Although it was recently announced that the Federal Government would back the move to strip registered child sex offenders of their passports, Senator Derryn Hinch – who has been at the forefront of this push for change – says there is no time for rest.
“I won’t be taking any time off,” he says, sharing about his plans for the year ahead and the need to continue pushing for change to Australia’s national child sex register.
“As soon as I get back from Christmas I’m going to get onto the State Justice Ministers and State Police Ministers, and ask what the best mechanism is for getting these [offender] registers straight to the Federal Police.
“The current problem is that the States aren’t notifying the Federal police about the [child sex offender] register…our next step is to make sure the private police sex offenders register goes straight to the passport office [when an offender attempts to travel] and brings up a red flag. I’m hoping this will happen within the next few months.
“The Federal coppers are very keen, and Julie Bishop – to her credit – and the Prime Minister are very keen. They’re all on side, we’ve just got to keep pushing to get it through the right channels,” he says.
Senator Hinch says he is also grateful for the work of those such as Project Karma – lead by former Victorian police officer Glen Hulley – who work with South East Asian Governments and police to shutdown pedophile networks.
“I’m well aware of what Glen and Project Karma have been doing off their own back – [what they’ve done in this area] is great stuff,” he says.
Operating across countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, Hulley has seen first hand the devastation caused by Australia’s relaxed laws, which allow registered sex offenders to travel overseas on pedophile holidays.
In 2015 alone, Project Karma were instrumental in the arrest and conviction of several Australian child offenders such as Robert Ellis and Peter Walbran, both of whom were living and working in Thailand despite their convictions. Ellis was found guilty of sexually abusing 11 girls under the age of 18 between 2014 and 2015, and sentenced to 15 years jail.
Mr Hulley, who first met with Senator Hinch in October 2015 prior to his election campaign, says he is heartened to see Senator Hinch pursuing this area of injustice, and believes the Australian Government needs to take swift action to not only strip passports from registered offenders, but to also have their names added to a public register.
“I believe the current ANCOR system is incumbent,” he says. “There are flaws in the system and its secrecy achieves nothing in the protection of children.
“I’ll be meeting with Derryn next year, and will continue to push for an overhaul of the ANCOR system. Together, hopefully we can one day change the legislation for the better.”
It is a sentiment that Senator Hinch strongly agrees with, and an issue he is committed to fighting until legislation is finally passed.
Revealing other avenues of interest for 2017, the social justice advocate says he is planning a separate investigation into children’s welfare agencies and the Family Court.
“There’s a lot of sexual abuse of children institutionalised in these [agencies],” he says. “I call them ‘foxes in the chicken coop,’ because it’s the very people working in these departments have been involved in [some of the most] horrendous crimes.”
Switching focus, Senator Hinch will also be investigating issues surrounding the practice of ‘transvaginal mesh’ procedures, which are currently performed in Australia despite being banned by some overseas countries.
“It’s a very delicate issue, but it’s as big a thing for Australian women, as Thalidomide was in the 50s and 60s. [Not many know about it] but 100,000 women in the US are suing over [this product],” he says.
“It’s a plastic mesh that’s implanted in mothers who’ve had incontinence and prolapse issues [after birth], but the plastic is incredibly dangerous – it almost cannot be removed, and often fragments.”
First introduced in 2002, Transvaginal mesh has been used in prolapse surgeries for the past 14 years. However, in the years since, thousands of women have reported serious damage from the procedure, including perforated organs, extreme discomfort during intercourse, and severe pain that continues even after multiple surgeries.
According to the FDA, the product is considered high risk and resulted in the deaths of seven women between 2008 and 2010.
In 2014 Scotland became the first country to suspend use of the product pending further investigations; however, at present, is still used in Australia. According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s website, ‘99 adverse events reports involving urogynaecological surgical meshes’ were received from July 2012 to June 1st 2016.
*Many thanks to Senator Hinch for his time in granting this interview with me.