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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9293


Dr STONE (Murray) (18:14): I too wish to speak on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-Like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012. We have been very serious about the antislavery bills in this House before, but this bill amends the Criminal Code Act offences covering forced labour and harbouring a victim, and it introduces two additional offences—they are forced marriage and organ trafficking.

I think is extremely important to acknowledge a growing trend in some of our not-so-near neighbours, where there is, it seems, a growing business for people who are very poor having organs removed, often for very little remuneration but compromising their health. You also have to wonder, when these offences occur, if a person who is having their kidneys or some other organ removed really understands what the consequences are and what the alternatives were for them. We are, as I say, establishing these new offences of forced labour, forced marriage, organ trafficking and also the harbouring of a victim.

The bill ensures that the slavery offence applies to conduct that renders a person a slave as well as conduct involving a person who is already a slave. We have to remember that this is always about profit. It is always about one party wishing to get a commercial advantage out of the exploitation of another—it might be a child or it might be a man, but most commonly it is a woman. We are also to extend the application of existing offences of deceptive recruiting and sexual servitude to apply to non-sexual servitude and all forms of deceptive recruiting. It may be the case, for example, that slavery involves young boys spending much of their lives on fishing vessels, but that may be overlooked. They are not obvious—they are not seen begging on the streets of Cambodia; they are not seen as women in brothels in some other countries—but those boys serving out their lives on fishing vessels until they can escape are just as much slaves and in need of protection by law.

This bill also increases the penalties applicable to the existing debt bondage offences to ensure they are in line with the serious nature of the offences. It broadens the definition of exploitation under the criminal code to include all slavery-like practices. It amends existing definitions to ensure that the broadest range of exploitative conduct is criminalised by the offences, including psychological oppression and the abuse of power or taking advantage of a person's vulnerability. In Australia we have to be particularly aware of the potential for that psychological oppression and abuse of a person when a woman is engaged or married to an Australian national and she has come from another culture where there is a different expectation about the rights of the woman. The woman may not be aware that there is such a thing as rape in marriage. She may have no economic independence whatsoever and be particularly vulnerable to psychological oppression and abuse of power.

We must be very aware of that potential in Australian society and be aware when it occurs that the woman and her children, if there are children, need special support. This bill improves the availability of reparations to victims. There may be serious consequences for a woman in Australia perhaps being deported because part of her circumstances is that she is an illegal in our system. It is often very difficult in the first instance to identify the victim and make sure that there are proper reparations for that victim—including returning her to her home country to give her a new life and perhaps a new identity.

We make much in Australia of, for example, our chocolate or our cocoa having labels which say, 'This product has been produced without any environmental damage.' Sometimes the labels suggest that there has been no child slavery involved, but the reality for many commodities like cocoa, which eventually goes into chocolate, is that the children in some African countries are in slave-like conditions. I refer in particular to places like Ghana. We are aware of that circumstance. The other day we introduced illegal logging legislation. Perhaps we as a nation need to be looking much more closely at the importation of other products where we know that the labour has not been legally engaged and the workers, whether children or adults, have not had their rights properly protected. We are now concerned about illegal logging. When are we going to be concerned about illegal production of the choice foods we eat by forced labour?

I am also most concerned that there is more encouragement for countries where most of this global trafficking in persons, or even national trafficking, occurs. I refer to a report from February 2009 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global report on trafficking in persons. It states:

… sexual exploitation was noted as by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (79%) followed by forced labour (18%). This may be the result of statistical bias.

I referred at the beginning of my remarks to the case of young boys on fishing vessels. The UN report states:

By and large, the exploitation of women tends to be visible, in city centres or along highways. Because it is more frequently reported, sexual exploitation has become the most documented type of trafficking, in aggregate statistics. In comparison, other forms of exploitation are under-reported: forced or bonded labour; domestic servitude and forced marriage; organ removal; and the exploitation of children in begging, the sex trade and warfare.

We have recently tried to help some of the child victims who have been forcibly recruited into armies, particularly in countries in Africa. We know the great damage it does to a young person psychologically, emotionally and physically. We need to be aware that the data collected on human trafficking very often, as this report shows, over-represents the highly visible sexual exploitation, ignoring those other forms of abuse such as servitude or slavery—for example, domestic servitude. In the Middle East, some countries depend on the labour of guest workers, men and women. Often the conditions under which they work and their freedom of movement are curtailed by the culture and the business arrangements that they face.

There is also a disproportionate number of women involved in human trafficking not only as victims but also as traffickers. Female offenders have a more prominent role in present day slavery than in most other forms of crime. This needs to be addressed, especially in cases where former victims have become perpetrators. We need to be aware that it is not only men exploiting women; it is sometimes women exploiting women. So when we are looking for the perpetrators of these crimes, we need to look widely.

I am also concerned that some people are wondering whether this legislation will rebound to include such things as child labour on family farms in Australia. I do not think we would be so stupid in Australia to include such things as, say, a young child picking fruit on their family farm or helping with the shearing, as I did from an early age. I was always a rouseabout in my family shearing sheds from the age of about eight. I loved the work. I was never paid, but I did not expect to be. I worked very hard and I did not expect to exercise much choice about the matter at the time either, given my farm family's culture. I think we have to be very sensible in Australia about separating out those sorts of family labour expectations as not in the same league as young children who are sold into slavery due to the extraordinary poverty faced by their family. In countries such as Cambodia, young children end up as beggars in Phnom Penh or the girls are sold into the sex trade when they have graduated from being the props in a begging situation—for example, with an older woman holding a young baby—to the baby being old enough to work in a brothel.

I mention this in passing because some people have said, 'Isn't this just another way of a government trying to capture the family farm traditions of Australia in legislation, forbidding the family farm the tradition and sometimes necessity of all hands on deck when the seasonal work is on?' I do not think this government intends that and I think it is a furphy to be worried about that situation. What I am concerned about is that more Australians should be aware of the Criminal Code, which now includes issues of forced marriage and forced labour. If people see a couple where it is apparent that one, usually the woman, is in a circumstance which is unfair and brutalising to the woman, where her freedoms are curtailed or she is being psychologically oppressed, it is the duty of all of us, as citizens, to do something about that situation, not just observe from a distance and say: 'Tut, tut. They would do that, they're from some other place.'

These are important additions to the legislation. Australia as a developed nation needs to help lead the world in identifying any of these criminal offences in our own country and to support other, less developed, nations where they need support in developing their criminal codes or the policing of their labour or workforce situations. We of course also, through our foreign aid budget, will assist other nations or communities where extreme poverty makes children and women vulnerable to being sold into the sex trade or as labourers, or even to being forced to sell their organs. I commend this bill to the House.