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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8195


Mrs HULL (7:30 PM) —I congratulate the member for Bonner for bringing forward this private member’s business motion here this evening. It should be a part of the role of every member of parliament to be very actively involved in this bipartisan effort to ensure that people are protected. In my case, I raise the issue of child trafficking.

Child trafficking is one of the gravest forms of child abuse in the world today. Over 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and it primarily happens in poor countries. Many of these children are from our Asia-Pacific region. There are factors like the lack of laws against trafficking or like domestic violence, which make children more at risk of trafficking. Girls are especially at risk because in many cultures they often have a lower status than young boys. Children are trafficked because—and make no mistake about it—there is a demand for their labour or a demand for their bodies. It is wealthy countries that are at times the greatest perpetrators of these crimes. Wealthy countries are part of the problem as their citizens provide demand for the trafficked children. For example, Australians have been identified as sex tourists in 25 countries. Places like Bali and East Timor are emerging as easy targets for those who would exploit children for their own gratification.

There are many issues surrounding the trafficking of children. Currently I have a young intern working with me doing a project on birth registration. It is a fact that if we could assist countries in developing models and proposals and bringing forward ways in which children could be registered at birth then it would be far less likely that they would be able to be trafficked with nobody knowing where they had been sent.

What we have is the most dire and disgraceful situation where you have children trafficked out of places like Cambodia, Thailand and Burma into other countries where they are put into the sex industry or into other slave labour industries—but primarily in the sex industry—where they then become victims of HIV-AIDS. Instead of being treated and assisted, these children are then thrown out on the street because they can no longer earn their people traffickers money because of their possible HIV-AIDS infection. They are then treated like criminals. They are treated as illegal immigrants in that country where they have been violated and taken without their parents’ consent, most of the time. Most of the time parents in poor countries believe that they are giving their child an opportunity. They are given some story by the trafficker that they will put the child in domestic service or they will teach them how to be employed, and they will be able to send money home to their families. Sometimes these very poor village people are tricked into providing their children as victims in horrendous crimes against humanity. Sometimes we see these children physically abused and physically violated and maimed, such as having limbs removed or having acid thrown into their faces. We have all seen shocking programs on children who have had acid thrown into their faces so that, by begging on the corners of streets or on church steps, they can earn money for these violators of people. The tourist feels sorry for the child and hands over money.

This is a crime against humanity, a crime that needs to be stopped, and one very important factor will be to see impoverished nations being able to put in place registration of children for birth. That would be a major step forward to protecting these children. If their existence were known it may be just that little bit more difficult to traffic these children. I applaud all of those NGOs who work tirelessly on the ground—UNICEF, World Vision. All of these NGOs work in the most difficult of scenarios. I am aware that in Indonesia we have some great workers in UNICEF who have been able to implement the beginnings of registration of children for birth, and that will make an enormous difference. I again congratulate the member for Bonner. This is an issue that we should all be involved in. (Time expired)