Labor hits out at rush over pedophile laws

Labor says legislation about dealing with pedophiles should not be used to score political points.
Labor says legislation about dealing with pedophiles should not be used to score political points.

Labor is refusing to be rushed into a position on the Morrison government's push for pedophiles to face mandatory prison terms.

The proposal breezed through the lower house on Tuesday, before a Senate committee could provide feedback on the bill.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said the government was displaying "insufferable arrogance" by not waiting for the committee's report.

He said the government's talking points - which were accidentally sent out to journalists ahead of the sitting week - showed the coalition was more interested in attacking Labor than debating policy.

"The debate about this bill should be about one thing, and one thing only - how best to protect and support children," he told the chamber.

"This should not be a topic for scoring political points."

Labor supports some parts of the bill, including measures to protect children who are witnesses in court proceedings.

But the party generally opposes minimum mandatory terms as it interferes with judicial discretion and in this instance, believe it could lead to fewer convictions.

The Senate's legal and constitutional legislation committee is due to report on the bill early next month.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said most pedophiles given a prison sentence under federal laws typically spent six months in jail, even though the maximum term was 20 years.

Nearly 40 per cent who were charged last year weren't given a jail sentence, he added.

"The introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing for the most serious offences, and repeat child sex offenders, is necessary to send a clear message that society will not tolerate sexual crimes against children," Mr Porter said.

It is "nonsensical" to think mandatory prison terms would lead to fewer convictions, he said.

"The community expects that child sex offenders go to jail and this bill is the way to make that happen."

The legislation also creates a new serious offence for when someone subjects a child to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, or which causes a child to die.

The proposal will not apply to people under the age of 18.

Australian Associated Press