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...