It is now an offence for registered child sex offenders – those convicted of the most serious forms of abuse in Australia – to leave the country without approval from law enforcement agencies.
They also face having their passports cancelled at the request of Australian authorities.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said a man was being questioned by Australian federal police after being stopped at Sydney airport under the new laws.
“I can report that today a registered child sex offender was stopped here at the SmartGates and has been prevented from travelling overseas,” she said, referring to automated passport control systems, adding that the man’s name was on a government watch list.
The new laws follow repeated episodes of child exploitation overseas, including a high-profile case last year when Australian Robert Ellis was convicted of sexually abusing 11 Indonesian girls on the resort island of Bali.
“Australia has up to 20,000 registered child sex offenders who have served their sentences but are subject to reporting obligations that help to protect the community,” Bishop had said earlier.
“For too long, these predators have travelled overseas undetected, including to countries where weaker laws mean they have opportunities to commit heinous crimes.”
Last year alone, 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas, often to developing countries in Asia, and about 40% did so without notifying police.
“This will now stop,” said Bishop.
The crackdown in Australia comes on the heels of concern about the growing role of technology in paedophilia, with the government proposing new offences and tougher penalties targeting live-streamed child abuse and online grooming.
Authorities also plan tougher fines on internet service providers if they do not report abusive material to police.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan has called the crackdown “the toughest on paedophiles in a generation”, making Australia “a world leader in protecting vulnerable children overseas from child sex tourism.”