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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Minister for Justice and Cutoms: 2 August 2005: New laws to combat forced child marriages; Schapelle Corby. \n

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Transcript of Doorstop

Senator the Hon. Chris Ellison Minister for Justice and Customs

Monday, 2 August 2005

Subjects: New laws to combat forced child marriages; Schapelle Corby

ELLISON: …overseas to be sent into forced marriages is of great concern to the Government. I would say to those people involved in any activity of that sort that that is illegal, that is not acceptable in Australia and as from tomorrow as a result of laws passed in the Senate in June this year it is an offence to traffic a young person, a juvenile, overseas for sexual servitude or indeed marriage and a forced marriage could well constitute that sort of behaviour. We have penalties in place at a maximum of 25 years imprisonment and that sends a very clear message that we will not accept in Australia any activity which involves sending children, particularly young girls, overseas to be forced into a marriage, into a situation which they might not be aware of, a marriage they are unwilling to be a participant of. Our child sex trafficking laws which come into effect tomorrow are some of the toughest in the world and they involve trafficking in children by deception or by duress and the activity that has been reported could well transgress this and I’d urge those of the Australian community who are aware of this practice to report it to the Australian Federal Police and this law has application both in Australia and overseas. If anyone has travelled from Australia overseas and is engaged in the trafficking of children in this manner then they face the full brunt of the law, not only in relation to their activities in Australia but also for their extraterritorial activities overseas. This is outrageous conduct. It won’t be tolerated and as from tomorrow we’ll have laws in place to deal with it which carry a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.

REPORTER: (inaudible)

ELLISON: (inaudible) …which states that there have been instances where young girls in Australia have been sent overseas to be forced into a marriage situation. This is tantamount to sexual trafficking, (inaudible) which is the very thing we’re targeting with our laws. We passed these in the Senate in June this year and as from tomorrow these laws are proclaimed which carry a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment but I make this point - one child trafficked is one child too many. And it’s not a question of how many cases we have. Even one is one too many. This is an outrageous activity, one we won’t tolerate and we’re intent on stamping out.

REPORTER: It’s on thing to get the guys who did this. What happens to the child, though? I mean, is it possible to get them back?

ELLISON: Well, certainly we’d like to see the victim in these instances who is, after all, the child concerned, to have a (inaudible) We, with our package on sex trafficking, made available victim support in relation to sex trafficking. We could do the same in relation to these children, young girls who are being allegedly trafficked. Of course, if

they’re overseas then that is harder to administer but we’d call upon the countries concerned to work with Australia in stamping this out and in providing assistance for those victims because this practice will not be tolerated in this country.

REPORTER: But if the laws don’t make it possible to actually bring that child back or is that then up to the foreign country to say no, sorry, and send them back?

ELLISON: Well, if a child has been taken illegally from Australia we’d certainly seek to have that child returned to Australia and there are international conventions which deal with that and, can I say, anybody overseas who’s engaged in this activity we’d

seek their extradition. Now, obviously, you don’t seek the extradition of the child concerned, they’re the victim of this but we would like to see the child, if they are consenting, to

come back to Australia. Of course, it depends on the family circumstances of the child concerned and, as I say, there are international conventions which deal with taking a child illegally out of Australia.

REPORTER: What do you make of claims that families are sending their children overseas to get married because they’re worr ied about them being morally corrupted by our society?

ELLISON: Look, my message to any family who is engaged in this sort of conduct is firstly, it is illegal to force a child into a marriage whether it be in Australia or overseas and this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated. As from tomorrow there will be very heavy penalties, indeed, applying up to 25 years jail. Now, of course, if you have a consensual arrangement where you have a person who is an adult or according to Australian law is able to enter into a marriage willingly and openly and that’s overseas, well, that is (inaudible). But this is a situation where we have reports of children being sent overseas against their will who are being duped and that is against the law.

REPORTER: Just on another matter, are you planning to meet with Hotman Paris Hutapea when you are in Indonesia?

ELLISON: I’ve made an offer to Mr Hutapea to meet with him in Indonesia. He’s not taken up that offer. I understand he’s made public remarks that he’s too busy to see me. I think it is unfortunate that he’s adopted that attitude. Can I say the Australian Government at every turn has endeavoured to assist the lawyers for Schapelle Corby. We will continue to do so. We do need information from Mr Hutapea that will assist us in that cause. We do need to know whether he’s applied for permission from the court for tele-conferencing, that is, for evidence to be given by video because we do have a witness in a Victorian jail who’s indicated that he does not want to travel to Indonesia but is willing to give evidence by videolink. Now that is crucial and that’s something we’re pursuing Mr Hutapea on but unfortunately he’s not responded to our requests and we’ll continue to offer assistance but there’s only so much we can do. We totally his criticism that the Australian Government has not done enough. We’ve done everything possible and you just have to look at last Easter where we worked to have Mr John Ford sent from a Victorian jail to the Indonesian court. In a matter of days that occurred. We covered the cost of that and we’ve provided financial assistance

to Schapelle Corby’s former lawyers so I really fail to see where we can do any more. The ball is really in Mr Hutapea’s court and we want to see the appeal progress, we want to see the best possible case put forward. We don’t engage in public debate with Mr Hutapea and I think that his comments in relation to the Australia Government not assisting are totally misleading and inaccurate.

REPORTER: You’re running out of time though. It’s supposed to happen tomorrow.

ELLISON: Well, that’s precisely the point we’ve been pushing Mr Hutapea on, in fact. We don’t want to leave things to the eleventh hour. We’ve been pushing him now for some weeks, corresponding with him, and we’ve yet to have satisfactory replies and it’s been very frustrating for us.

REPORTER: (inaudible)

ELLISON: My visit to Indonesia has been planned for some time and when I was last in Jakarta I met with Schapelle Corby’s former lawyers. I have indicated that I can see him tonight or any time during the next two days and I think that he’s indicated he’s seeking an adjournment in relation to the hearing, that he wants another chance to bring witnesses before the court. So I would think that this does present an opportunity to himself or one of his associates for that matter to meet with me. I also made the offer for him to call him. I put that in a letter to him two days ago and he hasn’t taken that up.

REPORTER: (inaudible) embarrassed about the pressure that he may be placing on (inaudible)?

ELLISON: (inaudible) They’re totally misleading and inaccurate. We are satisfied that we are doing everything we possibly can to assist in this matter and that we will continue to do so. The Government’s not embarrassed in any way. (inaudible) adequate defence for Schapelle Corby, that her case be put properly. That’s what we’re about - assisting in that regard. Thank you.ends

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