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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12243

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (20:53): I first spoke on this issue of child exploitation in the production of cocoa and chocolate back on 20 October 2008. That was a debate on a motion moved by the member for Sturt, and on that occasion he spoke very strongly about the need to act now to stop the exploitation of children in West Africa, or the Ivory Coast. When I spoke on that occasion I highlighted the fact that West Africa supplies nearly 80 per cent of the world's cocoa. Large producers such as Cadbury, Nestle and Hershey buy cocoa from the Ivory Coast and then mix it with other cocoas. Thirty per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa are engaged in child labour, mostly in agricultural activities including cocoa farming. They are very disturbing figures.

Since I made that speech and since the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, all the available evidence suggests that child exploitation remains rife in cocoa plantations despite the protocol and the best actions of many countries. Over a 12-month period in 2007-08, 819,920 children were working on cocoa related activities on the Ivory Coast and 997,357 were doing so in Ghana. Fifteen per cent of the children surveyed reported being forced into working involuntarily over the 12-month period. Nearly 50 per cent of the children working on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast and over 50 per cent in Ghana reported injuries from their work over the year. Thousands of children travel from really impoverished neighbourhoods and from impoverished countries to cocoa plantations on the Ivory Coast. Some of them are living in substandard conditions and receive little or no pay. This emphasises the need for this protocol and for the protocol to be made more effective.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol resulted from an agreement in 2001 on voluntary action by cocoa processors and the chocolate industry to collaborate on eliminating the worst forms of child labour from their supply chain. It has not happened. The protocol set out time-bound steps to be taken so that the world could enjoy chocolate with a clear conscience. Many of my friends and staff members really enjoy chocolate, but it is hard to do so when you know about the misery and suffering that is associated with its production. The voluntary nature of the protocol, plus the fact that there are no enforcement mechanisms, meant that this was never really going to work. As the industry worked together to establish and fund a new foundation to attack the worst forms of child labour, critics watched and could see that it was not going to work. Here we are 10 years later, and things have not changed very much.

I would like to emphasise to the parliament that three of the five leading chocolate companies in the Australian market have either launched or will be launching this year their No. 1 selling brand under an ethical certification for their cocoa sourcing. Cadbury, now owned by Kraft, is sourcing Fairtrade certified cocoa for their Dairy Milk chocolate range. I encourage all members to be very mindful when they are buying chocolate, to read the label and to encourage their constituents to purchase Fairtrade chocolate and to emphasise the importance of buying chocolate that is produced ethically. (Time expired)