Modern Slavery

Jenny spoke in support of a bill to prevent modern slavery in NSW.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (19:10): On behalf of The Greens I speak in debate on the Modern Slavery Bill 2018. My colleague in the other place Dr Mehreen Faruqi said:

Out of sight, out of mind is not good enough.

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.

It is clear that we can do things locally that will impact on these global issues. The Greens will support any legislation that is introduced in this House that enshrines in legislation the protection of human rights. This bill recognises the global problems we face but it acts locally in the protection of human rights. An examination of the submissions made by the Human Rights Law Centre, Amnesty International and others to the Federal parliamentary inquiry on the issue of modern slavery reveals that more needs to be done to address modern slavery. Modern slavery is defined in the Human Rights Law Centre submission as follows:

"Modern slavery" is a common umbrella term used to describe a range of extreme labour rights abuses encompassing slavery, servitude, human trafficking and forced or compulsory labour. These distinct violations are defined in a variety of law instruments as follows:

"Slavery" is defined under the United Nations Slavery Convention (1926) as "the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised".

"Forced labour" is defined under the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29) (1930) as "all work or service which is extracted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily".

"Human trafficking" is defined under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000), as the "recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation".

These international definitions and law instruments define modern slavery.

The reality of modern slavery is more confronting. We are not aware of the consequences of our consumerist society and the impact it has on people in the workplace. Our general commitment to maximise dollars and put profits ahead of people is impacting on our society. At the recent May Day march and family day in Sydney, one woman spoke on behalf of Asian women workers in New South Wales. She told one story that I cannot get out of my mind. The story was about a woman who worked in a nail salon and she regularly suffered from urinary tract infections because she was not allowed to take toilet breaks.

I used to work for Amnesty International and I learned of many human rights violations that were happening around the world. The videos I saw were extreme, but when I hear those stories of what is happening now in Sydney in a nail salon that perhaps one of us has used, it makes me question what it means for our community. While we discuss the protections that the Modern Slavery Bill will provide, there is obviously more we can do to protect the rights of workers in this State. We must enshrine human rights protections in legislation other than this bill and I look forward to talking with members about how we can do that.

I have a commitment to support the question that is posed every year in Fashion Revolution Week, which is: Who made your clothes? One of the first things I did when I was elected to this place was to have my photo taken on the steps of Parliament of me wearing a dress inside out and showing the tag. Part of the campaign is that everyone wears their clothes inside out to show that they know who made their clothes and where they come from. That is an incredible campaign. In April I spoke at a Fashion Revolution event involving designers, makers and producers from the Newtown electorate. We heard amazing stories at that forum. For example, this country has lost the ability to produce stockings. Our society is losing its craft skills. If we want to boost employment and trade and encourage people to shop locally, we must look at how we can upskill people to sew button holes and to knit with cotton, wool and other natural fibres. Not only will it encourage us to look at the environmental impact that buying offshore has; it will also encourage us to maintain our craft skills. We will know where our clothes are made and we can protect people's rights when they are employed in local jobs.

Those are two small examples of the changes we can make. It is important to recognise that the bill will provide a connection to a global movement. If other jurisdictions around the world at State and national levels passed this legislation, over time we would see the removal of the global slave trade. We should be committed to abolishing the slave trade. It is not only about protecting the rights of workers in this country; we must talk about a movement that protects the rights of women and children workers around the globe. I acknowledge the amendments moved by Mr David Shoebridge my colleague in the other place that relate to the concerns of organ trafficking. The amendments outline that the commissioner would monitor and collaborate on suspected instances of trading in tissue in New South Wales and the commissioner could provide reports on tissue public education and awareness campaigns. There could be greater certainty that organ trading is not involved in supply chains. The amendments also mean that the extraterritorial application of modern slavery offences under section 4 would apply to any resident of New South Wales trading in tissue and who might buy or deal in human organs overseas. It is welcome that the subject of those amendments remains in the bill.

On behalf of The Greens I foreshadow that I will move one amendment in this Chamber. The amendment relates to concerns raised by Scarlet Alliance and other advocates about protecting the rights of sex workers. This bill should not have the unintended consequence of targeting sex workers or cause them concern. We want to protect women's rights and those who are at risk of modern slavery. It is important to clarify that the amendments will not allow this bill to be used in any way to target consenting adult sex workers. I appreciate that is not the intention of the bill but it is important to reassure the members of that community who are often marginalised and used as scapegoats. Our commitment is to provide additional protections for the rights of people and that includes the rights of those consenting adult sex workers. The Greens support any legislation that enshrines the protection of human rights in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.

Sign up for updates