A controversial proposal for a national register of sex offenders has divided opinion on whether it actually makes the community safer, or just gives that impression.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has called for a national online register which would contain information such as the person's name, photograph, aliases, date of birth, nature of offending and their general locality, such as their postcode.
"It will send a clear message that Australia will not tolerate individuals preying on the most vulnerable members of the community – our children," he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Wayne Deaner, community leader of the Wagga Neighbourhood Watch, said he was all for anything that would make the city safer.
“Coming from a community perspective, we have no idea who they are to start off with,” he said. “It makes people more aware that there are these individuals in our community.”
Mr Deaner said if such legislation was to be passed, there would be a need for strict parameters in place.
“There has to be a line drawn in the sand somewhere and efficient research needs to be done,” he said.
Dr Danielle Arlanda Harris, a senior lecturer the Griffith Criminology Institute and has done extensive research into sex crimes, said such a register would only make residents “feel safer rather than be safer”.
“There are a number of terrible unintended consequences and it creates a false sense of security,” she said.
“We already have a register that police have access to and can monitor.
“If you’re the person that is highly motivated and highly fixated on committing these types of heinous offences, you will find a way despite the register.”
Dr Harris said that international laws and research have shown that public registration has neither resulted in enhanced community safety nor led to a significant reduction of reoffending.
“The risk of vigilantism is very real,” she said.
“One of the quotes was that this law is ‘breathtakingly simple’, but it’s mind-blowingly complicated.”
Dr Harris said even if it starts as a tiered-system, legislation is a slippery slope and people will end up on the register who shouldn’t be there.
Mr Dutton said the information would be vetted by law enforcement to ensure it did not identify abuse, breach non-publication orders and identify juvenile sex offenders.
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