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May 30, 2017

Australia working on a novel travel ban for certain sex offenders ... to keep them in the country

This new AP article, Headlined "Australia plans to ban pedophiles from traveling overseas," reports on a kind of travel ban being discussed down under that is quite distinct from the one now being litigated here in the US.  Here are the details:

Australia plans to ban convicted pedophiles from traveling overseas in what the government said Tuesday is a world-first move to protect vulnerable children in Southeast Asia from exploitation.  Australian pedophiles are notorious for taking inexpensive vacations to nearby Southeast Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would cancel the passports of around 20,000 pedophiles on the national child sex offender register under legislation that will be introduced to Parliament soon.  "There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified," she told reporters.

Almost 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to Southeast Asian destinations, she said.  "There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child sex tourism," Bishop said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said no country has such a travel ban.  He said 2,500 new convicted pedophiles would be added to the sex offender register each year and would also lose their passports.

The register contains 3,200 serious offenders who will be banned from travel for life.  Less serious offenders drop off the register after several years of complying with reporting conditions and would become eligible to have their passports renewed.

Independent Senator Derryn Hinch, who was molested as a child and was jailed twice as a radio broadcaster for naming pedophiles in contravention of court orders, took credit for the government initiative. Hinch said he had not known that convicted pedophiles were allowed to travel before he received a letter from Australian actress and children's rights campaigner Rachel Griffiths soon after he was elected to the Senate last year. "If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can't we stop our pedophiles from traveling to Myanmar?" Griffiths wrote. Under Australian law, a bankrupt person cannot travel overseas without a trustee's permission.

Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to pedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for pedophiles living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire. "This will not apply to a teenager who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend," said Hinch, referring to sexual phone communications. "I know sometimes, I think unfairly, they go on registers, but we're trying to work it out so they don't," he added....

Australia has attempted to crack down on Australian child sex tourists by adding a new criminal offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison for Australian citizens or residents who molest children overseas.

May 30, 2017 at 05:41 PM | Permalink


Jeeze, if there weren't some island they could send these pedophiles to get in order to get rid of them....

"If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can't we stop our pedophiles from traveling to Myanmar?"

Well, you can...but what evidence is there that convicted pedophiles are going to Burma to molest children? None whatsoever.

"Australia has attempted to crack down on Australian child sex tourists by adding a new criminal offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison for Australian citizens or residents who molest children overseas."

Note, however, that this ban on travel would not apply to these people because...wait for it...they haven't been convicted yet.

Posted by: Daniel | May 30, 2017 6:20:19 PM

Australia seems rather a police state.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | May 30, 2017 7:55:37 PM

"Almost 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to Southeast Asian destinations, she said."

Sounds like a modified travel ban might be somewhat overbroad.

Posted by: Joe | May 30, 2017 8:39:02 PM

Let's be clear here. The justification is that these pedophiles are going abroad to rape children. Yet by their own data there are 20,000 registered sex offenders. Of these 400 went to SE Asia which is 2%. Yet they are going to ban everyone on the basis of what 2% MIGHT do. And they don't offer any evidence that these 2% are actually doing what they fear they are doing.

So the problem is beyond the fact that it is "overboard" it is that even a more narrowly tailored ban (assuming there was a practical way to implement such a ban, which I doubt) would be a ban based on no more than wild speculation.

As an aside, what has been interesting to me is to watch how this has played out in relationship to the Muslim ban. Whatever one thinks of that ban as a matter of policy, Trump has at least a smidgen of evidence to back up his claims (which isn't to say that this smidgen of evidence is actually his motivation for the ban). Yet the Muslim ban has received highly negative reactions from liberals but for the most part the pedophile ban has received lauds.

Posted by: Daniel | May 30, 2017 8:55:10 PM

"The justification is that these pedophiles are going abroad to rape children."

To be clear, they also may be concerned about molestation less than rape. And, liberals have been concerned about overreaching in the area of sexual offenses too. Those sorts of things are repeatedly opposed & it is not like the ACLU et. al. just say "well, that's fine." But, yes, as I said somewhat overbroad.

I don't know the background to this provision; got this idea that if it was challenged in court, the government would show a "smidgen" of evidence, particularly as applied to the people who actually would travel (how many convicted sex offenders actually do?) here.

The numbers are greater regarding the Muslim travel ban. They aren't convicted pedophiles. There is an explicit constitutional First Amendment concern. There is a good statutory argument cited by multiple judges in the opinion that just was decided. The motivation there is clearly tainted and that is more clearly a problem in race and religious discrimination claims than claims by convicted sex offenders. etc.

Posted by: Joe | May 30, 2017 9:18:05 PM

"Sounds like a modified travel ban might be somewhat overbroad."

BTW, I was being sarcastic especially since even if you look at the specific area known for underage sex -- and the ban is much broader from what I can tell -- the numbers still don't look that good.

Posted by: Joe | May 30, 2017 9:19:54 PM

There is also, to my understanding, no evidence with the AUS ban or the IML that RSOs are, at any rate greater than the general public, going to these destinations to engage in sex tourism. I'm not sure if its incompetence or cynicism (or some of both), but I noticed that the justification for both laws is some measure of smoke and mirrors, fear mongering, and hand waving: to wit, they say that children are abused by people engaging in international sex tourism (a true fact), that registered sex offenders are traveling to these destinations (a true fact), and then leave the major unstated premise in the punch bowl, without any evidence to back it up, that RSOs are engaging in international sex tourism. I believe the US GAO came to that same conclusion with the IML, not that anyone cared.

When you are on the registry, everything that you do is seen through a particular lens. You cannot be merely walking through the park, you must be looking for a victim, etc. In this instance, you cannot merely be traveling to some location in SE Asia, you must be going there to abuse children, therefore we're going to deprive you of human and civil rights.

Nevermind that decades and stacks of research demonstrate extremely low re offense rates, and the fact that 95% of those convicted of sexual offenses are first-time offenders.

Of course, as episodes like this are keen to remind all of us, reason bears little relevance to the order of the day.

Posted by: Guy | May 31, 2017 10:13:34 AM

We all agree that any man or woman who molests children or who travels to another country for that purpose should receive a severe sentence. With that said, however, once that person has served his or her time, they should have the same freedom to travel abroad as anybody else. That is one of the sacred freedoms that distinguish the democratic countries from Stalinist Russia, Singapore, or Nazi Germany, to name a few examples.

If you ban one group who is no longer serving a prison sentence from traveling, you get a slippery slope. You could ban people for traveling due to their political views. Such an outrage occurred in the United States during the early 1950's when two major critics of reckless U.S. intervention into the Korean Peninsula's ongoing civil war lost their passports as a result of their politics. It took eight years for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this policy. Other countries prohibited certain ethnic and racial groups from having the right to travel. The Soviet Union during the Cold War prohibited travel of Eastern European nationals to Western Europe.

Australia's law has a suspicious resemblance to these other bans against the right to travel.

Besides, some people under this law will certainly disobey it when the opportunity arrives. One can forge passports and other travel documents or stow away on ships or trucks without being caught by customs officials.

Moreover, what happens if these people banned from travel abroad decide to get even with these laws by targeting politicians and the law enforcement people responsible for implementing these laws with revenge murder, etc.? These laws could then put police and other officials at needless risk to their own safety without contributing in any way to children's safety.

Posted by: william r. delzell | May 31, 2017 10:39:52 AM

Why is Australia picking a certain group of people who have already served their sentences as "those who can no longer travel"?
What about murderers or thieves who have served their sentences, the chances that they will "re-offend" is actually higher than those convicted of sex offenses.

This perpetual witch-hunting and shaming of those convicted of sex offenses needs to stop.

The Senator who took credit for this initiative seems to be still dealing with demons related to his own past sexual molestation. Not every sex offender is a pedophile and every pedophile who is traveling is not out looking for victims. Provisions will be made for pedophiles who are traveling on business or for family reasons? That's just stupid. If someone is intent on committing a crime what difference would it make if they were traveling for pleasure, business or family reasons?

The one thing Australia does seem to get right is allowing less serious offenders to drop off the registry after a few years. At least that sounds reasonable. The rest of it, just dumb.

Posted by: kat | May 31, 2017 11:50:04 AM

I would approach this from an entirely different direction, even assuming that some number of Australians travel to commit acts that would be criminal in Australia (and maybe even in the destination), why should Australia as a nation care? I would think it beneficial to Australians as a whole if folks did choose to travel somewhere else to engage in such acts.

If the destination country doesn't care enough to prosecute I would think it beneficial that Australians with such urges have a ready outlet for their desires rather than being forced to look closer to home for a target.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 1, 2017 12:34:08 AM


That is an excellent point because it highlights what I think is the fundamental motivation behind these type of actions which is an attempt to unite the Western world behind a shared set of cultural values. It amuses me that on one hand liberals are like OMG Muslim ban is bad because we can't exclude people because we are not at war with Islam and then turn around and say look how sexist those foreigners are. The real meat on the bone between liberals and conservatives is not whether "the west" is at war with "the east" because both liberals and conservatives believe we are; the real meat is what types of distinctions we should draw in that war. Liberals want to draw distinctions based upon secular grounds such as treatment of gay and treatment of pedophiles while conservatives opt for more traditional lines of attack on purely religious grounds.

Viewed in that light it is easy to see why liberals reject the proposition Soronel offers. Regulating pedophiles isn't actually about protecting children; it is about virtue signaling in order to draw cultural contrasts.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 1, 2017 12:59:26 PM

I just occurred to me that, with regard to my earlier argument that these proposals for restricting certain types of former sex offenders to staying inside Australia could also put Australia's airports and users at risk.

Imagine, if you will, a disgruntled former sex offender at the ticket counter attempting to buy a ticket for an international flight only to be told that he or she may not leave the country even after completing his or her sentence. That person, if a hot head, might decide to act out. If he or she is secretly carrying a weapon, that person might threaten the ticket agent with the weapon. Or, if not having a gun, such a person still commit dangerous mischief: he or she could decide to deliberately run into a restricted part of the airport such as behind the ticket counter restricted to employees only, or into the luggage room where staff members transport suitcases to and from the airplanes. Such an action would prompt an immediate shut down of the airport that could last for hours or even all day, thus leading to cancellations of flights and several irate passengers who are not subject to any travel restrictions. Some might blame the former sex offender alone; others might put two and two together and blame the stupid law proposal; others might vent their anger on hapless staff personnel.

So either way, everybody but the politicians, lose with such a stupid law proposal.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jun 2, 2017 12:29:20 PM

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