MINISTER BISHOP Good morning. I am pleased to be here with my colleague Peter Dutton, the Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, to launch Australia’s International Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery.
For most of us, the familiar images of slavery in our minds are mired in the past. They come with a feeling of revulsion that is only eased by a sense that this practice is a relic of history. But it is not.
The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 35.8 million people are trapped in modern slavery, including through trafficking and forced labour. The International Labor Organization estimates that 21 million people are subject to forced labour, including sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. And more than half of those victims are in the Indo-Pacific region.
Human trafficking and related exploitation generates an estimated US150 billion dollars in illicit profit in any one year. This is a criminal activity of a massive scale. This is a shocking stain on the modern world.
Human trafficking and slavery are not archaic practices of the past. No country is immune. Every country across the globe is affected by human trafficking - as points of origin, transit or destination for victims.
Many of us do not realise the extent of the tragedy taking place across the world and in our own region. This is one of the reasons that I am launching Australia's International Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery. More people need to understand the extent of the suffering caused by these terrible crimes.
And we need to understand that it is a transnational issue. This is why our response is international.
The initiatives under this strategy complement our domestic National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery:
We plan to fight these crimes in several ways.
First, we will focus our efforts on working with countries in our region.
We will build our cooperation with police forces in South East Asia, in prevention, detection and prosecution.
We will better share information and cooperate in investigations.
We will continue to build legal and law enforcement capacity through our flagship criminal justice program, the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
This is South East Asia's largest single dedicated anti-trafficking investment: $50 million over five years.
Second, we will urge countries to work more closely with the multilateral institutions dealing with trafficking and slavery.
Countries need to leverage their capabilities by working more effectively with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and the International Labor Organization.
Too few countries take advantage of the platforms provided by multinational agencies.
Third, we will work within the Bali Process and its 48 members to drive greater coordination in the region against human trafficking and slavery.
A key goal for us will be to prevent these crimes through better access for people to safe and legal migration.
This will help those vulnerable migrant workers avoid the trap of trafficking, which so often ends in slavery.
And it will enhance labour migration’s contribution to the growth and development of ASEAN countries.
Australia has provided five years of assistance, which has helped around 62,000 migrant workers to access legal advice and support.
Our new $20 million program, which will be implemented by the ILO, will work with governments, employers, recruitment agencies, and civil society organizations, to reform migration policies and legislation, provide workers with legal and financial advice, and protect them from exploitation.
Fourth, and importantly, we will work with business in ensuring good practices in their supply chains.
This is quickly becoming a commercial, as well as a moral, imperative.
Those businesses that cannot show themselves to be free from forced labour will eventually be abandoned by their customers.
I have discussed this problem with my colleague, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
We will work together under the framework of the Bali Process so that we can develop a genuine partnership between governments and the private sector to combat slavery and trafficking in our region.
Fifth, we will continue to advocate for victim protection. Too often this is the element that has least attention. Too often trafficking victims find themselves back in difficult circumstances of re-trafficking.
We support non-government organisations to provide services in different countries to trafficking victims.
We look to government agencies and other groups to reach the most vulnerable communities.
Finally, to support this strategy, the Australian ‘Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues’ will be redesignated the ‘Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking’. And I acknowledge the presence of Ambassador Andrew Goledzinowski here today.
This change reflects Australia’s commitment to combatting human trafficking and slavery, and will give greater focus to Australia’s international advocacy and engagement on this issue.
I encourage you to take one of our booklets, which covers the detail of our strategy more comprehensively. This issue must be addressed by the global community. It must be addressed now.
MINISTER DUTTON Julie, thank you very much. I am very pleased to be here today with Australia’s Foreign Minister and I want to say all Australians should be proud of the announcement that the Foreign Minister has made today. This is a significant issue within our region and the fact that we’re able to work with partners with Indonesia across the region to stare down people traffickers and people who are trading in human misery is a significant announcement. Australia has a policy to provide support across the region both in terms of aid but also in terms of number of people that we’ve settled in Australia. In fact, we’ve settled over 800,000 through the refugee and humanitarian program since the Second World War.
Over the course of the last 12 months, and further back beyond that, Australian Border Force has been able to make 71 referrals to the Australian Federal Police and agencies otherwise in Australia of suspected people-trafficking incidents and we are working with our partners in the region to make sure that we can identify further cases and provide support to people on the ground and to prosecute where possible The government has made a number of announcements in recent times in relations to visa fraud. Stand-out visa fraud. And all Australians want to support the movement of people across our borders, but we want to do it in a way where people are presenting with legitimate reasons for travel and people aren’t being smuggled into Australia or smuggled across the region for purposes that would be abhorrent to Australians. So I’m very proud of the work that has been done and the announcement that has been made today by the Foreign Minister. But the work that we are doing with our partners [inaudible] biometrics in stamping out visa fraud making sure people are travelling for their designated purpose [inaudible] because this is an incredibly important issue.
MINISTER BISHOP Thank you. Given that we are all assembled here, we might take questions here rather than going outside where it is a little warmer. So if there are any questions on this launch or otherwise?
JOURNALIST Amanda Hodge from The Australian. You mentioned that private industry, particularly important in this. Are there any industries particularly in Australia where you will be looking, you know, specifically on this issue, obviously in this part of the world it’s fisheries – is that a concern in Australia also?
MINISTER BISHOP We are focused on supply chains and as I said, the source countries, the transit and destination of the victims. So we will be working with the private sector to ascertain which industries, which areas of the economy are more likely to be affected than others and we’ll work closely with them to ensure that their supply chains for Australia businesses are free from forced labor, trafficking and domestic servitude
JOURNALIST But isn’t the whole point, Foreign Minister, that if you’re using cheap labour, forced or otherwise, that it’s best to keep that private, so who’s going to be policing this?
MINISTER BISHOP There is already a considerable level of awareness amongst businesses that are socially responsible and take their social responsibilities very seriously. The Walk Free Foundation has considerable private sector support, and we’ve been buoyed by the level of interest and support from companies and sectors of the economy that want to ensure that their practices are world’s best. Australian corporations embrace best practice and this is one aspect that has for too long gone unaddressed around the world and we’re finding that the private sector is keen to be involved. And so we’re harnessing that interest and working back up the supply chains.
JOURNALIST So that actually means we’ll be following supply chains back to areas where, let’s say, we know that there is cheap labour or bonded labour, so that perhaps…
MINISTER BISHOP There is a difference between cheap and forced, and I think we’d better be careful with definitions. But we are focusing on this as a global issue, working with the countries in our region and beyond. This is not just an issue only for Australia - it’s an issue for all countries. And we are particularly focussing on those with whom we have influence in our region. And the Bali Process is an ideal framework given there are 48 member states, we will work closely with them and with the multinational agencies to ensure that Australia can help drive a global strategy to eradicate human trafficking and slavery.
JOURNALIST So will there also be a system of “dobbing in” companies that are sourcing from forced labour industries?
MINISTER BISHOP I understand what you mean by “dobbing in” but I don’t believe that’s part of our strategy in the sense that we haven’t got a dob-in-a-business aspect to it. But clearly businesses are concerned about their international reputation, they are concerned about embracing best practice, they are concerned about perception of markets and consumers, and we want to work with businesses to ensure that together we can help stamp out what is a scourge on our international community.
JOURNALIST Can I ask Mr Dutton a question about airports? What are we doing to improve security there? I understand that there is going to be some strike action threatened by the CPSU. What do you say to them?
MINISTER DUTTON Well I know that the CPSU has announced this morning that the strike action is to be called off and we welcome that. Obviously I’ve had a number of discussions over the course of the last few days with the Commissioner of the Australian Border Forced to make sure that we can cover any gaps if there was to be strike action. And in light of the circumstances in Brussels I think the CPSU has made the right decision at a time when other countries across Europe, the United States and here in our own region are stepping up their efforts around airport security. It would have been unconscionable for there to have been strike action at Australian airports, so I’m very grateful for the announcement that’s been made and obviously the work that’s done in conjunction with our counter-terrorism unit officers at our international airports. It is very important and even more so and I spoke to the Commissioner again this morning. There has been a lot of contact obviously between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies and Australian Border Force to make sure we can keep Australian airports secure and that is obviously an ongoing job and this threat has been around for a long period of time, it will be with us for a long period of time; people seek to do harm to innocent men, women and children and we’ve seen the tragedy unfold in Brussels overnight and Australian authorities are doing everything in our capacity to make sure that we keep Australia safe.
JOURNALIST What the last information on returnees that are coming back from Syria and Iraq and the like [inaudible]. Do we know if these people are on their way or have come?
MINISTER DUTTON Obviously we don’t talk about individual cases but there’s a lot of work that goes on between the Foreign Affairs obviously Border Force and many of our agencies otherwise, to individually look at these cases and make sure that they mitigate threat wherever it may be presented and Australia, like other developed nations, is concerned about the number of people and there are activities undertaken each day to make sure that we reduce that threat as [inaudible] manifest in the way that we’ve seen elsewhere in the world, and we’re going all that we can to keep Australians safe.
JOURNALIST Malcolm Turnbull has said that he is going to be having another chat with security heads in Sydney this afternoon. I know that you are here. Will you be able to call into that conversation or?
MINISTER BISHOP I generally make myself available wherever I am in the world for National Security Committee meetings and of course if I’m required, I’ll be there, but I will be co-chairing the Bali Process throughout the day, returning to Australia tonight.
JOURNALIST There were a couple of horrific instances in our region last year. One was the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea crisis where a whole lot of people died on the waters because of human trafficking. And the other was instances in Indonesian fisheries where [inaudible] kept on boats as slaves. Did these instances – were they catalysts for this strategy and how might this strategy help address crises like those we saw last year?
MINISTER BISHOP These incidents are in fact the subject of some discussion today in the Bali Process, for they have led to a reconsideration of the consultation methods of the Bali Process, how member states can become more involved more effectively, more quickly in some of the unfolding tragedies. And of course this strategy that I announced today with Peter Dutton, is designed to address some of the instances of human trafficking and the tragedies that have evolved from that. And it comes down to a much higher level of cooperation between countries, between agencies. And within the framework of the Bali Process we will be able to address some of these challenges before they do result in such tragedies.
JOURNALIST In July last year in the ASEAN Summit there were similar recommendations that were made about greater cooperation between law enforcements in the region. Something that UNODC has said is that although these recommendations were made, there were not actually concrete actions put in place to ensure that cooperation did occur. Are you able to outline anything, in terms of, law enforcement cooperation that you will be putting in place to ensure that that does occur?
MINISTER BISHOP The fact that Australia is taking the lead on this issue and putting our name to a strategy and driving the agenda from our perspective we believe that we give a sharper focus to efforts.
I’ve outlined the five areas that we’ll be focusing upon – there’s greater detail in the booklet of course. But I believe that the programs, the funding and the investment will be in place, the resources that we’ll be applying to this, including through our law enforcement agencies and cooperation that we are seeing increase – there’s a much higher tempo of engagement – will result in some better outcomes. So we will obviously give progress report from time to time about how effective we think our strategy is being. We need to, as the booklet says, amplify our impact and do more in directing outcomes that lead to an eradication of human trafficking and slavery.
JOURNALIST Indonesia has made it clear that it would like Australia to take more migrants stranded in Indonesia [inaudible] rescued from the sea last year. What’s going to be the reply of Australia to Indonesia?
MINISTER BISHOP Well, I take issue with that. In fact Indonesia has asked all countries in the membership of the Bali Process to consider doing more in relation to those who are deemed to be genuine refugees. Australia has one of the most significant humanitarian refugee programs in the world, in fact I believe we are the third highest in terms of taking refugees and as the Immigration Minister has said, since the Second World War we’ve settled over 800,000 under the humanitarian refugee visa category. We have taken about 2,000 people from Indonesia over the last few years, who have been deemed to be refugees. We take 13,750 each year under our program, which will expand to about 18,750 over the next few years. In addition, we have made places for 12,000 Syrian refugees who are seeking asylum as a result of the conflict. We have provided $19 million over two years to Indonesia through the IOM to support people who’ve claimed refugee status here in Indonesia. So Australia is already playing a significant role and we urge other countries to do similarly.
OK, thank you.
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