Federal Labor sent a clear message to the Australian people last night that they are more interested in protecting the rights of paedophiles than they are in protecting the safety of children.

Anthony Albanese’s Senate team voted down a key part of a Government Bill which provided mandatory minimum sentences for Commonwealth child sex offences to ensure perpetrators receive the jail terms they deserve.

But faced with a fierce public backlash this morning, Labor then reversed its position and agreed to support the Government’s Bill in its entirety when it was brought back to the Senate for another vote this afternoon.

"In all my years in politics I have never seen a greater display of hypocrisy from Labor, which claims on the one hand that it wants to protect our children, but then says it is opposed in principle to minimum terms of imprisonment, despite having supported mandatory sentences for people smugglers when they were last in government," Attorney-General Christian Porter said.

"It shouldn’t have taken three years of opposition and a public relations disaster today for Labor to finally realise the hypocrisy of its position and it now needs to explain to victims whose lives have been ruined by these ruthless predators why it let them down in the Senate last night.

"The need for mandatory jail sentences could not be clearer. As I’ve said before, 39 per cent of offenders convicted of Commonwealth child sex offences last financial year were not sentenced to a single day in jail. That simply doesn’t fit with the community’s expectations and does nothing to deter offenders who know there is strong chance that they won’t go to jail if they get caught.

"The changes approved by the Senate today will ensure that the punishment is in line with community expectations and that offenders face the powerful deterrence of knowing a jail cell will be waiting for them when they get caught."

As well as setting new mandatory minimum jail terms, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill, 2019, creates a new maximum life penalty for the most serious Commonwealth offences, and a presumption against bail to help keep offenders in custody while they face trial.

"The Bill reforms the full sentencing cycle, setting a presumption against bail when offenders are first arrested, through to increasing supervision when they are ultimately released and tougher penalties for breaches of parole and other supervision orders," the Attorney-General said.

The Bill also creates:

  • Increased maximum penalties across the spectrum of Commonwealth child sex offences, including up to life imprisonment for the most serious offences
  • Presumptions in favour of cumulative sentences and actual imprisonment
  • Ensuring that all sex offenders, upon release from custody, are adequately supervised and subject to appropriate rehabilitative conditions
  • Preventing courts from discounting sentences on the basis of good character where this is used to facilitate the crime.

These measures complement a broad package of reforms already introduced by the Coalition during the last Parliament, which strengthened laws relating to child sexual abuse and created new protections for the community.

This included tough new measures to stop child sex offenders from travelling overseas to abuse children and the introduction of Carly’s law, which targets online predators who use the internet to prepare or plan to sexually abuse children.