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House of Representatives

Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-Like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012

Explanatory Memorandum

(Circulated by authority of the Attorney-General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP)

General outline and financial impact statement


This Bill amends Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code (the Criminal Code), and section 21B of the Crimes Act 1914 . Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code criminalise slavery, slavery-like offences and people trafficking.

Slavery and people trafficking are amongst the most abhorrent of all crimes. These heinous offences are major violations of human rights, and may result in traumatic and lifelong consequences for victims and their families. The Australian Government is committed to combating all forms of slavery and people trafficking, including by ensuring that our strong regime of criminal offences remains relevant and responsive to emerging issues.

The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that the broadest range of exploitative behaviour is captured and criminalised, including by introducing new offences of forced labour, forced marriage, and harbouring a victim, and by clarifying existing offences and their definitions to enhance operational effectiveness. The Bill also increases the availability of reparation orders to individual victims of Commonwealth offences, including people trafficking.

Since the introduction of the existing offences set out in Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code, the Commonwealth has prosecuted a range of people trafficking and slavery offences involving exploitation in diverse industry sectors.

However, investigations have revealed that people trafficking syndicates are changing their mode of operation to avoid detection, and if detected, to make elements of the offence harder to prove to the standard that satisfies the court and a jury. In addition to this shift in mode of operation, Australian authorities have identified a diversification of the industries into which victims are trafficked, such as the hospitality industry.

Following suggestions from the community that the practice of forced marriage is frequent, but underreported, specific criminalisation of this practice is also warranted.

This Bill aims to ensure that the people trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences set out in the Criminal Code comprehensively criminalise all forms of slavery and people trafficking.

The Bill is intended to strengthen the existing range of offences against slavery and people trafficking in the Criminal Code to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the best tools available to investigate and prosecute perpetrators. The Bill also establishes a continuum of slavery and slavery-like offences - with an offence of slavery at the most grave end of the spectrum, and an offence of debt bondage at the less grave end of the spectrum.

In summary, the Bill:

establishes new offences in the Criminal Code of forced labour, forced marriage, organ trafficking, and harbouring a victim
ensures the slavery offence applies to conduct which renders a person a slave, as well as conduct involving a person who is already a slave
extends the application of the existing offences of deceptive recruiting and sexual servitude so they apply to non-sexual servitude and all forms of deceptive recruiting
increases the penalties applicable to the existing debt bondage offences, to ensure they are in line with the serious nature of the offences
broadens the definition of exploitation under the Criminal Code to include all slavery-like practices
amends the existing definitions to ensure the broadest range of exploitative conduct is criminalised by the offences, including psychological oppression and the abuse of power or taking advantage of a person's vulnerability, and
improve the availability of reparations to victims.

Financial impact statement

The Bill has no financial impact on Government revenue.

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