New laws designed to stop pedophiles convicted in Australia from traveling overseas to offend again came into effect today, with the government saying it will make vulnerable children safer.
It is now an offense for registered child sex offenders — those convicted of the most serious forms of abuse — to leave Australia without approval from law enforcement agencies.
They also face having their passports canceled at the request of Australian authorities.
“Australia has up to 20,000 registered child sex offenders who have served their sentences but are subject to reporting obligations that help to protect the community,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
“For too long, these predators have traveled overseas undetected, including to countries where weaker laws mean they have opportunities to commit heinous crimes.”
Last year alone, 800 registered child sex offenders traveled overseas, often to developing countries in Asia, and about 40 percent did so without notifying police.
“This will now stop,” said Bishop.
The move follows repeated episodes of child exploitation overseas, including a high-profile case last year when Australian Robert Ellis was convicted of sexually abusing 11 Indonesian girls on the resort island of Bali.
In Thailand, 13 percent of all foreign child molestors arrested since 2010 are Australian, according to statistics from Department of Special Investigation revealed last month. UK nationals make up the largest group of pedophiles at 45 percent.
In 2015, the Thai police unveiled a shocking discovery that Australian sex offender Peter Dundas Walbran, 59, was hired to teach English to school children in Ubon Ratchathani. Although with a simple internet research, the school would have discovered that he had previously been jailed in Indonesia for assaulting boys as young as eight years old.
The crackdown also comes on the heels of concern about the growing role of technology in pedophilia, with the government proposing new offenses and tougher penalties targeting live-streamed child abuse and online grooming.
They also plan tougher fines on internet service providers if they do not report abusive material to police.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan called the crackdown “the toughest on pedophiles in a generation,” making Australia “a world leader in protecting vulnerable children overseas from child sex tourism.”