Online sex predators who lie about their age in grooming minors will face a 10-year jail sentence under tough new laws passed by parliament on Thursday to protect children on the internet.
The Criminal Code Amendment (Protecting Minors Online) Bill, commonly referred to as Carly's Law, "targets online predators preparing or planning to cause harm, to, procure or engage in sexual activity with a child," including individuals who misrepresent their age, according to a statement from Federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan.
The new laws will also provide police with the power to intervene earlier to prevent predatory acts against children.
"Tough new laws that crack down on online predators have today passed Parliament, giving young Australians greater protection in the online world," the Keenan statement said.
"The tough new sentence of 10 years imprisonment for convicted offenders will also serve as a strong deterrent for the vile grooming of young Australians."
The new law comes as a result of a decade of campaigning by Sonya Ryan, the mother of 15-year-old Carly Ryan, who was murdered in 2007 by a 50-year-old rebuffed paedophile posing online as a musician aged 18 named Brandon.
Carly was lured to a Victor Harbour beach in 2007 by a middle-aged man who had groomed her online for months, and had earlier actually met Carly in person when he pretended to be Brandon's father and gave her expensive gifts. But after Carly rebuffed his advances, the man asked her to come to the beach where he killed her.
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, who proposed the reforms in 2013 along with fellow NXT senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore and Independent senator Derryn Hinch, told media the parliament had "done the right thing by the community" in passing the bill.
"Today the parliament of Australia did the right thing by the community to basically say our children should not be subject to online predators," Xenophon said.
"The police should be able to intervene earlier and there is no question that Carly's Law, named in honour of Carly Ryan murdered 10 years ago this year, is going to be [create] a safer community."
Senator Kakoschke-Moore also paid tribute to the efforts of Sonya Ryan in campaigning for the law reforms.
"Today after all this time, Australia has laws that will protect children from online predators who lie about their age to a child and then attempt to meet that child," she said.
"What has happened today boils down to the fact that Sonya Ryan, who endured more pain, more loss and more suffering than any mother or parent should have to endure, has campaigned for Carly's Law."
An emotional Sonya Ryan said the passing of the reforms marks "a real step in protecting our innocent, vulnerable, beautiful kids".
"This is a really emotional day for me to know that police now have the powers to intervene before a child is harmed," she said.
"I'm so proud of Senator Xenophon, Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore -- they have never given up for my vision for Carly's Law and they've stood by my side for all these years trying to get this heard, trying to get this up on the table.
"To actually get this legislation passed to protect children is huge and a real step in protecting our innocent, vulnerable, beautiful kids that are just trying to connect to the online space and should be able to do so without having to worry about being taken advantage of or hurt or worse by a criminal trying to infiltrate their lives."
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