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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12239

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (20:35): This motion essentially has two elements: recognition of the 10th anniversary of the Harkin-Engel protocol and a list of suggestions as to how this country can be more active on the broader question of slavery internationally. It calls for Australia to raise the issue in international fora, to be more effective on tracing products and to be mindful of these issues in regard to government purchasing policy. The main element is the legislation of the United States, and I also want to congratulate the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans group—it is often around this parliament, dealing with the question, more specifically, of sexual slavery—for raising this matter with me and the seconder.

Global sales of chocolate were in the order of $100 billion as of 2009. Predominantly, the production is in West Africa—more particularly, in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. There was a pledge by companies that they would adhere to ILO convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. There was much fanfare and I certainly congratulate those people who tried to do something within the US Congress. However, a report by Tulane University has indicated that the large chocolate manufacturers have not really adhered to their commitments. The university noted that in a survey of the results of the protocol in the period of 12 months from 2007-08, for instance, there were 820,000 children working in cocoa related activities in Ivory Coast and just under a million in Ghana.

The industry is characterised by some endemic problems that are difficult to overcome. There is a lack of farmer power and impoverishment of farmers, and one of the realities in this issue in Africa is the fact that it is often the parents, the uncles and the other relatives who are employing these children under abominable conditions. There is also environmental deterioration and price instability caused by the power of the large companies. Internationally, 10 companies dominate half of the international cocoa bean and liquid chocolate industry. That means that there is an imbalance in regard to negotiations. Of course, in Ivory Coast over the last few years the internal struggle over the presidential elections has affected the ability to do anything about it.

I indicate that we are seeing some progress. Cadbury, in particular, has announced that its Dairy Milk chocolate will be sourced from Fairtrade cocoa, and other companies are starting to move in this direction. However, there is still a need for international campaigns around this issue, and World Vision, amongst others, has called for a guarantee to farmers of a fair price for their cocoa and the elimination of exploitable labour for cocoa production by 2018. There is a need for independent oversight of what actually occurs and a public standard certification process. One of the problems in the field is that there are a number of rival certification codes. Whilst there are claims that a larger amount of cocoa is under Fairtrade conditions, significant parts of that claim by the major corporations are not actually certified by any of the three main operations.

The Stop the Traffik coalition is a group of 100 member organisations in 50 countries, established in 2006, which has manifestly been very strong in regard to this matter. I recommend this motion to note the need for continued international activity, respect the efforts that have been made by a significant number of non-government organisations and make sure that there is activity in the marketplace in this country. In a broader sense there are also a number of requirements put to the Australian government in regard to it playing a more frontline position on the broader issue of child slavery.