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The report released today by the Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee on Law Enforcement into human trafficking has uncovered significant gaps in the Commonwealth’s response to human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices.

The Committee has found that – even in 2017 – there are alarmingly high numbers of overseas workers being exploited in Australia, women being brought here for forced marriage and victims who are unable to access support services.

Shocking testimony during the Committee’s hearings also revealed that Australian girls continue to be taken overseas for forced marriages.

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • That the government investigate the role of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to request, collect and analyse data from government agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), business and industry unions,
  • Establishing a National Compensation Scheme for victims of trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences,
  • Increasing the number of specialist Australian Federal Police (AFP) staff in states and territories as well as improving training for frontline staff (AFP and state police, Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Fair Work Ombudsman officers),
  • That the government investigate expanding the forced marriage protection airport watch list to include those over 18 years of age, 
  • The government establish a licensing regime for labour hire companies to ensure they are properly licensed, 
  • Expanding the pre-departure briefing program for seasonal workers to more countries, and introduce post-arrival briefings for visa holders to ensure migrant workers are provided with relevant information, 
  • The government fund the National Action Plan (NAP) to combat human trafficking and slavery so it can be fully implemented, and
  • Continued funding for organisations engaged in education and awareness of forced marriage.

The Australian Parliament must do everything it can to protect vulnerable individuals.

Labor is taking the lead on this issue. Earlier this year, Labor announced its support for an Australian Modern Slavery Act, to improve transparency within business supply chains and help break the chains of modern slavery.

Labor has also committed to establishing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to help victims of modern slavery right here in Australia, and fight slavery both in Australia and overseas. 

The evidence-based recommendations in this report focus on the most effective ways to address the problems of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, as well as how to protect and support victims.

Recent evidence given to the Parliament confirmed that the chaos within the Turnbull Government has left Australian anti-slavery non-government organisations without funding for the provision of critical services for at least a month.  This must be fixed. 

The outcome of this inquiry will inform the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, which will report later this year.

I look forward to bringing the evidence and recommendations from this inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act inquiry. 

I am committed to raising awareness and stamping out this insidious issue that affects millions of vulnerable people around the world, including thousands in Australia.