Dr MEHREEN FARUQI ( 11:21 :08 ): On behalf of The Greens, I join in debate on the Modern Slavery Bill 2018. At the outset I indicate that The Greens will support the bill, which starts the very important process of tackling this serious issue. I had the honour of serving on the Legislative Council Select Committee on human trafficking in New South Wales with the Hon. Paul Green and other committee members.
The Hon. Trevor Khan: Name them.
Dr MEHREEN FARUQI: I acknowledge that interjection. This bill implements a number of recommendations from that committee. The inquiry clearly demonstrated to me that the Government, law enforcement agencies and the business community need to be doing much more to combat human slavery, both in Australia but crucially all the way down the supply chain, wherever that ends up overseas. Out of sight, out of mind is not good enough. This is not a theoretical conversation. Human slavery is hurting people and it is hurting whole communities. The committee examined a wide range of issues, including those around child cybersex trafficking, forced marriages as well as stopping slavery and human rights abuses in the supply chain. Many of those issues are considered in this legislation.
Let us all be clear that enslaving people, abusing them, exploiting them and depriving someone of their freedom and liberty are the most atrocious crimes. There is absolutely no excuse for them. The bill before us today will do five key things: part 2 establishes a New South Wales Anti-slavery Commissioner whose role will be to promote action to combat modern slavery, identify and assist victims of modern slavery, monitor efforts of government and corporate bodies to combat modern slavery, and report annually to New South Wales Parliament; and the bill requires that each financial year all corporations trading in New South Wales that have a turnover of greater than $50 million will prepare a modern slavery statement. Those statements must detail the steps or actions that have been undertaken to eliminate slavery from the corporation’s supply chains. Failure to prepare the statement, failure to display the statement publicly and providing false or misleading information in the statement carry penalties of up to $1.1 million.
The threshold of $50 million is very generous because the reality is that no business has any excuse for having human slavery in its supply chain. I also note that although I very much welcome the requirement for modern slavery statements and the role of the Anti-slavery Commissioner, we must make sure that real action occurs. The statements require information to be given on the steps that companies have taken to remove slavery from their supply chains, but there is no mandatory independent audit that the public will be able to see to identify human trafficking in that business’s supply chains. I really hope that there is an appetite in the community to scrutinise the statements and for the Government to take action against corporations that may pay only lip-service to the requirement. We cannot have a situation in which statements may end up containing only the most basic of information to avoid bad media coverage and become, essentially, a tick-box exercise. I am hopeful that at the very least it will make companies a little more transparent and open to public scrutiny. Obviously this part of the bill can be strengthened to be more effective.
The bill also amends the way that the courts and the Crimes Act 1900 deal with modern slavery. It allows courts to issue Modern Slavery Risk Orders to people who have been convicted of a range of child abuse or slavery offences, including causing sexual servitude or the production of child abuse material. Those orders can be quite broad but are intended to prevent a slavery-like situation occurring and are meant to be targeted at people who the court considers might be at risk of offending. It also extends offences related to the production of child abuse materials to include circumstances of aggravation. The aggravating circumstances would result in the penalty doubling from a maximum of 10 years imprisonment to 20 years imprisonment. It also will introduce the offence of administering a digital platform for the purpose of child abuse material, which is intended to target people who engage in cybersex trafficking whereby people watch child abuse online. This offence would carry a penalty of a maximum of 14 years in jail.
This section is intended to deal with cybersex trafficking—something that was a particular focus of the inquiry into human trafficking. Cybersex trafficking generally involves offenders in New South Wales who commission the abuse of children in developing countries on a pay-per-view basis. This already can be prosecuted under State and Federal law. The inquiry heard from the NSW Police Force that someone has been charged with pay per view, which I understand to be the first case in New South Wales. That man paid $12 to direct and watch the live sexual abuse of children from the Philippines on Skype.
The Hon. Scott Farlow: Shame!
Dr MEHREEN FARUQI: It is disgusting. The Philippines Government has reported that it receives at least 3,000 reports per month from other countries of possible cases of children in the Philippines being sexually exploited online. What this bill will do is ensure that those who provide the digital platform, which enables this absolutely heinous crime to occur, will be criminalised. As a society, we must do everything we can to end this horrible abuse of children and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The bill also criminalises someone who enters marriage with a child, knowing it is a forced marriage, or someone who enables such a marriage. The penalty will be up to nine years in jail. Forced child marriage should be opposed in the most stringent manner and criminalised.
I mention feedback obtained during the human trafficking inquiry from some stakeholders that work extensively in this area. They indicated that dealing with this issue in an exclusively criminal manner may make it harder to identify victims. We must ensure that our focus is on protecting children and stopping child marriages. That means ensuring that community outreach, education and awareness should go hand in hand with criminal punishment. Ultimately, many of the issues raised in this bill would be better dealt with by a national approach; but, given the inaction at the Federal level, I understand why the Hon. Paul Green has introduced this bill to the New South Wales Parliament. I wholeheartedly support New South Wales taking this important first step. Someone has to get the ball rolling and show some leadership: Why not us in New South Wales? We all have a responsibility to stamp out human slavery.
Of course, much more needs to be done, including regulation of the labour hire industry, specifically in agriculture and construction in New South Wales, and providing more support and legal certainty to the victims of human trafficking. But this bill will provide an important first step in doing this. I commend the bill to the House. I foreshadow that my colleague Mr David Shoebridge will be introducing an amendment regarding organ harvesting, which I hope this Chamber will support.