Bills Digest No. 96 2004–05
Criminal Code Amendment (Trafficking in Persons
Offences) Bill 2004
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the
Contact Officer & Copyright Details
Amendment (Trafficking in Persons Offences) Bill
Date Introduced: 8 December 2004
Portfolio: Justice and Customs
formal provisions commence on Royal Assent; the substantive
provisions commence 28 days after Royal Assent
To insert people
trafficking and debt bondage offences into the Criminal Code and
amend the existing deceptive recruiting for sexual services
It is difficult to estimate the size of the global people
trafficking problem. In a recent submission to the Parliamentary
Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission (PJC), the
Attorney-General s Department stated, Experts estimate that
anywhere from 700,000 to four million persons are trafficked
annually worldwide .(1) Similarly, there is no agreement
on the size of the problem in Australia. While much of the
discussion about people trafficking focuses on the trafficking of
women for the purposes of sexual servitude:
Trafficking takes place for a variety of end
purposes including domestic service, forced marriage and sweatshop
labour. Forced sex work is the most visible end-result of
trafficking especially in developed countries such as Australia but
there is no evidence that it is the most common.(2)
The Bill inserts new people trafficking offences into the
Criminal Code. Confusion sometimes exists about the difference
between people smuggling and people trafficking. The United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime explains the difference in this way:
In some respects, trafficking in persons resembles the smuggling
of migrants but there are several important differences.
The smuggling of migrants, while often undertaken in dangerous
or degrading conditions, involves migrants who have consented to
the smuggling. Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have either
never consented or, if they initially consented, that consent has
been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive
actions of the traffickers.
Another major difference is that smuggling ends with the arrival
of migrants at their destination, whereas trafficking involves the
ongoing exploitation of the victims in order to generate illicit
profits for the traffickers. From a practical standpoint, victims
of trafficking also tend to be more severely affected and in
greater need of protection from re-victimization and other forms of
further abuse than are smuggled migrants.
Finally, smuggling is always transnational, whereas trafficking
need not be. Trafficking can occur regardless of whether victims
are taken to another country or only moved from one place to
another within the same country.(3)
There are already a number of people smuggling offences in the
Migration Act 1958 and in the Criminal Code. The Migration
Act includes offences of bringing an unlawful non-citizen or a
group of such persons into Australia. Further offences were added
to the Criminal Code with the passage of the Crimes Legislation
Amendment (People Smuggling, Firearms Trafficking and Other
Measures) Act 2002. These offences apply to what might be
called international smuggling ie to the smuggling of people into a
foreign country (whether or not via Australia). The new people
smuggling offences are, in general, based on the Protocol Against
the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (the Smuggling
Additionally, there are some people trafficking offences in the
Criminal Code. These offences slavery, sexual servitude and
deceptive recruiting were added to the Criminal Code in
The Bill inserts new Division 271 into the
Criminal Code, creating new trafficking and debt bondage offences.
These new offences are based on the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress
and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,
supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational
Organized Crime (the Trafficking Protocol).
The purpose of the Trafficking Protocol is to prevent and combat
trafficking in persons and facilitate international cooperation
against such trafficking. It aims to maintain a balance between law
enforcement and victim protection. The Trafficking Protocol came
into force on 25 December 2003. At present, the Protocol has 117
signatories and 76 parties. The Trafficking Protocol contains the
first internationally agreed definition of trafficking as:
the recruitment, transportation, transfer,
harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of
force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of
deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability
or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve
the consent of a person having control over another person, for the
purpose of exploitation.(5)
defines exploitation as, at a minimum:
the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of
sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or
practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of
Amongst other things, Parties to the Trafficking Protocol
criminalise trafficking in persons (articles 3 and 5)
take measures to protect and assist the victims of trafficking.
This includes considering the implementation of measures to help
rehabilitate victims through the provision of housing, counselling
and training, and endeavouring to provide physical protection for
victims (article 6)
consider taking legislative or other measures to permit victims
to remain in their territory, temporarily or permanently, in
appropriate cases (article 7), and
establish comprehensive policies, programs and other measures to
prevent trafficking and protect its victims (especially victims who
are women or children) (article 9).
Australia signed the Protocol on 11 December 2002 and made the
The Government of Australia hereby declares that
nothing in the Protocol shall be seen to be imposing obligations on
Australia to admit or retain within its borders person in respect
of whom Australia would not otherwise have an obligation to admit
or retain within its borders.
Australia has not yet ratified the Trafficking Protocol. The
general rule adopted in this country is that before action is taken
that will bind Australia, the texts of treaties are tabled in
Parliament, together with a National Interest Analysis (NIA). The
purpose of an NIA is to address matters such as why Australia
should become a party to the treaty, what advantages and
disadvantages may flow, what compliance costs will arise and what
are the views of the States and Territories on the proposed treaty
action. The treaty and the NIA are also referred to the Joint
Committee on Treaties for inquiry and report.(7)
The Protocol, together with the UN Convention on Transnational
Organized Crime and the Smuggling Protocol, was tabled in
Parliament on 3 December 2003. Accompanying each was an
NIA.(8) With respect to the Trafficking Protocol, the
NIA commented that a number of the Protocol s obligations could be
implemented administratively or under existing Commonwealth
legislation and that, additionally:
amendments would be made to the Criminal Code to introduce new
offences of trafficking in persons in order to give effect to the
obligations in articles 3 and 5 of the Protocol, and
amendments would be made to the Migration Regulations 1994 to
provide new visa arrangements for trafficking victims in order to
give effect to article 7 of the Protocol.
In March 2004, the Joint Committee on Treaties supported all
three treaties and recommended that binding treaty action be taken
in each case.(9)
In June 2003, the issue of trafficking in women for sexual
servitude purposes was referred to the PJC. The PJC reported in
June of the following year and recommended that the Government
ratify the Trafficking Protocol as soon as possible. Among other
things, it also recommended:
a review of the adequacy of existing provisions in the Criminal
Code dealing with the recruitment, transportation and transfer of
women for the purposes of trafficking
an amendment to section 270.7 of the Criminal Code (dealing with
deceptive recruiting for sexual services) to broaden the offence to
include deception regarding not only the type of work to be done,
but expressly the kind of services to be provided, whether of a
sexual nature or not (10)
that all trafficked women accepted onto the victim support
program or receiving the Criminal Justice Stay Visa be exempt from
compulsory return to their country of origin .(11)
During the PJC s inquiry, the Commonwealth Government announced
some major initiatives designed to address the problem of people
trafficking. It is beyond the scope of this Bills Digest to detail
those measures. However, they include an agreement by the
Australasian Police Ministers Council to a National Action Plan.
Another initiative was the release of a Commonwealth Action
Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons. This plan focuses on
prevention, detection and investigation, criminal prosecution, and
victim support and rehabilitation.(12)
A consultation draft of the Bill was released in September 2004
for public comment. There are some differences between the
consultation draft and the Bill. These differences relate mainly to
the offence of debt bondage. The consultation draft contained three
different proposals for a debt bondage offence:
a broad debt bondage offence criminalising conduct that causes
another person to enter into debt bondage and which is done with
the intention of inducing that person to enter into debt bondage. A
potential difficulty with a broad offence like this was said to be
inadvertent criminalising of activities like debt arrangements
among family members which do not involve exploitation.
limiting the debt bondage offence to the provision of sexual
prohibiting all debt arrangements applying to sex workers.
The Bill adopts the first approach with a broad debt bondage
offence. It also provides that in determining whether an offence
has occurred a jury can look at evidence about matters such as the
economic relationship between the parties, the terms of any
agreement between them and the personal circumstances of the victim
(including the victim s social and physical dependence on the
Item 9 of Schedule 1 adds
new Division 271 (Trafficking in persons and debt
bondage) to the Criminal Code.
New section 271.1 inserts a number of
definitions into the new Division. These include a definition of
deceive (meaning to mislead about facts, intentions or the law), a
definition of confiscate (meaning destroying or taking possession
of a person s travel or identity documents permanently or
otherwise) and a definition of threat (which includes a threat of
Other definitions, which will apply to new Division
271 as well as more generally, are found in items
10-16 of Schedule 1. These definitions
will be inserted into the Criminal Code dictionary.
New subsection 271.2(1) creates an offence of
trafficking persons into Australia where the entry into Australia
is accomplished by the use of threats or force which causes the
victim to consent to the entry. Absolute liability applies to one
element of the offence that the use of threats or force results in
the victim consenting to being brought to Australia. In other
words, the prosecution will not need to prove that the defendant
put their mind to the fact that force or threats would result in
the victim s consent. Nor will the defendant have a mistake of fact
defence in relation to this element of the offence. The Explanatory
Memorandum explains the use of absolute liability in this way:
If the prosecution was required to prove
awareness on the part of the defendant that the force or threats
would result in the victim s consent, many defendants would be able
to evade liability by demonstrating that they did not turn their
minds to that issue (despite the fact that they had committed the
prohibited conduct). Therefore, it is necessary only to prove that
the person used threats or force, and that those threats or that
force in fact resulted in the victim
New subsection 271.2(2) creates an offence
where a person s entry into Australia occurs as the result of
deception about the fact that their stay will involve the provision
of sexual services, exploitation, debt bondage or the confiscation
of their travel or identity documents.
The maximum penalty for either offence is 12 years
An aggravated offence, with a maximum penalty of 20 years
imprisonment is created if a person commits a new section
271.2 offence where:
the offender intends that the victim will be exploited after
the offender subjects the victim to cruel, inhuman or degrading
the offender recklessly subjects the victim to a danger of death
or serious harm (new section 271.3).
New section 271.4 creates an offence of
trafficking where the victim is under 18 years of age and the
offender organises the victim s entry into Australia and intends or
is reckless about whether the victim will be used to provide sexual
services or otherwise exploited after entering Australia. The
maximum penalty for this offence is 20 years imprisonment
(new section 271.7).
Extended geographical jurisdiction (category B) applies to the
above offences (new section 271.10). This means
that the offences apply to conduct by Australian citizens or bodies
corporate anywhere in the world, subject to a foreign law
defence.(14) Extended geographical jurisdiction
(category B) is also applied to existing sexual servitude and
deceptive recruiting offences by the Bill.
New section 271.5 creates an offence of
trafficking in persons within Australia by the use of force or
threats. The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for
12 years. The use of threats or force must result in the victim
consenting to being transported to Australia. This element of the
offence attracts absolute liability.
It will also be an offence to traffic persons within Australia
having deceived them about the fact that the arrangement will
involve the provision of sexual services, exploitation, debt
bondage or the confiscation of travel or identity documents. Once
again, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 years.
A person who commits an offence of domestic trafficking in
persons will commit an aggravated offence if they intend the victim
to be exploited, they subject the victim to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or they engage in conduct reckless as to the
danger of the victim dying or being seriously harmed. The maximum
penalty is imprisonment for 20 years (new section
It will be an offence to traffic in a person under the age of 18
years intending or reckless as to whether that person will be used
to provide sexual services or be otherwise exploited. The maximum
penalty is imprisonment for 20 years.
The Trafficking Protocol applies to transnational activity.
However, as described above, the Bill also creates domestic
trafficking offences. For constitutional reasons, these offences
must be tied to specific heads of Commonwealth power. The Bill thus
provides that the domestic trafficking offences will be activated
if any of the conduct occurs outside Australia, the conduct
involves transportation across State borders for reward, the
conduct occurs within a territory, is engaged in by a
constitutional corporation, some of the conduct makes use of a
postal, telegraphic or telephonic service, or the victim is an
alien (new section 271.11).(15)
Debt bondage is defined in item 10 of Schedule
1 as occurring when a person pledges his or her services
or the services of another person as security for a debt if the
reasonable value of those services is not applied to repay the debt
or if the length and nature of the services is not defined.
An offence of debt bondage is created by new section
271.8 if a person intentionally causes another person to
enter into debt bondage. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12
months. Admissible evidence in a debt bondage prosecution can
include the economic relationship between the parties, the terms of
any agreement between them, and the personal circumstances of the
alleged victim (including their ability to speak English and the
extent of their social and physical dependence on the alleged
An offence of aggravated debt bondage is created by new
section 271.9. It will occur if the offender commits an
offence of debt bondage and the victim is under 18 years of age.
The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 2 years. In order for a
person to be convicted of this aggravated offence, the prosecution
must prove that the defendant intentionally committed or was
reckless about committing the offence against a person under the
age of 18.
New section 271.12 is designed to preserve the
operation of other relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory laws.
Such laws might include existing federal, State and Territory
sexual servitude offences.(16)
New section 271.13 provides that a person who
is convicted or acquitted outside Australia for conduct involving
people trafficking cannot be convicted of a Commonwealth people
trafficking offence (ie an offence against new Division
271 of the Criminal Code). This is a protection against
The Bill makes a number of amendments to existing provisions and
offences in the Criminal Code.
Items 1-3 of Schedule 1 move a
number of definitions from people smuggling and sexual servitude
offences in the Criminal Code to the Criminal Code dictionary.
These are definitions of terms, like exploit , which will also
occur in the new people trafficking offences, so it is appropriate
to locate them in the Criminal Code dictionary. In some cases, the
definitions are reworded.
Items 5 and 6 replace the
current maximum penalties (19 years imprisonment) for sexual
servitude offences with maximum penalties of 20 years imprisonment.
This will bring the penalties for sexual servitude offences into
line with penalties for the new people trafficking offences.
Item 7 replaces the existing offence of
deceptive recruiting for sexual services in subsection 270.7(1) of
the Criminal Code with a reworded offence. The new offence will
cover a wider range of circumstances in which deceptive recruiting
can occur. For instance, not only will deceptive recruiting occur
when the victim is deceived about the fact that they will be
required to provide sexual services but the offence will also occur
if the person is deceived about other matters, such as the extent
to which they will be free to leave the place where they provide
sexual services, the extent to which they will be free to cease
providing sexual services or the extent to which they will be able
to leave their place of residence.
The new offence may address criticisms that were made of the
existing offence on the grounds that it is limited to deception
about the nature of the work and does not capture the situation
where women agree to work in the sex industry but are deliberately
deceived about the conditions of work. (17) There may be
a question, however, about whether the new offence goes far enough.
For instance, does it address the recommendation of the PJC that
deception includes the kind of services provided, whether of a
sexual nature or not ?(18)
As a result of the amendments, admissible evidence in a
deceptive recruiting prosecution may include the economic
relationship between the parties, the terms of any agreement
between them, and the personal circumstances of the alleged victim
(including their ability to speak English and the extent of their
social and physical dependence on the alleged offender).
The Criminal Code Amendment (Theft, Fraud, Bribery and
Related Offences) Act 2000 (the 2000 Act) inserted general
provisions about geographic jurisdiction into the Criminal Code.
The Act also inserted a general provision requiring the
Attorney-General s permission to be obtained for any prosecution
where an offence has occurred outside Australia and the alleged
offender is neither an Australian citizen nor an Australian
The existing sexual servitude and deceptive recruiting offences
in the Criminal Code were enacted before the 2000 Act was passed
and contain specific provisions relating to geographical
jurisdiction and the Attorney-General s consent to prosecution.
With the passage of the 2000 Act, they became redundant and are
repealed by items 4 and 8.(19)
Item 1 of Schedule 2 amends
the Telecommunications (Interception) Act so that
telecommunications interception warrants will be available for the
investigation of the new people trafficking offences and for all
the people smuggling offences in Division 73 of the Criminal Code.
These warrants are currently available for the investigation of
slavery, sexual servitude and deceptive recruiting offences in
Division 270 of the Code and for the aggravated offence of people
smuggling in section 73.2 of the Code.
Two of the people trafficking and domestic people trafficking
offences include an element which attracts absolute liability. This
is the element that the use of threats or force from the
perpetrator results in the victim consenting to the arrangement.
Under the scheme set down by the Criminal Code, the prosecution
would normally need to show that the perpetrator was reckless about
this result. The Bill provides that absolute liability applies. The
prosecution will therefore not need to show that the perpetrator
put their mind to this result and the perpetrator will not have a
defence of mistake of fact.(20)
As stated earlier, the Explanatory Memorandum explains that
without the use of absolute liability many perpetrators will be
able to evade conviction.
The Guide to Framing Commonwealth
Offences, Civil Penalties and Enforcement Powers issued
with the authority of the Minister for Justice and Customs in
February 2004 states:
Application of strict or absolute liability to a
particular physical element of an offence has generally
only been considered appropriate where one of the
following considerations is applicable:
There is demonstrated evidence that the requirement to prove
fault of that particular element is undermining or will undermine
the deterrent effect of the offence, and there are legitimate
grounds for penalising persons lacking fault in respect of that
element. In the case of absolute liability, there should also be
legitimate grounds for penalising a person who made an honest and
reasonable mistake of fact in respect of that
Parliament may wish to consider whether absolute liability is
appropriate in relation to the two offences. In this regard, it may
be relevant that the Trafficking Protocol appears to envisage the
criminalisation of intentional activity.(22)
The Trafficking Protocol obliges States Parties to criminalise
certain activities. It also obliges them to consider taking
legislative or other measures to permit victims of people
trafficking to remain in their territory, temporarily or
permanently, in appropriate cases and to take measures to protect
and assist the victims of trafficking.
For some time, concerns have been expressed about the treatment
of the victims of people trafficking, especially women trafficked
for the purpose of sexual servitude. These concerns have focused on
the deportation of potential witnesses and victims of people
trafficking from Australia because such action can be seen to
undermine the goals of protection and prosecution, putting victims
at risk with sometimes life threatening consequences, while
allowing traffickers to act with impunity in Australia and abroad.
Treatment of the victims of people trafficking was the subject
of debate in 2001 when Puangthong Simaplee, a brothel worker who
told officials she had been trafficked into Australia on a false
Malaysian passport, died in Villawood Detention
Centre.(24) And in part the PJC s recent inquiry into
the trafficking of women for sexual servitude resulted from the
emergence in the media of allegations of mishandling of cases of
trafficked women by government agencies. (25)
As stated earlier, the NIA accompanying the Trafficking Protocol
indicated that amendments would be made to the Migration
Regulations 1994 to provide new visa arrangements for trafficking
victims in order to give effect to article 7 of the Protocol. These
regulations came into effect on 1 January 2004 and created new
kinds of visas for unlawful non-citizens:
Bridging Visas to allow a trafficking victim to be released from
immigration detention if they might be able to assist
investigations into people trafficking-related, sexual servitude or
deceptive recruiting offences and to allow them to stay lawfully in
Australia while investigations are undertaken and a decision is
made whether to grant them a Criminal Justice Stay
Witness Protection (Trafficking) (Temporary) (Class UM) and
Witness Protection (Trafficking) (Permanent) (Class DH) Visas.
These new visas provide a two-stage process which initially grants
a two year temporary visa followed by permanent stay in Australia
for persons who have made a significant contribution to, and
cooperated with, an investigation or prosecution of persons alleged
to have trafficked or exploited them or others, and who need to
remain in Australia for their own protection. (27)
More information about the prosecution of people traffickers and
victim assistance initiatives is provided in the Government s
Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons which was
issued in 2004:
To allow for more effective prosecutions, the Government has
amended Australia s migration regulations to create a new class of
bridging visa. The Bridging Visa F, which came into effect on 1
January 2004, allows people who could assist Australian authorities
investigating people trafficking to remain in Australia for up to
30 days. This facilitates the investigation of possible trafficking
During the 30-day period individuals will be assessed by the
police to determine their eligibility for a Criminal Justice Stay
Certificate. If a person is assessed as being able and willing to
assist Australian authorities in pursuing the prosecution of a
trafficking offence, a Criminal Justice Stay Visa may be granted to
cover the period for which their assistance is required.
The Action Plan goes on to say:
suspected victims who are granted a Bridging Visa can receive
intensive support for the period of the Visa s validity or until
they wish to leave Australia, whichever occurs first. ..
Additionally, victims who, as a result of their contribution to
an investigation or the prosecution of people-trafficking
offenders, are deemed at risk of harm if they return to their home
country may be eligible for a temporary or permanent Witness
Protection (Trafficking) Visa.
Despite the existence of Criminal Justice Stay Visas and the
creation of the new Bridging and Witness Protection Visas, there
has been some recent criticism of the treatment of the victims of
trafficking. On 24 January 2005, The Australian reported
that a woman described as a Thai sex slave who had co-operated with
police by naming traffickers was placed in Sydney s Villawood
Detention Centre and will be deported despite fears about her fate
if she returns to Thailand. It was reported that she would be
deported because the information she provided had not led to a
Ensuring adequate protection of the victims of people
trafficking may be a matter that Parliament wishes to monitor.
Attorney-General s Department, Submission to the Joint
Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, Inquiry
into the Trafficking of Women for Sexual Servitude (Submission No.
36, p. 5).
Anne Gallagher, Submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee
on the Australian Crime Commission, Inquiry into the Trafficking of
Women for Sexual Servitude (Submission No. 23, p. 4).
Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sexual Servitude) Act
Article 3, Trafficking Protocol.
See Australia and International Treaty Making Information
Kit at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/reports/infokit.html
Joint Committee on Treaties, Report 59, Treaties Tabled in
December 2003, March 2004.
Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime
Commission, Inquiry into the Trafficking of Women for Sexual
Servitude, June 2004, p. 52. At
ibid, p. 57.
Australian Government s Action Plan to Eradicate
Trafficking in Persons. At :http://www.ag.gov.au/agd/WWW/rwpattach.nsf/personal/7ABBC73F994862F6CA256EB500182B3F/$FILE/99+Traffickingplan.pdf
And for further details, see:
Explanatory Memorandum, p. 7.
This means that it is a defence if there is no corresponding
crime in the foreign jurisdiction.
The reach of the constitutional concept of alien is unclear. For
instance, recent High Court decisions have indicated that British
settlers who came to Australia after 1949 and who have not taken
out Australian citizenship are aliens . See Shaw v. Minister
for Immigration and Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs (2003)
203 ALR 143 and Peter Prince, Deporting British settlers,
Research Note No. 33, 10 February 2004.
The Explanatory Memorandum points out that all jurisdictions
except Queensland and Tasmania have enacted sexual servitude
See Kerry Carrington & Jane Hearn, Trafficking and the
Sex Industry: from Impunity to Protection, Current Issues
Brief No. 28, 2002 03, Department of the Parliamentary Library,
PJC, op. cit, p. 52.
Extended geographical jurisdiction (category B), which will now
apply to sexual servitude and deceptive recruiting offences
generally corresponds to the existing jurisdictional
A mistake of fact defence would apply to the element if it
attracted strict liability rather than absolute liability.
A Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Civil Penalties
and Enforcement Powers, Issued by authority of the Minister
for Justice and Customs, February 2004.
Article 5.1, Trafficking Protocol.
Carrington & Hearn, op. cit., p. 16.
ibid, p. 13.
PJC, op. cit, p. 1.
Migration Amendment Regulations 2003 (No. 10) 2003. See
Explanatory Statement for these regulations.
Explanatory Statement, Migration Amendment Regulations 2003 (No.
Sex slave informant to be deported, case dropped , The
Australian, 24 January 2005.
4 February 2005
Bills Digest Service
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