Speaking out against the exploitation of women and children: Collective Shout cited in NSW Modern Slavery Act report
Report cites Collective Shout and Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist
Following its 2019 Inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and Associated Matters, the New South Wales Legislative Council tabled its final report last month. The Act makes new provisions regarding child sexual exploitation material through the addition of the following offenses to the NSW Crimes Act 1900:
a new aggravated offence in relation to using a child to produce child abuse material, and a new offence of providing information to assist a person to avoid detection for a child abuse material offence.
We welcomed these new provisions which will strengthen capacity for holding offenders to account for sex abuse crimes committed against children.
The report contained several references to Collective Shout’s submission and evidence presented by Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist who appeared for us at the Inquiry hearing last November, including the following quote from our submission:
New South Wales law must ensure that any person who is facilitating such horrific acts as the abuse on demand of babies and other young children, wherever the abuse might be occurring, through a digital platform operating in or accessed from New South Wales, is subject to an offence, whether the person administering or assisting to administer the digital platform does so intending it be used for that purpose or after becoming aware that it is being used for that purpose fails to take all reasonable steps to prevent that use.
Contrary to our recommendations against watering down the Act in relation to digital platforms the amended Bill now excludes the previously proposed new criminal offence of administering a digital platform used to deal with child abuse material. Conflicts between Federal and State law was cited by the committee. Several contributors to the Inquiry objected to this deletion, noting that its inclusion was stronger than the provisions of Commonwealth legislation to hold digital platforms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) accountable for hosting child sex abuse material. We shared concerns that its exclusion will provide loopholes for such offenders. As Melinda Tankard Reist pointed out at the hearing:
The child victim is a part of the slavery supply chain. Combating modern slavery has to include combating the global epidemic of this pay-per-view torture of children in the growing trade of predators commissioning the live sexual abuse of a child viewed via their computer screens and facilitated by their ISPs. ISPs and telcos including Telstra, Optus, iiNet and TPG are providing the infrastructure for the live streaming of the abuse of children to be possible. ISPs are part of a chain which contributes to the distribution of child sexual exploitation material but they have not been brought to account.
Melinda Tankard Reist at the Inquiry hearing, 4 November 2019
In her verbal evidence, MTR commended other contributors to the Inquiry, including International Justice Mission Australia (IJM) and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA), as well as the expert advice of UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland. We were pleased to see Hyland’s six-point strategy for ending modern slavery featured in the report, which highlights the need for all nations to mandate - through legislation - a child-exploitation - and human-trafficking-free internet, as well as the outcomes of the proposed legislation which, according to Hyland, include “leading businesses into generating ethical profits free from exploitation and modern slavery”. We anticipate this outcome will have positive consequences for the broader community - women and girls particularly who stand to benefit from corporates who are unwilling to profit from exploitative activities.
While not mentioned in the Final Report, we noted CATWA’s significant observation that the Act’s proposed minimum $50 million annual turnover threshold for mandatory supply chain reporting will fail to capture agents of the sex industry - an industry in which women are at greatest risk of trafficking and slavery. In its submission CATWA concluded:
A requirement for sex industry businesses to report would be a first step in the fight against modern slavery.
We strongly support this recommendation and would advocate for its inclusion in any future amendments.
Read our full submission to the Inquiry here.
Read the full Parliamentary Hearing transcript here.
Read the NSW Legislative Council's final report here.
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Australia’s first Modern Slavery Bill passed through the NSW Legislative Council earlier this month. MLC Paul Green, who lead the charge for the new legislation praised the NSW state’s upper house for their support:
“In Australia there is well over 4000 cases of human trafficking with many remaining hidden in plain sight. The evidence is in,” he said after the bill passed.
The Modern Slavery Bill 2018 confronts slavery and slavery-like practices such as servitude, forced labour, debt bondage, organ trafficking, deceptive recruiting as well as forced marriage and childhood brides. If the new law is passed by the Legislative Assembly, it will require businesses with a turnover of more $50 million to monitor their supply chains and report to a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
We were pleased to be able to provide evidence of the existence of sex trafficking in Australia (see our submissions for more information):
Campaigning group Collective Shout provided evidence that [women] are being trafficked into Australia, citing the case of a brothel in the Sydney suburb of Willoughby that forced workers on student visas to work 20-hour days to pay off so-called “debts”.
Collective Shout also pointed to a US State Department report finding that in Australia: “Women and girls are sometimes held in captivity, subjected to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulated through illegal drugs and obliged to pay off unexpected or inflated debts to their traffickers.”