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Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 37

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (3:06 PM) —Senator Greig asked me a question on 9 March in relation to victims of trafficking. I have further information in relation to that question and I seek to incorporate the answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

During Question Time on 9 March 2005, Senator Greig asked me a question regarding victims of trafficking.

The Australian Government is committed to eradicating the despicable practice of trafficking in persons. One of the most important initiatives is the new Australian Federal Police (AFP) mobile strike team (Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Team (TSETT)) is operational and is proactively investigating trafficking-related offences. There are currently five matters before the courts, with a total of 14 offenders facing charges in Australia for sexual servitude and slavery-related offences. The AFP’s TSETT is investigating a number of other cases.

In relation to the specific question asked by Senator Greig about visa arrangements for trafficked persons, I can confirm that women trafficked to Australia before 1999 are eligible for the full range of visas available under the Government’s package which includes Bridging Visas F, Criminal Justice visas and Witness Protection (Trafficking) visas.

The extent of that protection depends on whether they can assist investigations into slavery offences that existed before the 1999 reforms.

Such women are also eligible for support under the comprehensive victim support program.

In addition, the visa arrangements are not restricted to victims of trafficking; they are also available to witnesses who can provide assistance to a trafficking investigation.

Of course, since the modem slavery and sexual servitude offences were introduced by the Government in 1999, it is easier to prove offences relating to trafficking and those amendments will be enhanced further by the Criminal Code Amendment (Trafficking in Persons Offences) Bill 2004 which is currently before Parliament.

In relation to the women detained in Villawood Detention Centre, I can confirm the Australian Federal Police investigated the allegations made by the two women concerned.

These were lengthy and comprehensive investigations. As a result of these investigations the support package was withdrawn.

It would note be appropriate to comment on the reasons for this. I can say however, this action was in line with the appropriate policies to address the problem of sexual servitude.