this year, the Labor leader federally Anthony Albanese saying "child sex crime is something that is beyond comprehension, it's something that should be stamped out, we'll assist in any way possible, we congratulate the Government on those recent arrests."

I'm confused given the statement by Bill Shorten on The Today Show this morning, saying that the matter, if it goes back to the Lower House and the amendments are not taken up, that Labor will then support it in the Senate. Equally confused is the Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Attorney, good morning to you.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, I mean, it's just all politics and procedure and no principle. And our commitment is to the principle that people who commit these outrageous and heinous offences should spend more time in jail. Thirty-nine per cent of them at a Commonwealth level last year didn't spend a day in jail. The child protection triage unit says the average number of child exploitation reports it receives has increased from 776 to 1731 a month. During this COVID crisis, very sadly, we've seen more and more abusers online as kids are at home spending time online. There is, very sadly, a tsunami of this stuff. We took this Bill to the last election. It's been a clear matter of principle. This is something that you just cannot muck around on. You cannot say that you'll do everything to assist and then play procedural games in the Senate and then send it back down to the House of Representatives and then trot Bill Shorten out this morning to say that in the end, he might- he may well support it. I mean, I'm just absolutely astonished at their behaviour on this.

RAY HADLEY: Well do you think that it's got something to do with the other behaviour in Victoria and they're all in a state of flux at the moment, they don't know quite what they're doing?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well it shouldn't be that hard, Ray, should it? If you've got 39 per cent of sex offenders charged with Commonwealth offences last year not spending a single day in jail, you do something about it. And this Bill has presumptions against bail, it has new offences, new maximum offences; it imposes mandatory minimums for a first strike for the most serious offences, for the second run of offences - if you do it a second time - you get a mandatory minimum. I mean, this should all be absolutely plain, simple matters of principle if you believe that people who commit these offences should spend time in jail and if you believe that you need strong deterrents to get on top of what is a growing problem. It should be a clear matter of principle, but it hasn't been for the Labor Party.

RAY HADLEY: Well, it's politics at its worst. Now, what's the time line if it goes back to the Lower House and Shorten tells us this morning that if it comes back without amendments, they'll now support it. What's that timeline? How much does it delay the legislation which is so vital to us?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: We'll be sending it back today. I mean, this is a matter of principle. It's been around since 2017 - Labor has been opposing it since 2017. We took it to a full general election as part of our policy platform. It has the resounding support of the Australian public and that's not hard to guess why. We've had the statements by Albanese that you've read out, in Parliament. We've had procedural games in the Senate last night. Some people in Labor say it's a matter of principle - they'll never support minimum mandatory sentencing, and yet they did it, that is support minimum mandatory sentencing for people smuggling when they let the borders get out of control. So it is not true to say that they won't support those things on principle. And never has the principle been more important to give more jail time to the worst type of offenders than for this tsunami of child sex offending.

RAY HADLEY: Was Penny Wong in the Senate last night?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: They all would have been because they needed every vote they had on the floor.

RAY HADLEY: Well, she said on the 13th of May 2010, Penny Wong, and this is in relation to people smuggling and terrorism:  "The measures in the bill will address the often serious consequences of people smuggling activities, including the potential for injury and loss of life on maritime ventures to Australia and the targeting of enablers and financiers of people smuggling activities. The bill will act as a greater deterrent for people smugglers. The bill is a measured response to a growing problem and demonstrates the government has a commitment to addressing serious nature of people smuggling activities and to targeting criminal groups who were involved in organising and benefitting people smuggling." What she's talking about was referred to later in 2011 by Brendan O'Connor. He said to "deter would-be people smugglers, we've introduced serious penalties with offenders facing up to 20 years in jail for an aggravated people smuggling offence with a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years." I mean, it's infuriating and it's madness.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Indeed. And let me just caveat what I've said is there were some pairs in the Senate last night because of COVID, so I don't have the exact list. But Labor's position was that they voted in a bloc against this. But as you point out, their position was people smuggling is a bad enough crime to warrant minimum mandatory penalty, but the most serious child sex offences are not a serious enough crime to warrant minimum mandatory penalties. That is just bizarre. Totally unsustainable. I've never seen anything like it, to be honest.

RAY HADLEY: Okay. You can fix it up today, or you can't fix it up, but Labor can by returning it to the Senate and voting with the legislation that they should have last night. I'll find out in the meantime where Senator Wong was last night, and we can either correct the fact she was there or not there, but we'll certainly find out sometime in the foreseeable future. Thanks for your time.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Okay. Thank you. Cheers.

RAY HADLEY: Christian Porter, the Attorney-General.