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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8194

Ms REA (7:25 PM) —All of us in this House have come with great enthusiasm to represent our local electorates and to make very important decisions both on a local and a national level. Indeed, the debate we have just witnessed regarding the issue of age pensions certainly highlights the matters of national significance that we discuss. But I do not believe there is any issue that is more important for us as elected members of this parliament and as citizens of this country to discuss, debate and move to eradicate than that of human trafficking. We cannot call ourselves a civilised society when human beings are traded as if they are simply goods or chattels. None of us can celebrate our freedom when we live in a world where human beings are exploited and are held in bondage and slavery.

Unfortunately, this is not a minor issue. In fact, human trafficking is the second largest criminal activity in the world, next to drug dealing. It is something that we all as individuals and as people who have some responsibility and influence must talk about—and we must encourage every campaign at every level to eradicate this very insidious crime. The US State Department estimates that every year around 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders—a staggering figure. What is even more staggering is that it is estimated that there are millions of people—around two to four million more people—trafficked within their own countries. Of course, what is most frightening about those statistics is that there are more people who are victims of human trafficking today than there were at the height of the African slave trade. This is a startling acknowledgement of how far we believe we have progressed but, on what is a very basic, essential human right, we still have a long way to go.

Of course there are many reasons why people are victims of human trafficking: force, fraud and coercion are all very insidious methods that see many people taken against their will, exploited and forced into situations over which they have no control. We know that it is often women and children who are the greatest victims of this. In moving this motion, I want to encourage the government to continue its campaign to be involved in ending this terrible crime. I am so pleased that the Minister for Home Affairs has established the National Roundtable on People Trafficking. This matter is of such importance and significance that we need everybody around the table working together to eradicate this crime. We need more than just one government or one entity to be able to resolve this situation. The roundtable brings together all of the key voices in this country who have long had the knowledge, the expertise and, indeed, the compassion and concern to campaign against this crime. Members include three ministers, many of the NGOs, service providers, victims of crime organisations, religious bodies, unions and employer groups. It has brought together all those people who can contribute so much.

We also have a strategy to end trafficking. As a country we have developed a strategy to combat it which includes comprehensive antitrafficking laws, specialised teams in the AFP, enhanced visa arrangements for potentially trafficked persons, a victim’s support program, funding for the Institute of Criminology, and so many more initiatives.

We also have to acknowledge that as individuals we also have some responsibility. I urge all Australians to avoid using those products which are on our shelves as a result of child slavery and human trafficking. We know that there are areas such as coffee production and chocolate production where slave labour is used, and I encourage all Australians to check out the fair labelling website to end this crime. (Time expired)