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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6327

Ms GEORGE (3:15 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women. Will the minister update the House on the government’s progress in supporting victims of people trafficking?

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women) —I want to thank the member for Throsby. I know she has had a very long history of interest, involvement and activism in this area. There is no-one in this House, I am sure, who underestimates the seriousness of the crime we are talking about today or dismisses the criminality of the people involved, whether that trafficking is for the purposes of sexual servitude or labour exploitation. Today the government announced changes to the support provided to victims of trafficking that will provide greater support to more victims of trafficking and support efforts to prosecute those who have trafficked these people. This issue crosses portfolios, and I want to acknowledge and thank my colleagues the Minister for Home Affairs, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the parliamentary secretary. I want to pay particular tribute to the previous Minister for Home Affairs for his efforts in setting up the roundtable on people trafficking, which has resulted in so much good work and so many good outcomes over the last year in this area.

Today’s efforts will simplify the visa framework as it applies to people who have been trafficked. It will provide greater support to more victims of trafficking and support efforts to prosecute perpetrators of the crime. All victims will now be able to access support, irrespective of their current visa status. The immediate period of support will be extended from 30 days to 45 days and provided to all victims of people trafficking. We will also provide 90 days of support for victims who are willing to assist police but may be too traumatised to do so. There are a number of other changes as well. I recently appointed the Red Cross to manage the support program for victims of people trafficking, and I was very pleased with that appointment. The Red Cross have international and Australian experience in supporting very traumatised people, including refugees and asylum seekers, and are a very appropriate organisation to provide this support to very vulnerable and distressed people.

Today’s announcement has been widely welcomed and supported by individuals and organisations that have campaigned in this area. Professor Jennifer Burn, the Director of the University of Technology’s Anti-Slavery Project, said:

This amendment is in accordance with international best practice. These amendments will make an enormous difference to our clients.

Nina Vallins, the Coordinator of Project Respect, said:

Project Respect welcomes the changes announced by the government today, which will significantly advance the rights and protection of victims of trafficking in Australia. These changes will make Australia a world leader in this area.

Sister Stancea Vichie, the Chair of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, said:

The announcements made by the government today will enhance the protection and support for all people who have been trafficked into Australia.

The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Catherine Branson, and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Liz Broderick, praised the changes as humanitarian and compassionate improvements which will help people recover from appalling violations of their basic human rights. These changes are a very important measure to help victims of trafficking recover from the trauma of this horrific crime. At the same time as our treatment of victims becomes more flexible and compassionate, our resolve to prosecute the perpetrators of this dreadful crime is undiminished. I am sure that all members of this House agree that this crime must be prevented in Australia and around the world and that those who profit from it should bear the full force of the criminal law.