Australia plans to ban convicted paedophiles from travelling overseas in what the government said is a world-first move to protect vulnerable children in Southeast Asia from exploitation.
Australian paedophiles are notorious for taking inexpensive vacations to nearby South-east Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.
Australian officials said no country has such a travel ban.
They said 2,500 new convicted paedophiles 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 paedophiles in contravention of court orders, took credit for the government initiative.
Hinch said he had not known that convicted paedophiles 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.
Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to paedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for paedophiles living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire.
“This will not apply to teenagers who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend. I know sometimes, I think unfairly, they go on registers, but we’re trying to work it out so they don’t, but they will not be caught in the passport ban,” said Hinch, referring to sexual phone communications.
Australia has attempted to crack down on Australian child sex tourists by adding a new criminal offence punishable by up to 25 years in prison for Australian citizens or residents who molest children overseas.