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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9290

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (17:56): It is good to have the opportunity to speak on bills on which there is genuine bipartisan support. I note that there have been some concerns raised about the reporting times of the House and the Senate committees which are looking into the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012. But I think that, by the time this bill passes through to the Senate, the reports will be in, and amendments can always be made there.

Being ex-AFP and a former member of the military police, I have always had an interest in the issues covered by the bill, and that is why I am speaking on it today. Among the measures in the bill are some changes in definition. The bill also specifies some new offences. I am going to concentrate tonight on the new offences. I start with organ trafficking, which we have heard quite a bit about in recent times. References have been made by other speakers to the case of an elderly lady with kidney problems who is being prosecuted for bringing a young girl from the Philippines to Australia for organ harvesting. Organ harvesting is a terrible thing. Legislation needs to be used to send a very clear message to those who might contemplate such action. The organ trafficking industry is said to be worth well over $200 million a year, and some 15,000 kidneys are bought and sold each year. This trade is alleged to occur largely in countries such as China, Pakistan, Egypt, Colombia and the Philippines. In those countries, human life is not valued quite as highly as it is here. There are similarities between organ trafficking and the exploitation of children—through, for example, child pornography—in that, in such countries, people see that there is money to be made by exploiting other people, as in the case of this young woman from the Philippines. Those who live in First World countries such as Australia are, as we have seen, willing to buy into the organ trafficking trade, and through the internet they can take advantage of somebody, whether through child pornography produced overseas and bought by Australians or by the procurement of organs from an unwitting person or a person who thinks that they can generate some income out of organ trafficking.

These are exactly the sorts of things that we need to be on our guard against and send a very clear message to the Australian population that it is just not acceptable. It is only through this and through the United Nations and our diplomatic efforts overseas that we shall encourage all countries to make a very clear statement on these matters. It is not like selling crops: this is the exploitation of people, and whether it is leveraging them into these situations through their financial hardships or doing it unbeknownst to the person that is concerned, we must send a clear message through diplomatic signals and to the Australian people—citizens and residents of this country—that it is just not acceptable. We should never allow the human organ trafficking and sale of human organs to be acceptable, and we need always to be on guard against it.

I turn now to the issue of forced marriages. The act of forcing another person into a marriage will now be covered under this legislation, and will include strict liability to anyone found guilty. This will be justified on the basis that the elements needed to establish the excuse would usually lie peculiarly with the knowledge of the accused, and it would be significantly more difficult for the prosecution to disprove than for the accused to establish. As the previous coalition speaker mentioned, we have some concerns that it is possible that the imposition of strict liability could result in injustice in particular cases. We strongly recommend that the government justifications be closely examined. When we have the reports in from the House and Senate committees, I hope that will be covered.

Forced marriage has a long history. It was originally conducted to acquire a captive. It has a history among the upper classes in Europe and is, unfortunately, still practised in parts of South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. I note that at CHOGM in Perth there was certainly a commitment to end the practice of early enforced marriages of girls. I know that in Australia the act of forced marriage is often carried out for immigration purposes, and I know that this happens among those with origins in the Middle East, Africa, some parts of Europe and Asia. If someone says anything is not the Australian way then they are always maligned in this place and in the wider community, but the reality is that we should be very suspicious of teenage girls being granted visas to marry men in their 50s or 60s, and I commend the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for being on guard against specifically these sorts of things.

My personal view is that if you have never met the person that you are lined up to marry then it is absolute rubbish and should always be rejected. To have the resources in place to catch people out and to hold people to account for trying to do this sort of thing is the right way to go. In this country there is an expectation that a marriage involves a man and a woman, that there is a history between them and that, hopefully, the love is very strong. It is completely inconsistent for a forced marriage or, in my view, an arranged marriage to be considered legitimate. When a visa is involved, that gives us an opportunity to hold people to account for doing things which, I think, are clearly not legitimate. We know that forced marriages place vulnerable young people—often girls—at risk. When we talk about the difference in age being so substantial, as with people of 16 marrying people in their 50s or 60s, it certainly looks a whole lot like paedophilia to me.

With respect to the resources that are in place, the hard line from the department of immigration is certainly required. We have seen a lot of people wishing to come to this country for a better life. My personal view is that, if someone wants to apply to come to this country and they see their future here, working hard and providing for their family, that is a great thing. We should encourage people to do that in the correct way. But there does seem to be a disturbing culture amongst certain ethnic communities, who feel that, to have a marriage, you have to bring someone from the old country over here. The sad part is the fact that the parties to the marriage have never met. That is a situation that the department and governments of any persuasion should reject.

Forced marriage and trafficking are terrible situations. For the protection of people both in Australia and overseas, sending clear messages about what is acceptable, regardless of any cultural excuses, through this sort of legislation is, in principle, the right way forward. I look forward to this legislation passing once due consideration has been given to the House and Senate committee reports.