Carly's law

Mr DULUK (Waite) (12:33):

I just want to say a few words on this very important bill that has been brought before the house. I think it is one of our very first bits of legislation in this area of reform. This bill is instrumental in protecting children, which is so important. Governments should not be afraid of tackling this issue when it comes to cybercrime and the changes that we are dealing with. There is no doubt that parliament is sometimes slow to react to these issues because of the legislative framework that goes around with it.

However, as the needs of the community change, to ensure that our community remains safe and that we protect the most vulnerable, especially our children, it is important that parliament has the ability to recognise technology and to amend our legal framework to reflect a changing society. To me, this bill is really important because it deals with the issue of child protection in a new paradigm which did not exist 10, 15, 20 years ago, but the reality is that the same sinister behaviour by individuals unfortunately does not change. As a parliament, we always need to be prepared to move with the times.

Some elements of the bill are obviously very important, and they are to increase prison terms for this type of behaviour and to give the authorities the ability to deal with that. This bill has become known as Carly's Law. As previous members have already noted in their contributions, in February 2007, Carly Ryan, who was only 15 years old, was murdered by 50-year-old Garry Francis Newman at the beach in Port Elliot.

For 18 months prior to the murder, Carly had been communicating online and on the phone with who she believed was an 18-year-old musician from Melbourne named Brandon Kane. This was, in fact, a lie. Brandon Kane was a fictitious character created by Garry Newman in order to seduce Carly. When police arrived to arrest him, they found that on his computer he had been messaging a 14-year-old girl in Western Australia. We are talking about a pretty sick individual. Garry Newman had over 200 fake online profiles.

One of the most important reasons for this bill is to assist with early intervention by police in these matters. As Mrs Sonya Ryan said recently, this legislation will, and I quote, 'Make sure that police are able to step in before they (the offenders) are able to get in front of a child.' It is vital that police can intervene before sexual predators are able to act. Another important reason for the bill is to make it clear in the law that there is no justification or situation where it is acceptable for adults to communicate with children under the age of 17 where they lie about their age or identity. I think it is really important that, as people in society, we are allowed to go along with our business trusting and knowing that we are always dealing with honest situations. The law must be reflective of that.

A statistic from the United Nations shows that there are over 750,000 sexual predators online. Since Carly's death, social media use has only increased, as I said back in 2007. A recent report from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, titled 'State of play: youth, kids and digital dangers', found that, on average, young children have three social media profiles and teenagers have five profiles. An alarming statistic in their report was that young children between the ages of eight and 12 were significantly less likely than teens to undertake a number of tasks in order to stay safe online.

The report also found that 38 per cent of young people in Australia aged eight to 17 had used the internet to talk or chat to someone they did not previously know in the 12 months leading up to June 2017. These statistics, along with Carly's tragic story, are why this government is taking the initiative and putting forward this legislation. As a result of the new online age that we live in, children and teenagers are engaging with strangers online and potentially putting themselves at risk of sexual predators. It is our duty of care to ensure that we do what we can to ensure that this does not happen.

As has been mentioned, the Carly Ryan Foundation does some amazing work. I remember many years ago, when Mrs Ryan spoke at the Aberfoyle and Districts Lions Club at Flagstaff Hill, that the presentation she gave certainly reminded us of the important work she had been doing. The foundation is a certified online safety provider under the Office of the eSafety Commissioner as part of their certification scheme.

The foundation also offers online safety seminars for organisations and schools. I implore any school group or service club, such as Probus, Lions, or Rotary, to engage the services of the foundation to teach not just kids about online safety but all the community. I would like to thank Sonya and the foundation for the work that they do on behalf of Carly so that this tragedy does not happen to anyone else in Australia.

The member for Davenport touched on some of the federal legislation—the federal government passed similar laws last year. I know that there is going to be more work done through COAG on this matter to ensure that other states and other jurisdictions come on board to allow all kids across the nation to be safe, so that those predators know that wherever they are and wherever they hide, there will be serious consequences to their despicable behaviour. I support this bill and I support the government on its initiatives to ensure child protection and wellbeing.