THE SENATE - MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group SPEECH
Tuesday, 16 June 2020
I was on the subcommittee that produced the reportHidden in plain sight, along with many other Labor members. As the Greens have already raised, I commend the defence minister, Linda Reynolds, for her work in bringing this through to the parliament. I also acknowledge Chris Crewther MP, the chair of the subcommittee at the time. We travelled over to the UK and were briefed quite extensively on the UK legislation, so we were able to listen and have evidence brought before us on what worked and what didn't work. It was quite clear that this Senate and the joint committee took united steps to push forward this report, which is quite extensive. We were enormously pleased to push for an antislavery commissioner and, clearly, we were very disappointed that it could not progress beyond the current piece of legislation. But there's always hope. I note that New South Wales took the step as the first jurisdiction in Australia to appoint an antislavery commissioner, and I think there's certainly still scope for the federal parliament to do the same with this piece of legislation.
That's why it's important that this matter of public importance is brought on, in relation to the 10 people who have been appointed by the assistant minister in this regard. I bring to the attention of this Senate that there has been tremendous work on this from all sides of the parliament. This isn't just about standing up to raise an issue; this is about imploring Minister Wood to actually listen to the concerns that are genuinely being raised here in the Senate through this MPI.
We had over 250 submissions to theHidden in plain sightinquiry, and many of those came not from government organisations or companiesfrom corporatesbut from smaller businesses and families, from those that wanted to give their views, from religious quarters, from all of those groups. I think it's important to acknowledge that they're absent in this. And what about the NGOs? I pick up on the comments by the senator who spoke previously. The unions are critical to thisthey are very relevantbecause we're talking about workers and the exploitation of individuals, whether it's in family homes or in farming companies, and we certainly heard plenty of that when we travelled around Australia. We estimate that over 4,000 people are still in slavery here in Australia. So we needed to make sure that this expert advisory group reflected the concerns that were raised in our inquiry. I would certainly urge Chris Crewther, who is on this advisory group, and Minister Jason Wood to push hard and make sure they do have union representatives and expert advisory groups from civil society who can fairly bring forward a compassionate position, but a very practical one, in terms of the representation they bring, especially on behalf of the over 4,000 people we are aware of, in our estimates through this report, who are enslaved here in Australia today.
I'd urge senators to realise the importance of this MPI. If you think that these 10 people are being identified as not being good enough, we're saying that you could do better; you must do better. So many senators and members have worked so hard on this particular piece of legislation, and we will not stop. We want to see an antislavery commissioner in this country. We want to stop slavery full stop. Over 40 million people around the world are enslaved somewhere, and over 4,000 of them are here in Australia. So this is a matter of public importance.
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