Statutes Amendment (Child Exploitation and Encrypted Material) Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (17:40): I rise to continue the debate on the Statutes Amendment (Child Exploitation and Encrypted Material) Bill. As I indicated earlier, our children are our most precious gift and we must do everything we can to protect them.

Earlier in my contribution, before I sought leave to continue my remarks, I was discussing the burgeoning dark web's KidClub website. KidClub was accessed using encryption software specifically designed to conceal a user's identity by routing through more than 6,000 computer servers around the world. This process meant that law enforcement officers could never trace the IP addresses to the original computers, and the method was supremely attractive to privacy-conscious paedophiles.

After a hosting service for KidClub was shut down by American law enforcement officers, KidClub relaunched and soon became the largest child exploitation network in the world. In 2014, Dutch investigators arrested a member of KidClub, and other senior members were arrested in Denmark and Sweden soon after; however, the administrator, who was also producing and distributing his own videos, remained unidentified.

Over time, the very diligent persistence of law enforcement officers led to the identification and arrest of Shannon McCoole. McCoole eventually pleaded guilty to nine counts of sexual abuse of children. Further, he was charged with seven aggravated counts of producing child pornography, one aggravated count of disseminating child pornography and one aggravated count of possessing child pornography. McCoole did not plead guilty and was not sentenced for any charge relating to the KidClub website.

This bill not only criminalises the actions of administrators of child pornography websites but also provides broader protections to the victims of child exploitation by providing law enforcement officers the power to seek court orders requiring a person to provide necessary information or assistance, including the ability to seek an urgent order where the preservation of data may be at risk. There are also additional offences relating to concerns around impeding an investigation by tampering with data.

This bill does so much to protect our most vulnerable. I have described the lengths that people will go by hiding behind 6,000 servers to connect to the dark web, thinking that they can get away with what they are doing. However, due to diligent police work, not just here but around the world, the perpetrators have been caught, and that is a great result. With this legislation, we will reach far deeper into these dark webs and reach more of these criminals.

There are quite a few amendments in relation to the Statutes Amendment (Child Exploitation and Encrypted Material) Bill. It amends the Child Sex Offenders Registration Act 2006, the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, the Evidence Act 1929, and the Summary Offences Act 1953. I have said this before, but I want to put on the record again that what this legislation does is establish new offences dealing with administrating or facilitating the use or establishment of child exploitation material websites and provide a means for the police to compel a suspect or third party to provide information or assistance that will allow access to encrypted or other restricted-access computer material reasonably suspected of relating to criminal activity.

This bill is a timely and necessary response to dramatic technological advances and the new ways in which crimes and criminals act, especially in relation to the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and how these crimes are being committed. As we know—and some of us struggle with the internet more than others—the internet and rapid advances in technology do bring obvious benefits to society. Before I entered politics, before I became a candidate actually, the only computer I had turned on was the spray computer in my truck. At the ripe old age of about 42 I switched on my first PC, so I have come a long way.

The Hon. A. Piccolo: Never too late.

Mr PEDERICK: Yes, never too late. I have come a long way from denouncing technology to realising it does do some good, but what we see here is the evil that people perpetrate with this technology, linking with other criminals around the world and exploiting children with shocking pornography. As I indicated, there is a dark side to these technological advances, and that is the issue: the ease and the manner by which people can communicate being used for sophisticated criminal purposes.

It is crucial, and this is part of the legislative change, that the criminal law keeps pace with such changes in technology, and in society and its behaviour, especially in regard to new ways of offending. These reforms will help ensure that law enforcement agencies and the courts have the appropriate tools to deal with such criminal behaviour.

Child exploitation material website administrators and those hosting such websites contribute to the proliferation of child exploitation material online. They facilitate and promote the exchange and distribution of child exploitation material. The current laws in this state do address the possession and distribution of this material, but the issue is that existing offences do not always sufficiently capture the conduct of administering, establishing and operating child exploitation material websites, which can occur without actual possession of child exploitation material.

As I indicated at the beginning of my contribution, children are the most important and most precious asset in our lives, and we must always do everything we can to protect them and try to get ahead of these criminal activities, the terrible dark activities that these people participate in, not just here but right around the world. I commend the bill.