Media Release by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Slavery-like offences to become crimes

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Home Affairs and Justice
  • The Hon Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Forced marriage and slavery-like practices will become a crime under draft legislation to combat people trafficking and slavery, released as part of today’s Fourth National Roundtable on People Trafficking.

Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O’Connor, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen and Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis attended the Roundtable, along with representatives of Government, non-government organisations (NGOs), unions and industry who are working to combat human trafficking and slavery-like practices.

Mr O’Connor released the draft legislation for public comment.

“It is vital that Australia has the most robust and effective framework possible to respond to slavery and people trafficking, and I am confident that this proposed legislation will achieve that,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Information provided by law enforcement agencies shows that increasing numbers of people are being trafficked into a variety of industries, not just the sex industry.

“Labour exploitation can happen in Australia, regardless of whether people have been trafficked here.”

Developed following extensive public consultations, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012 will help ensure the broadest range of exploitative behaviour is captured and criminalised, including by:

  • introducing a new offence of forced labour
  • introducing a new offence which applies where a person harbours or receives a victim of trafficking or slavery
  • introducing new offences of forced marriage
  • ensuring the slavery offence applies to conduct which renders a person a slave, as well as conduct involving a person who is already a slave
  • extending 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
  • increasing the penalties applicable to the existing debt bondage offences, to ensure they are in line with the serious nature of the offences, and
  • improving the availability of reparations to victims.

In addition to these measures, the Bill will amend the existing definitions applying to trafficking, slavery, and slavery-like offences to ensure the broadest range of exploitative conduct is criminalised by the offences.

The proposed new offences of forced marriage will make it a crime to force a person into marriage against their will.

“Every person has a right to choose whether to marry and who to marry. These offences will reinforce that a marriage must be entered into with the full and free consent of both parties, and that forcing someone into marriage is an abuse of human rights,” Ms Ellis said.

Mr Bowen said the new measures were the next step in Government’s work to assist victims of exploitation.

“With the very positive developments undertaken by this Government in recent years to prevent human trafficking, we will continue to fight this evil trade,” Mr Bowen said.

“We have already granted 42 Witness Protection permanent visas, 28 to suspected victims of people trafficking and 14 to their immediate family members.”

The Roundtable participants also received the Anti-Human Trafficking Community Resource – a comprehensive reference guide to all the government agencies, NGOs, unions and industry groups which have a role to play in the fight against trafficking.

The release of the draft Bill and the Community Resource coincides with the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, and reinforces Australia’s commitment to be as a regional leader in combating trafficking and slavery.

Ms Ezeilo attended the Roundtable along with representatives of NGOs, peak industry bodies, unions, the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the International Organization for Migration and the Australian Government agencies which make up the People Trafficking Interdepartmental Committee.

Copies of the draft legislation and the Community Resource are available on the Attorney-General’s Department website at

“I encourage everyone to review and comment on these important amendments by 13 January 2012,” Mr O’Connor said.