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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12240

Dr STONE (Murray) (20:40): I have great pleasure in seconding this motion, which notes that it is the 10th anniversary of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, which aimed to help bring an end to the use of forced child labour in cocoa production. The protocol drew attention to the plight of trafficked children in the cocoa plantations of West Africa, notably in Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana. West Africa produces some 70 per cent of the world's cocoa.

Australia is no stranger to the use of forced child labour in our developing regional economies. It is part of our history. I am not referring to the convict children, who were perhaps a special case, but in particular to enslaved Aboriginal children from the turn of the 19th century to the early 20th century. The Royal Commission on the Administration of Aborigines and the Condition of the Natives, an inquiry of the Western Australian parliament tabled in 1905, detailed the uses and abuses of children in some industry sectors. Evidence of one resident magistrate who appeared before Commissioner Roth at the royal commission said:

The child is bound and can be reached by law and punished, but the person to whom the child is bound is apparently responsible to nobody. Even the Chief Protector is obliged to admit the injustice of the system where, taking a concrete case, a child of tender years may be indentured to a mistress as a domestic up to 21 years of age, and receives neither education or payment in return for the services rendered.

Commissioner Roth also found that:

At Broome … quite half the children from ten years and upwards [were] indentured to the pearling industry and taken out in the boats.

Children were enslaved usually from the age of six into the remote pearling industry, prostitution, the pastoral industry and as domestics in early Australia. The 1904 royal commission did recommend that indentured children be sent to schools, when they were available, and that some should even be paid. But decades later British migrant children were forced to work in Australia for little education and no pay, usually on farms, as part of various post-war empire orphan resettlement programs. So, we are no strangers to the horrors of exploitation of children in our own great nation. We must therefore double our efforts to ensure that the lessons from our own history and the legacy of damage and suffering for those once forced to labour are not wasted when it comes to our commitment to international efforts to stop child labour abuse wherever it occurs.

There have been various estimates of the numbers of children exploited in the production of cocoa, a $100 billion industry. It is calculated that there are more than 100,000 children in the Cote D'Ivoire's cocoa industry alone who work under the worst forms of child labour and some 10,000 of them were trafficked as slaves. Ten years ago in 2001 in the United States, the world's biggest consumer of chocolate, two politicians, Tom Harkin a US senator from Iowa and US Congressman Eliot Engel from New York, developed a protocol, which set out a voluntary code with six actions, which was signed by representatives of the World Cocoa Foundation and the then Chocolate Manufacturers Association, a bevy of other large manufacturers and a representative of the Cote D'Ivoire. The protocol required acknowledgement of the child labour problems by cocoa producer nations, the formation of multi-sectoral advisory groups, joint statements witnessed by the ILO, a memorandum of cooperation and the establishment of a joint foundation.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol drew on the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 182 adopted in June 1999, which Australia has ratified, and which focuses on the elimination of all of the so-called worst forms of child labour. The ILO convention definition of 'the worst forms of child labour' include:

(a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

(b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

(c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

…   …   …

Ten years on it seems that the industry has failed to fully implement any of these six steps to eliminate the worst labour abuses in the cocoa industry. Not much has changed on the ground. Unfortunately the Harkin-Engel Protocol was always voluntary with no enforcement mechanisms, and agreement of an effective guarantee that could be used to assure customers that their cocoa was free of the worst forms of child abuse was never agreed. Independent oversight of standards was dismantled and the industry failed to establish a credible certification system in any form. So-called ethically certified chocolate, defined as product that has not used 'forced, child or trafficked labour', makes up only some five per cent of the global market today. The World Vision report called Our guilty pleasure: exploitation of child labourin thechocolate industry10 years on from the Harkin-Engel cocoa protocol, published in April 2011, has found that some well-known chocolate and cocoa product brands in Australia, like ALDI, Mars and Cadbury, acknowledge the problem of the use of child labour in the industry, and all of them claim to invest in local farmers in the industry. But, with the exception of Coca-Cola, none of these companies sell an entire product range in Australia that is from ethical sources. Obviously, the lower prices paid for non-conforming product means that there are many chocolate manufacturers who do not find it economical or convenient to identify or talk about their product labour sources and conditions.

Researchers have found that few cocoa farmers are aware of child-trafficking conventions and the fact that it is illegal to employ and abuse children in that way. Neither the West African governments nor the chocolate industry internationally have done much to inform farmers of the children's rights or domestic laws concerning forced and abusive child labour. The child trafficking that takes place in the cocoa plantations and factories is of children from Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and from within Ivory Coast. It is driven by poverty, little access to education, little official supervision and non-existent punishment for traffickers.

In the Netherlands, one of the global hubs in the world's cocoa supply chain and home to the world's largest chocolate factories, the Dutch government has now determined that it will have transitioned 50 per cent of its chocolate or cocoa consumption to ethically and sustainably sourced plantations by 2015, and 100 per cent by 2025. That is commendable.

Australia is doing a great job supporting schools in the slums of Accra, in Ghana, and I have had the privilege of visiting some of these; little girls can now go to school because the Australian aid program has built them some toilets. We have to make sure that those little girls do not end up working in situations where they are not paid or where they are denied future education.

We need to acknowledge that in Australia there is trafficking of women for exploitation in the sex industry, and we know there have been some rescues of people found trafficked into or enslaved as immigrant labour in some of our restaurants. Australia has an old history of child exploitation. We need to make sure that in this new, modern era the Australian government is proactive about measures to counter people-trafficking or slavery wherever it is found. We have to actively engage in international fora to ensure greater priority for the consideration of measures against child slavery and trafficking. We must work cooperatively. Like the mover of this motion, the member for Werriwa, I commend the women from the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans group who brought this particular problem and the issue of this convention to my attention. I hope that, in the future, Australia is one of the global leaders in making sure that no child is abused or exploited and that every child has an opportunity to grow, to be educated and to work as an adult—but not be exploited as a child.