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Parents Trust Put To The Test

FOR parents, the list of those arrested in Australia's biggest child pornography bust makes sobering reading. Teachers, doctors, health workers, police officers and the owner of three Melbourne child-care centres- the very people adults entrust their children to.
After five months of investigations with the American FBI, Australian authorities arrested more than 150 people across the country on 2000 charges yesterday.
The only state or territory where arrests were not made was the ACT, the nation's "porn capital".
More than 380 computers were seized, containing two- million pornographic images involving children.
The sting was already in its final stages when new laws cracking down on internet child pornography passed Federal Parliament in August.
People who use the internet to access, transmit or make child pornography available now face up to 10 years in jail.
It is also now illegal for an offender who has won a child's trust to use a telecommunications service to arrange a meeting with the child for sex.
When Prime Minister John Howard announced at the beginning of the election campaign a $30 million plan to tackle child abuse and pornography, he must have been onto something.
But surely not even he knew the scale of the child pornography networks operating in Australia.
The warning bells have been sounding for some time.
Three years ago, a man was arrested in Victoria and computers seized in South Australia following an international internet crackdown on child sex offenders.
Australia was one of 20 countries involved in the operation launched by Britain's National Crime Squad.
A few months ago, anti- child abuse groups alleged that a highly organised, pedophile ring involving Victorian police and a former senior politician had been operating in the state since the 1970s.
The issue had brought down several public figures, most notably former Governer-General Peter Hollingworth, who eventually conceded that he made mistakes while handling child sex abuse allegations as the anglican archbishop of Brisbane.
But while details of sex abuse within the church have been well documented, child pornography has received less attention.
It is difficult to catch predators and the porn ring in Australia has flourished.
The accused are all people in positions of power who had covered their tracks well- Until now.
With police warning there will be many more arrests to come, it is likely that parents will be thinking twice about who is watching over their child.

The Herald (1-10-2004)





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