My matter is for the Police Minister.
It follows last week’s arrests (through Operation Molto) of 44 Australian members of an international paedophile ring, including 11 Victorians, on mass charges of possession of extreme child exploitation material.
Given the punctilious work that led up to those arrests, I want to express my admiration and gratitude to those involved in endeavouring to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. In particular, I want to thank the Australian Federal Police, who led the work, and Federal Minister Peter Dutton and the Home Affairs Department, who co-ordinated the involvement of Australian governments and, locally, of the Five Eyes network in relation to these developments.
I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, who have been undertaking incredible work in this space recently – and who, as it happens, opened their new headquarters in Brisbane last week with the incomparable Bruce and Denise Morcombe.
Closer to home, I am sure Victorians would also be interested to know any details that our Police Minister might be able to share about our State’s involvement in Operation Molto.
More directly, the action I seek from her is an indication of how police and other law enforcement resourcing in Victoria has been strengthened during 2020 specifically to deal with the rapidly escalating spread of child abuse material.
As the Minister will know, the former police Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton, revealed in 2019 that Victoria was then facing a tidal wave of violent child pornography activity.
Sadly, it is now only getting worse – including through an astonishing explosion in such activity during the COVID lockdown months.
Minister Dutton spoke last week, for instance, of a 163 per cent increase in dark web child abuse material in April to June this year.
These types of trends have worried many of us for a considerable time – and it’s why I also specifically raised a related adjournment matter on child exploitation for another Minister in February.
In that matter, I asked about the work the Victorian Government is undertaking to proactively target child pornography offenders, ensure that sentencing genuinely reflects the gravity of these crimes, and make publicly available crime data specific to child pornography offending and sentencing.
Unfortunately, after more than eight months, there has still been no response.
Those issues and the new ones I have raised this evening are all extremely serious and increasingly urgent, and I therefore hope the Police Minister considers it appropriate to give this adjournment matter a timely reply.