Sweet and sour memory
Photo Courtesy of: Karl Ullrich
THIS PHOTO ON the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House is one of my favourites. One that I will cherish. I felt honoured to be in such brave and stoic company.
In an island of supporters, at the end of our 180km Jail 2 Justice walk, I stood with George Halvagis and Bruce and Denise Morcombe. Three people united through grief, having each lost a cherished child at the hands of recidivist attackers who should never have been out of jail to inflict such pain. On the living as well as the dead.
In a half-way decent or functioning court and prison system, Daniel Morcombe and Mersina Halvagis would still be alive.
That moment on the steps was a rare high point in our campaign as we handed a Government representative eleven bound volumes of a petition signed by 127,000 concerned citizens. An outpouring of support that has now passed 155,000.
After that, I personally wrote to every state and territory Attorney-General and the Federal A-G, George Brandis, and met with the Queensland A-G, Jarrod Bleijie and his Victorian counterpart Robert Clark.
The wind came out of my sails two weeks ago when a meeting of the nation’s Justice Ministers unanimously rejected my proposal for a national public register of convicted sex offenders.
I recorded my reaction for HinchTube and wrote here: ‘I don’t deny it is a huge setback. But, as I said on Sunrise ‘I'm not giving up, it's a big blow - but maintain the rage. And we shall’.
The legal eagles, meeting as the LCCSC (Law, Crime, Community Safety Council) were blunt in their rejection of my call for a national register.
Game over. Not.
‘Having consulted with Australian law enforcement agencies and assessed the empirical evidence on the efficacy of public notification schemes, LCCSC Ministers have concluded that Mr Hinch’s proposal to publish a national public register of all convicted sex offenders is not supported’. Game over. Not.
They say a week’s a long time in politics. And, boy, can things change quickly. Yesterday, at a media announcement, attended by Daniel Morcombe’s Dad, the Northern Territory government announced
the Northern Territory Sex Offender Public Website (NTSOPW) legislation, which will be named Daniel’s Law.
Attorney-General John Elferink said the website -- which will include the convicted serious sex offenders’ image, physical description and regional whereabouts - is a tool designed to deliver information to the community in an ‘easy, user-friendly’ way.
‘This initiative will allow individuals and families to familiarise themselves with important details and be more vigilant about named serious sex offenders living in and around their area’.
As they say: The devil is in the detail and I am keen to see the wording of the actual legislation. We are told it is based on Megan’s Law (the one that has been operating nationally in the U.S. since 1996) but I am wary on at least two fronts:
What constitutes a ‘serious sex offender’ and what do they mean by ‘regional whereabouts’?
all men and women
Any new law must give the courts leeway so a 17-year-old student doesn’t appear on the register for sexting his teenage girlfriend or a drunken male for urinating in public.
I believe the public register must list all men and women convicted of rape, sexual assault and indecent assault.
And I’m concerned about ‘regional whereabouts’ which seems like a sop to civil libertarians, people warning about vigilante squads and defenders of paedophiles’ privacy.
Remember, when we discovered serial child abuser Kevin Briscoe living within a block of a primary school in Melbourne police told me they couldn’t even alert the school principal ‘for privacy reasons’.
Don’t get me wrong. This is a massive advancement. A telling breakthrough. I applaud Attorney-General Elferink and his government for putting the safety of kids ahead of the rights of predators.
This move demolishes the Justice Ministers’ shallow argument about a public register ‘driving them underground’. They’re already underground. As I told The Australian: ‘They’re already hidden. You ask any copper, they’ll tell you a paedophile’s most dangerous weapon is their anonymity’.
Obviously, the lawmakers in the Northern Territory share that view.
I have always thought it would take one state or territory to break the drought. Believe me, others will be forced to follow. Especially when Darwin predators start crossing state lines.
I thought Queensland would lead the way and was saddened that Victoria was not more receptive – especially after our Jail 2 Justice walk. As I’ve said before, quoting Chairman Mao: The longest journey starts with one step. This is a big one.
I started today with mention of a favourite photo. Here’s another one. A rare moment of solitude during the ten-day walk from Langi Kal Kal. Replace the iPad with a box of chocolates… and it’s Forrest Gump.