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Thursday, 8 February 2018
Page: 835


Dr ALY (Cowan) (12:01): I rise to commend the Crimes Legislation Amendment (International Crime Cooperation and Other Measures) Bill 2016 to the House. Labor has a strong record in many of the areas that are covered by this bill: the fight against slavery, anti-money-laundering measures and international crime cooperation.

I want to make a point about Australia's law enforcement agencies and the excellent international reputation that they have. I commend them for their high level of skill and say that this is a great source of pride for Australia. A good example of that is the international cooperation of the AFP with law enforcement of our closest regional neighbour, Indonesia. A report by ASPI written in March 2014 called A return on investment: The future of police cooperation between Australia and Indonesia mentions some of the broader benefits of such cooperation beyond just law enforcement. It says:

The benefits of past AFP-POLRI cooperation have been felt largely in the transactional dimension of crime fighting, but the police-to-police relationship benefits other government agencies and the broader bilateral relationship too. Benefits have also accrued to the community and businesses in both countries, and the police-to-police relationship has promoted Australian and Indonesian interests in Southeast Asia.

That quote encompasses the ripple effect of cooperation in law enforcement. It doesn't just impact the transactional dimension of international crime fighting but has effects into the communities as well.

Indeed, international and transnational crime in today's environment is not only much more extensive than it has been in the past; it's also much more complex because it's more fluid. To take the case of terrorism, for example, it's not unthinkable that an attack could be planned in one country and executed in another country using funds diverted from a third country with perpetrators from fourth or fifth countries. We've had examples of that in the past with international terrorist incidents and transnational terrorist incidents. In fact, the landscape of transnational and international crime is far more challenging in today's environment than it has been in the past. That is why it's essential that we continue to ensure that our police and law enforcement agencies are able to operate in an international context in ways which are not unnecessarily impeded by legislation or by processes.

Although this bill makes some relatively technical amendments to the various Commonwealth acts, these amendments actually have the capacity to make some real differences in facilitating international cooperation in practice. The bill will assist in the investigation and prosecution of people responsible for some of the most serious crimes under international law, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The member for Canberra, who spoke before me, spoke extensively to this part of the bill.

But the bill will also further ensure that vulnerable people, particularly children, are protected by extending the current provisions to make it illegal to identify child complainants. This is especially relevant to cases involving online child exploitation where such cases often involve victims who are not witnesses in a trial—that is, victims who are children and who are classed as complainants. In addition to that, many of the victims of human trafficking and slavery fear for their safety if they assist in an investigation and this can be, and often is, a challenge to successful prosecution. So extending the protections for victims will encourage and assist in these matters as well.

This bill addresses some of the ambiguities and inconsistencies in offences relating to slavery and it expands the definition of debt bondage so that it allies more closely with slavery-like offences. Anti-Slavery International describe debt bondage, also called bonded labour or debt slavery, as the most common form of modern slavery, even though it is one of the least known. Debt bondage is when a person is forced to work to pay off a debt and is conned into working for little or no pay, with no control over their debt. The money that they earn is taken off them to repay the debt, so they have to keep working in order to pay off the money that they borrowed. They also face coercion, violence and intimidation if they try to leave.

The main amendments under this schedule of the bill also expand the list of matters considered in determining whether a victim was coerced, threatened or deceived. These measures provide further protection for victims and, importantly, make our legislation more consistent with relevant international instruments. Debt bondage is most widespread in South Asian countries. I understand that the International Labour Organization estimates a minimum of 11.7 million in forced labour in the Asia-Pacific region, the majority of whom are in debt bondage. It's most common in areas such as agriculture, brick kilns, mines and factories.

I also note that an element in this schedule in the bill relates to forced marriage. I want to speak a little bit about that, because the bill will clarify the test for victims incapable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony. I give heed to the many women's groups doing some very extraordinary work on the ground in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and India around forced marriage. Forced marriage is particularly disturbing when it also involves a child. But I would also like to see that the test include an element to prove that a victim was incapable of understanding the effect of a marriage ceremony, and that element would, hopefully, include cases where marriage ceremonies are performed in a language that the victim doesn't understand as well as without her consent. Sadly, this is happening way too often as young girls raised in Western countries, such as Australia or the UK, are taken overseas by their parents and married off to complete strangers without their knowledge. They have no idea what's going on in a language that they lack competency in. The marriage ceremony can be performed in Arabic or Urdu. Often these young girls are raised in Australia and their first language is English. They have little command of their parents' mother tongue. They are sent back to these countries where they are married off and partake in a marriage ceremony with very little knowledge of what's happening because they don't understand the language.

I commend any of these measures and anything that we can do to make it easier for us and the international community to assist victims of forced marriage, who may be too young to understand what's going on, who may have a disability or an impairment that prevents them from understanding what's going on, or who may not understand the significance of the ceremony that they are taking part in. They might not know that it's a marriage ceremony. They might not have been told that it's a marriage ceremony. If we are going to be serious about our commitment to improving the conditions of women and girls throughout the world, which I believe we are—and I believe we have a bipartisan approach to improving those conditions for women and girls—we need this kind of legislation.

I'd like to move on and talk about the anti-money-laundering provisions of the bill, because they provide the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission with direct access to AUSTRAC information around financial intelligence. This amendment will allow the ACNC to fulfil its due diligence before registering charities and not-for-profit organisations and to monitor registered organisations, which will help them to ensure that organisations are not being used in the commission of serious crimes, including terrorism, or for money-laundering purposes.

I'd like to finish by again paying heed to the great work that our police forces do in their international efforts. As many of you know, I am the wife of a former police officer, a man who has dedicated his life to law enforcement. I'm obviously very proud of my husband and the work that he has done in law enforcement. I'm also very proud of the work that his colleagues do and, indeed, the dedication and commitment that all of our law enforcement professionals have. I've also had the privilege of seeing firsthand the work that our Federal Police do in Pakistan and in other countries internationally in three key areas. Firstly, in the area of collaboration, they broker collaboration with international law enforcement agencies to drive investigations and support bilateral or multilateral cooperation. Secondly, they cooperate with them in the area of intelligence gathering, through the collection and exchange of criminal intelligence in support of international law enforcement efforts. Thirdly, in capacity building—which I think we are particularly proud of in this country—they enhance the capacity and the capability of international law enforcement agencies to combat transnational crime. I strongly support any measures that are going to help our law enforcement agencies and our law enforcement professionals continue to conduct this valuable work unfettered and do this work to the best of their capabilities. I commend this bill to the House.