Legislative Council: Thursday, July 06, 2023


Child Protection

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:00): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Attorney-General on the subject of child protection.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It has recently been alleged that underage girls in state care, some as young as 11 years old, are being sexually exploited in exchange for money, drugs, vapes and cigarettes. My questions for the minister are: what immediate measures is the government taking to protect these children from predators, and has the Attorney sought advice on legislative options that could be implemented to further protect these children?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:00): I thank the honourable member for her question. At the outset I want to say I have seen some of the commentary around this matter. No child can consent to sexual activity. We as a chamber made changes to make that very clear in our intention. I think there has been some unfortunate commentary around this. It is the sexual abuse, it is the rape, of children. That is the only correct way to describe some of the actions that have been commented upon.

In relation to what the government is doing, we will do everything that is reasonably in our power to protect children. We have passed a number of laws already in this parliament that have substantially increased penalties for child sexual offences. We have passed, at the instigation of the Hon. Connie Bonaros, laws about childlike sex dolls. We have passed laws to correctly describe the sexual abuse of children; it is not being described as 'engaged in a relationship'.

I do not have the facts of the matter the honourable member is talking about, but I am happy to see if there are any specific matters that the Minister for Child Protection could reasonably bring back. As the honourable member would be well aware, the reporting on details of people who are part of the child protection system is something that for very good reason is not—the privacy of those children is of utmost importance, but I am happy to see if anything can be provided. I can assure the honourable member that if there are possible changes that can be made to better protect children, we will absolutely engage with that.