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Australians Paedophiles Targeting Bali

MARK COLVIN: It takes a special depth of cynicism to see the social and economic woes of Bali after the Kuta bombings as a sexual opportunity, but it appears that that's exactly the view of a number of Australian paedophiles.

It appears Australian child sex tourists have deliberately targeted Bali at its lowest ebb, simply because the children there are more in need now than ever before.

This horrific development is outlined in a new study from the Australian-based ChildWise organisation, which today handed its findings to the Federal Government, and asked for stronger action from the Australian Federal Police.

David Hardaker has this report.

DAVID HARDAKER: The holiday island of Bali has always attracted its fair share of ugly Australians, the paedophiles who take advantage of poor children, getting away with it because they're out of sight and maybe out of mind.

But while the bombings of October 2002 might have devastated the island's economy, for some it's brought a new opportunity.

BERNADETTE MCMENAMIN: Our research has discovered that there's some very worrying trends occurring in Bali, that there are growing numbers of child-sex tourists and certainly a growing number of Australian child-sex tourists.

DAVID HARDAKER: Bernadette McMenamin, the National Director of the child-sex abuse watchdog, ChildWise.

BERNADETTE MCMENAMIN: Our research has found that there's a significant number of Australians involved in child sexual abuse in Bali. It's hard to correlate their existence there with the bombings, but the community is far more vulnerable. Certainly there was an incredibly increase in downturn in tourism, and tourism is the livelihood for many families, so there were certainly reports that there was much more unemployment, much more obvious poverty, much less children going to school. I mean, this is incredible vulnerability and certainly when we're talking about paedophiles and child-sex tourists travelling around the world looking for safe-havens, that's…you know, these are factors that they look for – vulnerability, in a big way.

DAVID HARDAKER: But are you proposing that the Australian Federal Police in fact travel to Bali to act on the information that you've discovered?

BERNADETTE MCMENAMIN: Yes, absolutely. This information has been a build up over time. I mean, back in 1996 we had "Dolly" Dunn and we have William Brown and a host of other individuals who were known child-sex offenders in a village in Lombok sexually abusing well over a dozen children. That's pretty well fact.

There have been more allegations made of other Australian individuals. There have been many other allegations made that children are being sexually exploited, trafficked and so forth. Of course. And if Australians are involved they should definitely, definitely go over to Bali and to investigate immediately.

DAVID HARDAKER: The Minister for Justice, Chris Ellison, told the Senate today that he'd received the report from ChildWise and that the Australian Federal Police were in the process of installing an officer in Bali to deal with both terrorism and allegations of paedophilia.

The Federal Police's National Manger for Border and International Crime, Mike Phelan.

MIKE PHELAN: Certainly our intelligence tells us that there has been an increase in reporting of this type of crime across the region but that could be coupled with a number of other aspects, and particularly in relation to the level of underreporting of this type of crime. So it is very difficult to quantify but certainty we have had increased reports of child-sex tourism type matters.

DAVID HARDAKER: ChildWise is putting the proposition that significant resources need to be put in from the AFP to investigate the very many allegations they've heard in Bali. Does the AFP have the power to do that? Does it have the people to do it?

MIKE PHELAN: Yes, we do have the people. I mean, we've got people situated here in Canberra and also around Australia that investigate these matters in their various jurisdictions, but also, we extensively utilise our overseas network.

DAVID HARDAKER: It appears though, despite that, that there has been a growth in paedophile activity, despite the relationships which you're saying the AFP has in the region?

MIKE PHELAN: Yeah, well, certainly there has been an increase in reporting, but we're acting on that increase in reporting with our law enforcement agencies and the cooperation is very good, and particularly we're seeing a genuine cultural shift in overseas law enforcement partners within the region. There is a greater shift towards assistance with us in investigating these types of matters.

MARK COLVIN: Mike Phelan, the AFP's Head of Border and International Crime. David Hardaker with that report.

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