The establishment of a public sex offenders register continues to be a prevalent topic in the Noosa electorate, wider Queensland community and in headlines. In our annual Noosa MP community survey, over 80% of respondents supported the implementation of a publicly accessible register.
As part of researching, we found the Australian Government led a National Working Group on Child Sex Offenders, and various member states agreed that the effectiveness of any National Public Register would need to be evidence-based before proceeding. This was corroborated in the Australian Institute of Criminology’s 2018 report when they concluded that further studies need to be done to determine if a registry would have the desired effect.
In response, we contacted the Minister for Police and Corrective Services, requesting an inquiry to provide Queenslanders with the information they need to make an informed decision on whether a public sex offenders register would improve the safety of Queenslanders.
The Minister provided the following response:
In late 2018, the Commonwealth Government announced commencement of public consultation on a preliminary model for a National Public Register, and throughout 2019 and 2020 Queensland Government agencies participated in discussions with the Commonwealth Government and other state and territory jurisdictions in relation to a possible register. Research undertaken through this consultation process has not demonstrated how a public sex offender register would reduce recidivism and strengthen community safety, particularly in circumstances where existing systems effectively support community safety. The Commonwealth led proposal to establish a national public register has not progressed since 2020.
I am advised the research showed that while public registers may have some community support and a small general deterrent effect on first time offenders, at present there is insufficient empirical evidence indicating that they actually reduce re-offending or effect levels of fear in the community…
…It was also noted that the research undertaken to date, including domestic and international studies, has shown non-public schemes appear to reduce re-offending and enhance community safety by assisting police.
I agree that decisions in relations to these matters must be supported by evidence demonstrating the value of the changes, and how they support community safety. Based on advice from relevant studies and agencies, the systems in place to protect the community from child sex offenders are effective and currently the preferred approach when it comes to supporting community safety.
Furthermore, I am advised that a strength of Australia’s existing protection register scheme is the alignment of all State and Territory legislation allowing for the management of offenders who move between jurisdictions. It would not be in the interested of Queenslanders to implement a public register which was not supported by all States and Territories.
Although it was agreed that evidence-based results would be imperative in the implementation of a public register, there was not further support for my request for a Queensland parliamentary inquiry. We will continue to monitor developments and research
As such, until further studies are completed or advocates can demonstrate that a public register can deliver greater safety, we will continue to monitor.