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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7736

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (3:05 PM) —On 10 December, Senator Cherry asked me a question without notice regarding why the government has not ratified ILO convention 182, `Worst Forms of Child Labour 1999', and whether the government will establish a national review of measures including laws to prevent the exploitation of children in the labour force. I undertook to provide additional information and I seek leave to incorporate the response in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows—

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has provided the following additional information in relation to the question asked by Senator Cherry:

Ratification of Convention 182

The Government is committed to ratifying Convention 182 in order to demonstrate Australia's commitment to the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. This commitment was given to the ILO by the head of the Government delegation to the 2002 International Labour Conference in an address to the Conference in plenary session on 12 June 2002.

The inability of the Government to ratify the Convention to date arises from the need to comply with the treaty-making policy that has been agreed with the State and Territory governments. This policy provides that Conventions cannot be ratified unless and until all relevant jurisdictions have formally agreed to ratification and all legislation necessary for compliance is in place. The fact is that prohibition of the worst forms of child labour falls primarily within the legislative responsibilities of the States and Territories, and their compliance is essential if Australia is to ratify the Convention.

While the majority of States have provided formal agreement to ratification, there are outstanding compliance issues in most of these jurisdictions. The Government is seeking urgent resolution of these issues.

At the recent meeting of the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council, the Minister for Employment and workplace Relations sought and obtained agreement from all State and Territory Governments that they will provide commitments to achieve compliance with the Convention by Easter 2003.

Such commitments should enable the Government to commence formal action to ratify Convention 182.

National review

The Government sees no need for a national review as proposed by Senator Cherry. Consultations with State and Territory governments on law and practice in relation to child labour issues has established that State and Territory legislation providing for compulsory education, minimum ages for employment in selected occupations, child welfare and occupational health and safety provides a very effective framework for preventing the admission of children to harmful employment and promotes their fullest physical and mental development. Australian law and practice with regard to the protection of children under 18 from involvement in exploitative forms of child labour such as prostitution, slavery, forced labour, drug-trafficking and unsafe work, are in full compliance with Convention 182. In the circumstances a national review would serve no useful purpose.

Senator Cherry refers specifically to the issue of children as young as 16 or 17 working in the adult entertainment industry. This is the single area in which some Australian laws do not fully meet the requirements of Convention 182.

The Commonwealth has a minor compliance issue with respect to the importing and exporting of pornographic videos, which is being addressed. Responsibility for the regulation. of pornographic performances and the making of pornographic products lies with the State and Territory governments, not the Commonwealth. It is the failure of some of these jurisdictions to take action on this particular type of issue that has delayed the ratification process.