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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 2791

Mr HAYES (4:53 PM) —I can be of a little assistance. Our guests are from Vietnam Sydney Radio and are people whom I know are very passionate about human rights issues in Vietnam.

I too join in the support of the Combating the Financing of People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2011, which amends the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. It will help reduce the alternative remittance sector being used as a means of financing people-smuggling and other areas of serious and organised crime. It will also amend the Privacy Act 1988 and make it easier for businesses, particularly financial institutions, to verify the identity of their customers electronically and, importantly, allow the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC, to share the information with other intelligence services, consistent with the current practice of the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission.

Unfortunately, the remittance sector often plays a significant role in serious and organised crime, particularly people-smuggling, providing the funds needed to organise smuggling ventures and to support other organised criminal activities. AUSTRAC needs greater powers to identify potential sources of financial assistance to people-smuggling and other organised criminal activities. We know that the victims of people-smuggling often pay an extremely high price and that, regrettably, that price is sometimes their lives. People-smugglers who have profited from the desperation and vulnerability of others are often able to walk free with minimal punishment and with profits in hand. It is essential that we address this issue at the grassroots, that we attack the profit motive that underpins people-smuggling.

The government is committed to carrying the message that people-smugglers and traffickers will be caught, prosecuted and punished. I congratulate the Australian Federal Police for the significant role they are playing both in Australia and internationally in the detection and disruption of people-smuggling activities. We believe in human life and we see that this criminal activity puts people in unrealistic danger day in, day out. It is well known that people-smuggling and people-trafficking are a well-established and lucrative business throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Quite frankly, it is a criminal trade that rivals the smuggling of drugs and firearms in terms of profitability. It is among the world’s most lucrative criminal activities at the moment. I know that is a sad reflection of modern society. Many in this world do not value human life.

Making it tougher and having more stringent requirements to register as a remittance dealer will allow AUSTRAC a greater ability to control, refuse or cancel any remittance suspected of assisting people-smuggling and other organised criminal activities. Streamlining the flow of money for people-smuggling and other organised crimes will also attack the profit motive at the grassroots level. The $2 million invested in combating people-smuggling and enhancing border protection over the last two budgets was used to focus on prevention, stabilisation, deterrence, detection and interception. If we ever need a reminder of how vile and ruthless these people-smugglers are, we need only think back to the Christmas Island tragedy which claimed 50 people, including children. It is important that we do something not only to shut down this business but to protect people. When discussing the issue of people-smuggling one can draw a parallel with the other heinous global crimes, as I have mentioned, of drug and firearm smuggling.

Criminals are nothing other than nefarious businesspeople. They are attracted to their particular business by a profit motive. What we are seeking to do through this legislation is to make it more difficult to realise a profit from the crime of either people smuggling or people trafficking. Until the exploitation has occurred, I have to say it must be very difficult to distinguish between people-smuggling and people-trafficking cases. Internationally, about 800,000 people are trafficked each year into slavery, of whom 80 per cent are female, 50 per cent of whom are children. What I have been able to discover through my research is that the average cost of a human slave today is US$90.What a value to put on the life of a child. Again, this is a very sad reflection of our world and it is why we need to work together in a way that addresses crimes such as people trafficking and people smuggling.

It is a shocking and unacceptable fact that in this day and age around the world slavery and servitude are still a daily reality for a number of people. According to the International Labour Organisation, 2.45 million out of 12.3 million people are trapped into forced labour and/or trafficked internationally. This clearly indicates the need for far more efficient monitoring and detection of illegal transaction activities such as people trafficking and smuggling. Again, I pay credit to the good work that I know is being done by Commissioner Tony Negus and the Australian Federal Police. I have been able to visit a number of their facilities internationally and have seen firsthand the level of intelligence and activity being conducted by the Australian Federal Police. It is certainly a credit to them and also a credit to our nation that that effort is being made.

Human trafficking is the third largest source of income for organised crime, only exceeded by arms smuggling and drugs. The Minister for Justice recently indicated that non-government organisations play a very significant role in raising awareness of human trafficking, identifying cases and providing support to victims. The victims of these activities are the ones who we must not forget.

In November last year I met with the Josephite Counter-Trafficking Project and the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, one of the organisations focusing on assisting victims of human trafficking. The Josephite Counter-Trafficking Project is organised by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. This project was established in 2005 to promote in a holistic way the spiritual, physical and emotional development of people who have undergone the trauma of being trafficked into Australia. Since 2005 the sisters have developed a network, in collaboration with other religious groups, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Australian Federal Police, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other NGOs. Sister Margaret from the project indicated to me that any response to the trafficking of persons into Australia should have at its root the human rights aspect of the approach. I seek leave to present a document on the Josephite Counter-Trafficking Project.

Leave granted.

Mr HAYES —As I previously stressed, next to assisting the victims and upholding their rights, it is essential that we work at the grassroots of this issue—that is, to attack the business nature of the crime itself. It is essential that we muster all avenues available to us to shut down these criminal operations, but to do that we must be able to detect them. One way of doing that is to give AUSTRAC the powers in this bill and particularly, in respect of remittance dealers, to be able to make a valued assessment, which is effectively criminal intelligence, of the operations that are being funded, whether those are people-smuggling operations or other organised criminal activities.

Referring again to the people who are the subjects of these people-smuggling and people-trafficking operations, I think it is only fair that we acknowledge that most of these people come from highly disadvantaged backgrounds and have suffered very desperate conditions. That is why it is very important that we as a country continue to participate in the progress of the Millennium Development Goals. We cannot let people smuggling and people trafficking deter us from our obligations as a nation that values and champions human rights protection.

In 2009, there were over 43 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, over 15 million refugees and close to one million people seeking asylum. The question is not whether we should assist; I humbly submit that the question should be: what activities do we undertake to address these issues and combat the crimes associated with people smuggling and people trafficking? It is therefore important that we put the focus on the organisers of people smuggling and their operations, and commit our energies to disrupting this criminal enterprise. Amending the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 will give AUSTRAC greater control in its attempts to achieve greater scrutiny of remittance dealers and offshore money transfers so as to be able to detect and share that intelligence with partner agencies, with a view to shutting down these illegal operations.

In the short time I have had available to me, I have acknowledged representatives from Vietnamese Sydney Radio. As I said at the outset, I am quite aware of how passionate they have been in championing human rights in Vietnam to date. With the assistance of Vietnamese Sydney Radio, I have been in contact with people in Vietnam, including Father Ly, who is once again being detained by the authorities. It is a reality that, in this day and age, there are still places all over the globe where people can be detained without trial—including Vietnam, where there are over 400 people currently in detention—and where people are simply denied their human rights.

Human rights are central to what we are doing with this bill with regard to people smuggling. It is not simply about trying to shut down the illicit, criminal activity involved. As I indicated, we are very much focused on the victims of people smuggling because we believe in human rights. If we believe in human rights for people in this country or when they come to this country, we too have an obligation to uphold human rights and pursue that internationally.