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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17092


Ms PLIBERSEK (10:03 AM) —There are a number of matters that I want to raise with the minister focusing on, first of all, trafficking of women into Australia for the purposes of sex work and sexual slavery. Recently there was an interview on Lateline, in which the Manager of Eastern Operations of the Australian Federal Police said, `There are significant pressures on these women not to come forward.' The minister has said in the past that there is not a great deal of evidence on which to state that there is trafficking into Australia of women for the purposes of sex work. One of the great concerns I have—and I know that a number of people who work in this area share this concern—is that women are often deported before they are able to give proper evidence. Surely one of the pressures these women face is being deported without having been able to fulfil the terms of their contract and therefore risking significant violence on their return home. There are anecdotal reports of women being killed on returning home to their countries of origin.

I want to know, if possible, how many criminal justice visas under section 155 of the Migration Act have been given to women who say that they have been trafficked into Australia for the purposes of sex work. How many of these visas have been given to women to allow them to stay in Australia and give evidence against the people who are involved in people-trafficking into this country?

I know that AusAID is not in your area, but it funds a project in Burma, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia that is aimed specifically at tackling people-trafficking. I would have thought that it would be a very good source of intelligence for your own department to check with those people from AusAID that are running the people-trafficking project in Burma, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia and ask about the sort of intelligence they are getting. Who are the people who are engaging women at the supply end of the people-trafficking chain? It may not be too hard to find out how women are being attracted into Australia, what they are being told at that end and, most importantly, who is doing the telling—what are they saying and who are the Mr Bigs at that end?

I would also like to know, if possible, whether your department has made any changes to the way they treat people when they are picked up. After the New South Wales deputy state coroner released his report on 24 April 2003 into the case of Puangthong Simaplee, a number of criticisms were made of the way the department dealt with this young woman after she was picked up. I want to know whether any money has been spent on additional training for staff, and whether the issue of the gender of officers interviewing women who have been picked up in sex worker situations has been addressed. In fact, I would like to know if any changes have been made to the department's protocols as a result of the tragic death of this young woman in Villawood detention centre.

Finally, we have heard a great deal in the last few weeks about discretion and people who have been brought here under ministerial discretion. You would have heard, Minister, about the tragic case of Sara and Safdar Sammaki, who are two children left in Bali after the tragic death of their mother in the Bali bombing—where so many Australians and people of other nationalities also died. Their father, Mr Ebrahim Sammaki, is in Baxter detention centre. I think that Australians—who exhibited so much sympathy for local Balinese people, Australians and people of other nationalities who died in that terrible bombing—would like to see this family reunited. I know that you have said in the past that the easy solution is for this fellow to go back to wherever he came from, but I want to know if you have considered allowing Sara and Safdar to join their father at this most traumatic time?