Trafficking in Persons: a round up of recent Australian events.
Posted 29/11/2011 by Dianne Heriot
|Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department|As reported an earlier FlagPost, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, has been in Australia for a two week fact finding mission (17–30 November), which included meetings with Government and non-government agencies, public lectures in Sydney and Melbourne (see also here), and a Parliamentary Library Lecture in Canberra. On 23 November, the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, with the Ministers for Immigration and Citizenship and the Status of Women, convened the fourth meeting of the National Roundtable on People Trafficking. Established in 2008, the Roundtable is an important consultative mechanism enabling collaboration and information sharing on current and emerging issues. Its 2011 session was attended by the Special Rapporteur, representatives of non-government organisations, industry and employer bodies, the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the International Organization for Migration, and many of the Australian Government agencies represented on the Anti-People Trafficking Interdepartmental Committee. The draft legislation does not address issues of vulnerable witness which had also been canvassed in the 2010 discussion paper. Public consultation on the exposure draft closes on 13 January 2012.
- new offences of forced labour, servitude, and of harbouring a victim of trafficking or slavery;
- new offences of forced marriage;
- provisions to amend the existing definitions of trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences to criminalise a broader range
- increased penalties for the existing debt bondage offences; and
- improvements to the availability of victim reparations.
As might be expected, initial reactions to the exposure draft featured in the Roundtable discussions. Other issues canvassed included: the need for greater community awareness of slavery and people trafficking; the need for better access to secure and affordable housing for victims of trafficking; challenges associated with effecting family reunions for victims of trafficking granted permanent visas; and improved access to financial compensation.
An emerging issue at this year’s Roundtable was the important role of the private sector and of consumers in ensuring that their actions do not cause or contribute to slavery and forced labour in the production of imported goods or in the provision of cheap labour.
A number of related publications were also recently released.
On 22 November, the Government tabled in Parliament the third report of its Anti-People Trafficking Interdepartmental Committee, covering the period 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011. (These annual reports were introduced in 2009 in response to an Australian National Audit Office recommendation for increased transparency in reporting outcomes of the anti-people trafficking strategy.) Last financial year,
The report points to the increasing awareness of authorities of trafficking across a broader range of industries (agriculture, construction, hospitality, manufacturing and domestic services) and to the ongoing and important role of civil mechanisms including the Fair Work Ombudsman in addressing exploitation of foreign workers.
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