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Feds must follow Queensland, US lead on child labour.

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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Employment and Employment Services

December 10, 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/601

Feds must follow Queensland, US lead on child labour

The Australian Democrats have called on the Australian Government to follow the lead of 132 other countries including the USA, UK, China, Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, and ratify the ILO Convention banning the worst forms of child labour.

Democrats’ Employment spokesperson Senator John Cherry said he was “amazed” that the Queensland Government can announce a major review of child labour protection laws while the Federal Government refuses to ratify the international Convention banning child labour.

“If the Queensland Government can act to protect children from exploitation, if the US and Iraq can find common purpose in it, why can’t the Australian Government?” Senator Cherry asked.

“The Democrats welcome the Queensland initiative and we urge other Australian governments to follow suit. But most importantly, we would urge the Federal Government to join 132 other countries and ratify the ILO Convention 182 on Child Labour.

“Indeed, I was staggered that the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate in Question Time today, linked the Queensland Government’s review with its ‘pro-union’ stance.

“Banning the exploitation of children is not ‘pro-union’ but ‘pro-child’. The Queensland Children’s Commissioner was prompted to do the review by reports of scantily clad 16 year-olds working in the entertainment industry, workplace bullying and the forcing of teenagers to work excessive hours.

“The Queensland Government’s review is morally undermined because Australia has not signed the ILO Convention banning the abuse of child labour.

“ ILO estimates put the worldwide number of working children at a staggering 250 million, of which at least 120 million between the ages of 5 and 14 are working full time.

“There are 680,000 teenage workers in Australia, and the failure of the Howard Government to act to protect them from exploitation in the labour force is a very sad indictment.

“We need a national approach that looks at codes of practice for specific industries; regulations for child labour (eg minimum age, maximum hours, restrictions on types of work); improved screening and monitoring of people supervising or working with children in the workplace; and better strategies to educate children about their rights as workers.

“But the first step must be joining the rest of the civilised world and signing up to these obligations at an international level,” Senator Cherry concluded.

Contact: Pam Hose 07 3252 9129 or 0408 752 750