Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Page: 9487


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (16:30): Continuing my speech from last night on this bill, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012, I note that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court explicitly recognises trafficking in persons as enslavement, which is considered a crime against humanity. Sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery which, together with the related issues surrounding abuse of migrant workers, is a form of oppression that is rampant throughout the world, even here in Australia. As the 2010 US Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Reportnotes:

Australia is a source and destination country for women subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically exploitation in forced prostitution, and, to a lesser extent, women and men in forced labor and children in commercial sexual exploitation.

It is now well established that governments are not absolved of responsibility simply because acts violating human rights are committed by persons other than state officials. Australia has both the opportunity and responsibility to work against the global trafficking scourge through our cooperation with international intelligence and law enforcement agencies, through our aid programs and through our advocacy and support of effective international agreements.

Australia ratified the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime in 2004 and its supplementary protocol on trafficking in persons in 2005. Australia's anti-people-trafficking strategy was established in 2003, with initial funding of $20 million over four years. In the Labor government budget of 2007-08, a further $38.3 million was added over four years, with $26 million for new measures. Overall, Australia's anti-trafficking strategy addresses the full trafficking cycle from recruitment to reintegration, including the critical areas of prevention, detention, investigation, prosecution and victim support. Key measures include the creation of a new AFP unit called the Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Team; a national policing strategy to combat trafficking in women for sexual servitude; and senior migration officer compliance positions in Thailand, China and the Philippines to help prevent trafficking at its source.

Australia takes a collaborative approach to working with other countries through forums such as the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, which it co-chairs with Indonesia. Australia also supports a number of aid projects in the Asia region, including the Asia Regional Cooperation to Prevent People Trafficking Project, which can be found on the AusAID website.

In 2009 the government implemented changes to the Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program and the People Trafficking Visa Framework to assist victims of trafficking through more flexible visa arrangements for suspected victims of trafficking and through the provision of significant victim support measures. It also released guidelines for NGOs working with trafficking victims. The Attorney-General's Department chairs an interdepartmental committee comprising a number of government agencies that are responsible for coordinating the government's efforts to combat people trafficking.

At the fourth National Roundtable on People Trafficking, held in November 2011, the government released the Anti-Human Trafficking Community Resource, a comprehensive reference guide to all government agencies, NGOs, unions and industry groups which have a role to play in the fight against trafficking. It was at that roundtable that the government released the draft form of the legislation that we are debating here today. Of course, it is through the government's recalibrated and expanded foreign aid program that we have also provided direct funding for the fight against trafficking, including through a further $1.2 million for the Red Cross's support for trafficked people program, announced in March.

These are just some of the laws and agreements and funding initiatives that the Australian government has put in place in the last five years to fight trafficking and to support the victims of trafficking. I pay tribute to the work of the minister and the government in this area, to the fantastic Australian Federal Police team working on this issue and to the NGOs who work tirelessly with and for trafficking victims, including ACRATH, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, with whom I met today and who have been very diligent in raising awareness among parliamentarians and the community; Anti-Slavery Australia; the Red Cross; the Salvation Army; Project Respect; and Scarlet Alliance.

Australia was commended on many of the measures it has taken by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2010, but the committee also made a number of recommendations to Australia for further action on trafficking, including that it adopt a human rights framework in its revised action plan, that it improve coordination among relevant government agencies, that it undertake a formal review on the return and reintegration of trafficking victims and develop guidelines for police and others, and that it review the provision of accommodation for trafficked women in Australia and the provision of compensation for victims.

During her November 2011 mission to Australia, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Dr Ngozi Ezeilo, noted that Australia has demonstrated strong leadership in combating trafficking in persons regionally and domestically, but she also highlighted the need for Australia to offer support to victims as a human right rather than because of their willingness and ability to participate in the criminal justice processes. She urged that greater attention be given to victims' rights to housing and English language classes, that Australia ratify without delay the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the ILO convention 189 of 2011 concerning decent work for domestic families, and that a compensation scheme be established for victims of trafficking.

This bill will increase our capacity to better support and protect victims and we will improve the availability of reparation orders to individual victims of Commonwealth offences, including slavery and people trafficking. I am confident given our track record that the government is continuing to consider and progress our efforts as a nation on the matter of combating trafficking and assisting the victims of trafficking.

In the context of this legislation, I also want to draw attention to the fact that at the end of last year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, held in Perth, there was a resolution calling for a concerted effort from member countries to address the problem of forced marriage. I note that this bill is a key part of Australia's response in meeting the purpose and spirit of that resolution and note the minister's comments in her second reading speech on the bill:

As Australia's first female Attorney-General, I am proud to be introducing legislation which makes forcing someone into a marriage illegal.

The minister also noted:

While the majority of identified victims in Australia have been women trafficked for the purposes of exploitation in the sex industry, law enforcement agencies are increasingly identifying both men and women who have been subjected to exploitation in a range of other industry sectors and … environments.

Thus the bill covers issues of forced labour and it increases penalties for existing debt bondage offences.

The bill also creates a stand-alone offence of organ trafficking, a heinous crime that was going on when I worked in Kosovo for the UN but has only come to public awareness in this country relatively recently. I note that the Human Rights Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, of which I am a member, is currently undertaking an inquiry into slavery, slavery-like conditions and people trafficking. I look forward to the outcomes of that inquiry, which will, I am confident, inform the work of the government in this vital area.

I will conclude by again saying that this is very welcome legislation. It continues the work of this Labor government in steadily strengthening our domestic legal framework and our regional cooperation efforts in line with best international practice.