Photo: Some Australians paid less than $49 to watch children being sexually abused live online. (ABC South East SA: Kate Hill )
More than 250 Australians have spent more than $1.3 million to watch child sexual abuse, live streamed on the internet from the Philippines, over 13 years.
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) compiled the data in a landmark study of criminal behaviour online and found the majority of the Australians paying for what has been dubbed "webcam child sex tourism" were aged in their 50s and 60s.
More than half had no criminal record and were from a range of occupations. They included aged care workers, gardeners and even one housewife.
The AIC matched more than 2,700 transaction records between 2006 and 2018, provided by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).
The financial details belonged to Australians linked to people arrested for child sexual exploitation in the Philippines.
Some payments to watch children being abused were less than $49.
The institute said the live streaming of child sexual abuse was "distinct from other child sexual abuse material shared on the internet due to the 'real-time' element".
"Offenders often request how they want the child to be sexually abused either before or during the live streaming session," the report said.
Of the 256 Australians who paid to watch children being abused, more than half made more than one payment, with the AIC stating there was "clear evidence of escalation in the frequency and potential severity of offending in the financial transactions made to [child sexual abuse] live stream facilitators".
The institute was unable to determine exactly what led to some transactions being worth more, but argued it could be a case of a higher price being charged for more egregious and sickening abuse.
The report, released today, coincides with an address to the National Press Club (NPC) in Canberra by the new Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Reece Kershaw, AUSTRAC boss Nicole Rose and the AIC's chief Michael Phelan on countering child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Ms Rose said the Philippines was a "hub" for the live streaming of child sexual abuse.
"This can be sadly attributed to factors of poverty, a high level of English speaking, strong internet coverage and reliable services to facilitate payment," she said.
"It's alarming there's a continuing trend of Australians purchasing viewing and directing the abuse of children on the internet. While these offenders may try to stay under the radar at home, a pattern of crime escalation may compel them to travel out of the country to offend."
The trio are calling for stronger legislation to tackle encryption online, in a bid to pursue child abusers and paedophiles hiding in the darkest reaches of the internet.
"We are seeing more videos, younger children, more violence, we are seeing the rape and torture of our children all for sexual gratification," Commissioner Kershaw told the NPC.
"Australian offenders are involved in producing this material, they travel to impoverished places and they exploit vulnerable children.
"They use the dark web like a weapon, they use encryption like a sword and anonymity like a shield."