3rd May 2018
Second reading debate.
Modern Slavery Bill 2018.
The Animal Justice Party expresses its overwhelming support for the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 and commends all of the work done by the Hon. Paul Green and everybody who has worked with him. The extraordinary thing about slavery is that it has been an insidious, ugly instrument in our societies for thousands of years. Unfortunately, people who travel the world to look at the tourist attractions are often enjoying the fruits of slavery. I am talking about buildings such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt and some of the most glorious buildings that have been commissioned by churches and governments across Europe. When we go to these countries and walk among the attractions we are filled with awe, but the one menacing, disturbing truth is that, in the main, they were created by slaves. Many of those slaves suffered long, lingering deaths; they were crushed by the work they did on the very beautiful buildings that we can admire today.
But slavery affects our everyday lives in Australia. Most of the t-shirts that are worn during summer are produced as a result of acts of slavery in sweatshops. We are learning, more and more, that it is very difficult for companies to find sources of garments—even shoes—where slavery has not been involved in some part of the production. Some of us feel uncomfortable when we walk across the beautiful rugs we have procured over time and put on the floors of our houses, only to learn that it is quite possible that children who were chained to carpet‑making operations in India and Pakistan were forced to make those carpets. Children work long hours making carpets and, in some cases, are never allowed to leave the factory in which they work.
In Australia, it has become apparent that slavery has been used in fruit-picking, in other agricultural industries, and in construction industries. There have been instances where people who have come to Australia on particular visas to do part-time work have found themselves enslaved. In the worst cases, people have been involved in the sexual exploitation of children; they pay a very small amount of money and cause a child or a person to be kidnapped, taken to a place, raped, tortured and, in some cases—for example, in the production of snuff movies—murdered. It was a big step forward when legislation was passed so that when Australians committed sexual offences against children in other countries they could be extradited back to Australia and, even better, face charges in Australia for that sexual abuse. These have been welcome advances in legislation.
I have some concerns about the Modern Slavery Bill. It could have more teeth—more strength—and be more compelling. I think the commissioner should have far more powers. The commissioner should have the power to investigate and to compel the relevant authorities to investigate and issue warrants. The bill should have the strength and power to support the principle and spirit of the bill. I understand the Government will move amendments to the bill, but this is a bill which is about stopping slavery—about preventing harm of the vulnerable—and no amendment should detract from the spirit of the bill. Any amendment, from any member of any party, should go only to galvanizing the spirit of this bill, which is about protecting the most vulnerable—being a shield and a sword for them. The vulnerable include children and women. It has been said that domestic violence is a form of slavery. If people, including children, have to flee to refuges it means that they have been enslaved. We must be very aware that slavery manifests in very subtle, sinister ways. An act of slavery might be for only half a day, but it is still slavery.
I implore the Government that any amendment—whether it is introduced here or in the other place—strengthens the bill. This bill should also cover all Government departments. There should be no exemptions—even for small businesses should not be exempt, in any way, from the requirements and the powers of this bill. I note the amendment to be moved by Mr. David Shoebridge, which would include tissue trafficking. We should be introducing amendments such as that, which will strengthen the provisions and provide more detail so that this bill captures all the exploiters and all of the evil actions that can cause such harm and such brutal exploitation of any living being in Australia or around the world. I commend the bill to the House.