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Labor demands Howard act to end evil sex trade.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

**EMBARGOED UNTIL 6AM, 29 APRIL 2003**

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON SIMON CREAN MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR POPULATION & IMMIGRATION JULIA GILLARD MP

LABOR DEMANDS HOWARD ACT TO END EVIL SEX TRADE

The Howard Government must immediately establish a full and independent inquiry into women and girls being brought into Australia to be used in the sex trade.

Over the last few months, we have been deeply disturbed by increasing reports of girls and women being trafficked into Australia for the purposes of working in the sex industry.

These include distressing reports of women being chained to prevent them escaping, women being treated as slaves, women being bought and sold. Although the full extent of this vile trade is unknown, the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) has identified more than 130 people who have been working without valid visas in the sex industry in just the last 10 months. We can only assume that the size of the trade is much larger than the numbers detected. There have even been some recent allegations that organised crime groups have had access to DIMIA’s computer system.

These are very serious issues that need to be investigated. It has also become apparent that the government is more concerned with quickly deporting the victims - the women and girls involved - rather than working with them to gather evidence to attack the “Mr Bigs” behind this vile trade.

We are appalled by what seems to be a complete lack of will on the part of the Howard Government to fight people trafficking. This is demonstrated by the fact that since the introduction of the Slavery and

Sexual Servitude amendment to the Criminal Code in 1999, there has not been one successful prosecution.

For this Government to ignore the trafficking of people into Australia is indefensible. Allowing this trade to continue is also morally wrong and degrading.

The Government has claimed that Australia’s problem with trafficking is small by world standards. This might be true but every woman or girl trafficked into Australia is one too many and constitutes an evil that must be tackled.

Today, we are calling on the Howard Government to establish a full and independent judicial inquiry into this most evil situation. It is only through a full and independent inquiry that the extent of this alarming trade in human life can be determined, past failures in dealing with cases can be identified, allegations relating to organised crime corrupting DIMIA's investigations processes can be proved or disproved and lessons learned.

Labor is today also calling on the Howard Government to immediately broaden the role of the Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues to mandate the Ambassador to work to eradicate people trafficking. This work should include working with source countries for trafficked women and girls in our region as well as co-ordinating a renewed effort by DIMIA, the Australian Federal Police and State Police to crack

down on traffickers.

Australians are entitled to know why the Howard Government is not doing enough to stop this evil trade. Australians want to see action, not hear excuses.

Brisbane 29 April 2003