Lawyers given just 36 hours to respond to Dutton’s child sex offender register plan | Australia news
The government has allowed Australia’s peak legal body just 36 hours to respond to its public child sex offender register proposal, a move the Law Council has labelled “absurd”.
Peter Dutton announced on Wednesday the government was considering establishing a register which could include the postcode, name and photo of child sex offenders. Reaction was mixed, but Dutton said the government would be asking for the views of a wide range of stakeholders, including child advocacy groups and legal representatives.
The president of the Law Council, Arthur Moses, who urged caution when the proposal was announced, said the government then set a deadline of close of business on Friday, less than 40 hours after the proposal was announced.
“A consultation period of 36 hours to provide views on such a complex and serious proposal is inappropriate and completely inadequate,” Moses said in a statement.
“A proper proposal needs to be developed before adequate consultation can occur. Otherwise, there is a real risk of the register not protecting the community and it may have myriad unintended consequences.
“… The legal profession would be very troubled if this issue is being rushed for political purposes rather than considered reform. Politicising this issue or rushing it through without proper thought would be an affront to all victims of sexual abuse.
“Furthermore, a range of parties, including the victims of sex offenders, need to be heard on this issue to ascertain what, if any register, should be developed.”
The Law Council has not objected to the register outright, but said offenders should be added at the court’s discretion, with only those posing a “demonstrated risk to children” to be placed on it.
The register was welcomed by child safety advocates the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, but dismissed as a stunt by the Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston, who pleaded with the government to instead establish a royal commission into the abuse of children and the response of authorities, including the family court.
Labor has pledged to look at any proposal, but the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, also questioned the timing, given how close the next federal election is.
“When this was raised a few years ago, then prime minister [Tony] Abbott rejected it as not being effective. It would be good to know what has changed since then,” Dreyfus said when Dutton announced the plan.
In 2014, following the Northern Territory’s announcement it would be looking at a register, Abbott said he did not believe it was necessary. “We don’t have a national murderers register, we don’t have a national thieves register, we don’t have a national white collar criminals register,” Abbott said then.
“I think the most important thing is to do what we can to have strong and effective law enforcement agencies, to have strong and effective laws, and I think if we’ve got strong and effective police forces, strong and effective criminal intelligence, if we’ve got judges and prosecuting services that are taking swift action when criminals or potential criminals are arrested, I think that is the best way forward.”
The NT subsequently abandoned its plan, while Western Australia modified its register to include UK legislation.