National News

Child sex offender list no 'silver bullet'

Listing child sex offenders online won't be a "silver bullet" for keeping kids safe, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has acknowledged.

But he believes it will be worthwhile if it saves one child from falling victim to a pedophile.

The federal government is urging states and territories to sign up to a publicly accessible national register.

Some child safety advocates are concerned the proposal will make the community feel safer without practically protecting kids.

The government's push for a register comes after reports to the Australian Federal Police of child sexual abuse and exploitation grew by 77 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

Mr Dutton says the move will help deter offenders and ensure parents were not "in the dark" about whether convicted sex offenders had access to their children.

Two reviews of a similar register started in the United States in 1996 found little evidence it had impacted on sex offending, according to a 2007 Australian Institute of Criminology report.

The home affairs minister said a register was part of a "jigsaw puzzle" in protecting children.

"This is a not a silver bullet, but it's the latest step in Australia's fight to keep kids safe," he told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.

"If it saves one child, if it prevents one child from falling prey to a pedophile in our community, then it's worth pursuing."

The online register would contain information provided by states and territories including the person's name, photograph, aliases, date of birth, nature of offending and their general locality, such as their postcode.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Labor would listen to the experts when considering any proposal to keep kids safe.

He said the existing nationwide register available to police and working with children checks were both working well.

"Mr Dutton must show how this makes children safer, how he would ensure it doesn't compromise the existing registration system, or make it harder for police to do their job," Mr Dreyfus said.

The parents of Daniel Morcombe - a 13-year-old abducted and murdered on the Sunshine Coast in 2003 by a man who had been jailed twice for molesting young boys - have pushed for a national register for almost a decade.

"We really encourage that the states and territories get behind this," Daniel's father Bruce Morcombe told reporters in Hobart.

But the idea is facing backlash from child protection group Bravehearts and trauma centre the Blue Knot Foundation, with those organisations arguing registers are not proven to improve children's safety.

Bravehearts chair Hetty Johnston said a register would not have saved Daniel Morcombe, arguing governments should keep child sex offenders behind bars.

Victorian Corrections Minister Ben Carroll said his state is "very keen" to consult with the commonwealth on the proposal.

Independent Victorian senator and long-term anti-pedophile campaigner Derryn Hinch said he can die a happy man, knowing a public register is on the agenda.

© AAP 2019