Victorian MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins criticised for revealing husband's child porn conviction
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Victorian MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins criticised for revealing husband's child porn conviction

For more than 18 months Rachel Carling-Jenkins had been burdened with an awful secret.

In an emotional speech to Victoria's Parliament on Thursday, the conservative crossbench MP broke her silence, laying bare the moment that rocked her life.

She revealed her shock at discovering child pornography – an "extensive" collection of highly disturbing material – on her now estranged husband's computer, and detailed how she called the police and left the house immediately.

Victorian MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins in Parliament on Thursday.

Victorian MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins in Parliament on Thursday.

Photo: Eddie Jim
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"In this discovery I viewed deeply distressing images which have caused me immediate and then ongoing anguish," Dr Carling-Jenkins told Parliament.

Colleagues from across the political spectrum have praised her for speaking out. Yet Dr Carling-Jenkins has faced stinging criticism from some quarters for her decision.

"This is an attitude in society that no matter what a wife should not stand up and call her husband out," she said later outside Parliament.

"I don't by any means want to make this a gendered issue but it is a prevailing attitude in society … I think it's wrong and it needs to stop."

Dr Carling-Jenkins did not specify who had rebuked her over her decision to speak out but said "it wasn't all from strangers".

She thanked her parliamentary colleagues for the support they had provided, including Premier Daniel Andrews, who she said had reached out to her personally.

Dr Carling-Jenkins defected to Cory Bernardi's fledgling Australian Conservatives party from the Democratic Labour Party this year.

"So proud of my friend and colleague who has shown strength, decency and character under the toughest of personal circumstances," Mr Bernardi wrote on Twitter.

Dr Carling-Jenkins has strong socially conservative views and has often spoken of her advocacy for vulnerable people, including those with disabilities.

In her inaugural speech to Parliament, she described herself as a social justice campaigner and railed against pornography and the "fast-growing sex industry".

On Thursday Dr Carling-Jenkins told Parliament she and her son reported the crimes after discovering the highly offensive material in February last year.

Prior to that, she had believed her husband had a mental illness and had tried to get him help.

"I want to make one thing clear; I had no idea prior to February 2016 that my husband was addicted to child pornography."

Dr Carling-Jenkins explained that her husband had continued to abuse her emotionally and financially although her marriage ended the day she made the horrible discovery.

She told Parliament her husband still resisted signing divorce papers.

But her greatest concern was for the children whose innocence and childhood had been stolen from them.

"Those little girls would not have been abused if people like my ex-husband did not provide a market for that abuse."

Dr Carling-Jenkins' husband, Gary Jenkins, was sentenced to four months imprisonment on March 1 for knowingly possessing child pornography.

He first appeared in Sunshine Magistrates Court on December 9, 2016 but the case was adjourned.

Mr Jenkins will be required to report to Victoria Police for the next eight years after he was placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

An appeal to the County Court on April 10 was abandoned.

After her speech, upper house president Bruce Atkinson told Parliament that personal explanations in the chamber had occurred rarely in the past 20 years regarding external matters.

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But he said he granted Dr Carling-Jenkins permission to make the statement, in part, because it was highly likely the matter would be more widely discussed at some point even if she had not made the speech to Parliament.

With Ebony Bowden