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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8199

Mrs MOYLAN (7:50 PM) —I thank the member for Bonner for bringing this motion to the House and for raising the issue of human trafficking once again in this place, as it continues to be a matter of great shame to the international community. The inability of the international community to come to terms with this is a comprehensive failure of modern governments.

I would like to touch on the issue of trafficking in children in particular. I have spoken on this matter before in this place and I participated in the UN convention on the rights of women, in Beijing in 1995, where the matter just raised by the member for Riverina, the registration of children, was hotly debated, with a commitment to try and do more to make sure that was achieved. Nineteen ninety-five was a long time ago and we still have not achieved it.

More particularly, I speak as leader of the delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and as the permanent delegate in the last parliament. I led a delegation to Cambodia early last year; the member for Riverina was part of that. I was once again confronted—we were all confronted—by this terrible trade in children. In Cambodia we met a young woman who had been picked up by the aid agency Caritas and who had been sold into prostitution, into a brothel, when she was still in preschool. At the age of 19 she had full-blown HIV-AIDS and was tossed out into the street with no support, no medication and inadequate food—nothing at all. If it had not been for Caritas, no doubt she would have continued living on the streets and would have died on the streets. It was Caritas that picked her up, and thank God that there are agencies like Caritas who do this incredible work. But I felt that somebody should have to pay. Why can’t we work together in regions and as parliaments, as international partners, to try and put laws into place that stamp out these practices, that prosecute brothel owners who take children into this terrible trade?

After that I wrote to all 142-odd members of the IPU, who met in Bali shortly after that visit to Cambodia. I did so with the full support of the member for Riverina, the current Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senator Marshall in the Senate, who were also part of the delegation. I received about 20 responses from members of countries represented at the IPU meeting in Bali. We talked about what we could do. I spoke also at a UNICEF meeting in Bali and, after I spoke, I had quite a reaction from the African women and from the women of South America, who were deeply distressed at the number of children who are simply disappearing in South America. It is really a shocking situation. They felt the need to come together on a regional basis to try and get some cross-border policies, similar to the ones that we negotiated when we were in government—and I am pleased now to see the Rudd government continuing this—to make sure we have a regional approach to this so that we can strengthen laws and we can prosecute.

I felt ashamed, after talking to some of our federal policemen in Bali, that so many Australian people are the ones who are demanding these children to satisfy their own strange tastes. That is why there is a continuation of this trade—because the demand is there. The demand is coming from people that you and I probably bump into every day. That is very disturbing. We should be very worried about it. We should be very worried about it in this parliament and we should be very worried about it as part of an international community. More must be done to stop it. It simply has to be stopped.

As the member for Bonner said, there is nothing worse than this trafficking. We thought that we had stamped it out 140 years ago. We did not; it is worse than ever. The fact that it involves so many children is a matter of great shame to each of us as members of the international community, and we should be able to do something about it. I would like to say a lot more on this subject but time does not permit. UNICEF and many other United Nations agencies and non-government agencies have worked for decades to prevent abuse and to offer support to the abused. Our resolve to strengthen laws and law enforcement is essential to further and to give effect to these efforts. (Time expired)