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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9292

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (18:07): I rise to support the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-Like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012 and commend the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, for putting forward these amendments. This bill establishes new offences of forced labour, forced marriage, organ trafficking and harbouring of a victim. It will also modify the scope and application of existing offences of slavery, deceptive recruiting, sexual servitude and trafficking persons and will increase the penalty for the offence of debt bondage.

Under the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, trafficking is defined as:

… the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Between June 2004 and June 20011 the Australian Federal Police undertook 305 investigations and assessments of people trafficking and related offences. Thirteen people have been convicted of such offences in Australia. This nefarious activity leaves a dark stain our society. It is a blight on our nation's soul.

In speaking to this legislation I want to praise the work of people who very deeply influenced me in this area, the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans. I had a meeting with Christine, Carolyn and other people from ACRATH again today and I commend their work and the focus on this important issue that they help bring to this parliament and to parliamentarians. Two things that they particularly drew to my attention were valuable in today's discussion.

The first was that the Palermo protocol, which is the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, suggests that compensation for victims of human trafficking should come not at the point after conviction of the exploiter but before the conviction, because this often makes the trafficked person more capable of testifying about those crimes. In other words, if you have a woman who has been sexually trafficked and now has secure accommodation, some means of sustaining herself and support then she is more likely to participate in a court case than if she were hanging around until a court case is concluded, which as we all know can take ages.

Victims of trafficking identified in Australia have mostly been women trafficked for exploitation in the commercial sex industry. However, we have seen trafficking occur in agriculture, construction, hospitality, domestic services and recreation industries. Australia's long role in tackling human trafficking and slavery is illustrated through our ratification of the International Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery on 18 June 1927 and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutional Practices Similar to Slavery on 6 January 1958. Slavery offences were not explicit in Australian law until they were introduced in 1999. We signed the trafficking protocol when trafficking offences were enacted in 2005 through the Criminal Code Amendment (Trafficking in Persons Offences) Act 2005. Following this, we ratified the trafficking protocol on 14 September of that year. In 2008, the United Nations estimated that 2.5 million people from 137 countries had been trafficked to another 137 countries around the world. Almost 20 per cent of the trafficking victims were children. Since 2003 the Australian government, under both Liberal and Labor leadership, have provided $50 million to support antitrafficking initiatives, including specialist investigation teams for the Australian Federal Police.

The legislation addresses a number of gaps in the current offence regime. Those who suffer people trafficking and slavery are faced with a lifetime of mental and physical anguish. They are subject to abhorrent and heinous offences. In a modern society in a modern age this should not be occurring, particularly in a wealthy country like Australia. This bill, under the leadership of Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, the member for Gellibrand, illustrates the Australian government's commitment to combating all forms of slavery and people trafficking.

We are doing what we can to protect people from the darker recesses of this society. I was pleased when the UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Dr Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, noted that Australia had 'demonstrated strong leadership in combating trafficking of persons regionally and domestically'. This is an area in which Australia should continue to be active. In particular, it should be seen in the context of attempts to get people involved in sexual servitude into Australia. We do not have the kinds of problems that occur in the Middle East, where domestic servants are exploited by large numbers of people. But the Attorney-General has been working very hard to see that this legislation combats the sex trade properly. I commend the government's bill to the House.