Crackdown on gun smugglers and child abusers

Gun runners and the nastiest paedophiles could be sent to jail for life under proposals expected to be presented to the Senate and the House of Representatives this week.

But there is one obstacle to a bipartisan strike against illegal gun suppliers in the aftermath of the Las Vegas atrocity, where 59 people were killed, and a crackdown on the worst child molesters - the issue of mandatory sentencing.

The government wants fixed minimum terms of at least five years but Labor - which supports life sentences for the worst offenders - opposes the measure which it fears would lead to juries being reluctant to convict offenders and could see charges reduced.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan branded Labor's opposition as "both hypocritical and fickle", particularly as it brought in mandatory minimum sentences for people smuggling in 2010.

"(Opposition Leader) Bill Shorten and his Labor Party colleagues have a choice: they can side with the Greens and oppose sensible and practical measures such as mandatory minimums for child sex offenders and firearms trafficking," Mr Keenan said in a statement.

"Or they can protect community safety and support our important reforms.

"A vote against mandatory minimum sentences for gun smugglers is a vote in support of more illegal guns on our streets. A vote against our child sex offender reforms is a vote to allow more convicted paedophiles into the community," he added.

New Labor Hotham candidate shares views on crossing
New Labor Hotham candidate shares views on crossing

Mr Keenan is handling three critical pieces of legislation which he said would be the toughest crackdown on child sex offenders in a generation, would increase penalties for illegal firearms trafficking and strengthen anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing regimen.

However, Opposition justice spokeswoman Clare O'Neil argued mandatory sentences could "lead to juries letting people off the hook", and reduce the chance of people co-operating with police which could impede law enforcement efforts to take down the leaders of child abuse rings.

She also believed the government's legislation would also produce a minimum five years jail term for teenagers engaging in consensual sexting or sexual activity with each other.

"I am a mother of two young children and a former foster parent. Child sexual abuse is an evil and sickening crime and I am disgusted by it," Ms O'Neil said.

"The government's bill is not tough enough on these scumbag criminals. That's why we are introducing tougher new sentences including life in prison and creating new aggravated offences that focus on the kingpins that run evil paedophile rings."


Ms O'Neil said advice from the Attorney-General's Department suggested that "fixed and minimum penalties create an incentive for a defendant to fight charges, even when there is little merit in doing so".

Today the Labor caucus approved amendments to the Sex Crimes Against Children And Community Protection Measures Bill which would bring in life sentences for the worst offenders.

"We want tougher sentences to give the courts everything they need to lock these scumbags up for as long they deserve," Ms O'Neil said. "That's why Labor is amending these laws, so courts can put paedophiles away for life."

The Labor Party has also said it wanted to join the government in boosting punishment for illegal firearm traders and bring in life terms for firearm smugglers feeding illegal weapons into the dark web.