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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9278

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (17:07): I rise also to make a contribution to the debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012. I just want to add my comments to the comments of the previous speakers, including those of the member for Canberra.

The bill was introduced into the House by the Attorney-General, the Hon. Nicola Roxon, on 30 May 2012. Most people seem to think of slavery as some prehistoric happening that comes from another era, something that is a blight on our history and something that should be long forgotten. We associate it with the 19th century and before and with the shameful actions of a bygone era. Thankfully, the more traditional forms of slavery have been abolished and are to be seen no more. But, sadly, some forms of slavery, mainly forced labour, forced marriage and organ trafficking still exist. As the Attorney said in her second reading speech:

A common factor of contemporary slavery and trafficking—from forced labour and forced marriage to organ trafficking—is the misuse and abuse of power. And such an abuse has no place here in Australia.

I want to add my comments to those of the member for Canberra. I enjoyed working with her for a limited time on the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Organ and Tissue Donation here in parliament. I also want to commend her on her work previously on DonateLife. Previously, before coming to this place, I was an ambassador for the AMA in Queensland for raising awareness of organ donation. We have come a long way. There have been a number of very successful campaigns. The member for Canberra spoke about the 'It's OK' campaign, which has been running quite successfully, and about having the conversation. The conversation is a difficult thing to have, but more and more people are talking to their loved ones and, in recent times, we have definitely seen an increase in the number of organ donorship rates.

Where it does fall apart, however, is when the family has to make the decision, and sometimes the family can decide that they do not want to proceed. More coordination also needs to be done in hospitals to make sure that the right people are there to speak to the family, particularly at this very delicate and vulnerable time—people who are trained on how to speak to the family and how to deal humanely and compassionately with them when the moment of donation occurs.

So a lot of work has been done there, but I believe there is still a lot more work to be done, particularly in the coordination stage in hospitals and on making sure that GPs also have an active role to play. GPs are the most trusted people that members of the community go to and I think that they can play a more active role in increasing awareness and making sure that they run on-the-ground campaigns to encourage their patients to sign up, to fill out the forms, and to make sure that they do have the conversation with their loved ones.

All of the speakers in this debate have spoken about the bill. The coalition is largely supportive of this bill. However, we reserve our right to move amendments in the other place depending on the outcome of the committee inquiries around the bill.

The bill amends the Criminal Code Act 1995 to insert offences of forced labour, forced marriage, organ trafficking and harbouring a victim. The amendments proposed by this bill seek to ensure that the slavery offence applies to conduct which renders a person a slave, as well as conduct which involves a person who is already a slave. It extends the application of existing offences of deceptive recruiting and sexual servitude to non-sexual servitude and all forms of deceptive recruiting—and, sadly, that is occurring all over the world at the moment: people are promised lucrative jobs only to find that they are fronts for sexual servitude. The bill also increases penalties for debt bondage offences. It also amends existing definitions to broaden the range of exploitative conduct that is to be criminalised.

The Crimes Act 1914 is to be amended to increase the availability of reparation orders to individual victims of Commonwealth offences, and consequential amendments are proposed to the Migration Act 1958, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Although the offences are described as new, most amount to definitional changes to existing offences in divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code. The important new offences concern organ trafficking and forced marriage.

Organ trafficking is currently covered, though not so explicitly, by the human trafficking provisions. These amendments are not controversial, and it is hoped that the prosecutions will be extremely rare. The consent of a victim of a procedure will be immaterial. There appears to be only one organ trafficking investigation in Australia, though it has been estimated that there are from 15,000 to 20,000 kidneys bought and sold illegally each year. The trade is much more substantial in countries such as China, Pakistan, Egypt, Colombia and the Philippines.

The existing offences of slavery and forced servitude are to be broadened to include forced labour rather than just sexual servitude. That is apparently to capture the increasing incidence of slavery-like conditions outside the sex industry. It is widely reported that there has been an increase of these slavery-like conditions in areas such as hospitality. The existing definitions, which require the use of force and threats to maintain the condition of servitude, will now include the use of coercion, threat or deception, and coercion includes duress, psychological oppression, abuse of power or taking advantage of a person's vulnerability.

As to the abuse of power—and the member for Canberra spoke about this—our power is the most fundamental right that we have. When we lose our power, we are in quite a desperate situation. Everyone should have the ability to control his or her destiny.

The prohibition does not extend to conditions justified or excused by or under a law. The penalties imposed will range from four years to 25 years imprisonment, which we believe is a good thing. They are within the continuum under the existing provisions. It is recommended, however, that they be scrutinised to ensure that penalties for trafficking are consistent with people-smuggling provisions.

When we are dealing with issues such as forced marriage, it becomes difficult because many religious cultures, unfortunately, see it as acceptable; and many cultures see the marriage of a 12- or 13-year-old as acceptable. However, there is one underlying principle: it is not acceptable in this country. In their submission to the committee, the Migration Institute of Australia said:

The victims of such offences are often vulnerable, with limited English language skills and anxiety over their migration status which is often uncertain. They fear the perpetrators, the criminal justice system and deportation. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that victims of forced marriage may also be subject to further exploitation as they may be used to sponsor a person to come into Australia.

The Settlement Council of Australia also provided a submission to the committee. In their submission they said that they supported the proposed legislation because they believe that, by broadening the range of exploitative behaviour covered and by increasing the penalties imposed on offenders and compensation offered to victims, those vulnerable in the migrant and refugee communities will be better protected.

It is very pleasing to see a consensus amongst all of the stakeholders on this bill, and they make some very good points in their submissions. The new penalties for the new offences, and the increases in existing penalties, are, in my view, entirely appropriate and, hopefully, will act as a sufficient deterrent for people thinking of committing these crimes.

In conclusion, the coalition fully support the intent of the bill. As I said earlier, we reserve our right to make some amendments, again depending on the outcomes of the committee inquiry. I commend the bill to the chamber.