HOW THE AUSTRALIAN FRIENDS OF PALESTINE ASSOCIATION CONTRADICTED ITS OWN CAMPAIGN

Imagine a human rights group have an event, the guest speaker at which is guilty – and non-apologetic about – the very same thing the human rights group has spent the last couple of years campaigning against.

That is what the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association did in 2012.

The Australian Friends Of Palestine Association is a South Australia-based NGO. Its website lists the organisation’s objectives as:

  1. to promote peace in Palestine;
  2. to promote Palestinian identity, heritage and culture to Australians and Australian Palestinians;
  3. to support Palestinians in their quest to live in their own land;
  4. to engage the Australian People, politicians, government, and other organizations to support Palestinians in Palestine and Australia;
  5. to interact with other associations and people from time to time who promote the same and/or similar objectives;
  6. to disseminate information promoting the objectives of the association through seminars, discussions and other educational processes;
  7. to promote a forum to address charitable, educational and benevolent purposes for issues relating to Palestine and Palestinians;
  8. to advocate and support Palestinians with special needs in Australia.
  9. to raise funds to engage in charitable activities in order to support the charitable needs of Palestinians.

Sounds good. In fact, I used to be a member of the organisation.

For the last few years the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association has been protesting against the presence of the Seacret cosmetics store in the Myer shopping centre in Rundle Mall, Adelaide, South Australia. The reason for their protests is that Seacret, which is an Israeli company, sources the minerals for its products from Palestine’s portion of the Dead Sea. Thus, Seacret uses the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories to steal Palestinian resources. I wrote an article about the controversy for the Palestine Monitor.

In 2012, which was well into the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association’s weekly anti-Seacret protests, the organisation announced its 2012 fundraising dinner. The guest speaker at the fundraiser was scheduled to be Gareth Evans. He is the former Australian Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs. One of his acts as Foreign Minister was to sign the Timor Gap Treaty with Indonesia’s then-Foreign Minister Ali Alatas. The Timor Gap Treaty was an agreement between Indonesia and Australia to use Indonesia’s illegal, genocidal annexation of East Timor to steal East Timor’s oil and gas resources. Thus, Gareth Evans did to East Timor exactly what Seacret does to Palestine. The two situations are identical.

Gareth Evans also, as Foreign Minister,  defended Indonesia’s human rights record, and sought closer military ties between Australia and Indonesia. At the time, Indonesia was being ruled by the mass murderous, corrupt dictator Suharto, and, as stated above, was illegally occupying East Timor and committing genocide against the East Timorese.

So cozy was Gareth Evans to the Suharto dictatorship, that he actually recommended Ali Alatas for the Order of Australia medal.

Gareth Evans has refused to admit that his conduct towards Indonesia and East Timor was in any way morally or legally wrong, stating, ”the notion that we had anything to answer for morally or otherwise over the way we handled the Indonesia-East Timor relationship, I absolutely reject.”

The history of Gareth Evans’ treatment of Australia’s indigenous people is also worth mentioning. Prior to being Australia’s Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans was Australia’s Federal Minister for Resources and Energy. In 1985 the National Times newspaper reported that Evans had had a meeting with Clyde Holding, who was Australia’s Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. At this meeting, Evans put to Clyde Holding what Evans called “the three S’s”. They were, that mining and exploration were not to be stopped on Aboriginal land, that explorers and mining companies were not to be stuffed around when undergoing administrative procedures for applications to explore and mine, and that mining companies were not to be screwed by unrealistic demands for compensation or royalties by Indigenous Australian communities.

I wrote to the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association and explained to them that Gareth Evans did to East Timor exactly what their organisation campaigns against  Seacret for doing to Palestine. I received no reply. So I posted a comment on the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association’s Facebook page explaining that Gareth Evans did to East Timor exactly what the organisation protests against Seacret for doing to Palestine. My post was instantly deleted.  Some months later I posted the same thing on the Facebook page again. Once again it was instantly deleted.

So I started a petition. The text of the petition is as follows:

The Australian Friends Of Palestine Association is a South Australian activist group that campaigns for the human rights of the Palestinian people. 

Since 2010 one of its campaigns has been against the presence of Seacret cosmetics shops in South Australia. The reason for this is that Seacret is an Israeli company that uses minerals extracted from Palestine’s portion of the Dead Sea in its products. Thus, Seacret uses the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank to steal Palestinian resources. 
On the first of November, 2012, the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association will have its 2012 fundraising dinner. The scheduled guest speaker at the event is former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. 
As Australia’s Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans did the following: 

- co-signed the Timor Gap Treaty with the then Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas. The Timor Gap Treaty was an agreement between Australia and Indonesia to use Indonesia’s illegal, genocidal annexation of East Timor to steal East Timor’s oil resources. Thus, Gareth Evans did to East Timor what Seacret does to Palestine. The two situations are identical.

- sought closer military ties between Australia and Indonesia.

- defended Indonesia’s human rights record in East Timor.

- recommended Ali Alatas for the Order of Australia medal.

Gareth Evans has refused to admit that his conduct towards East Timor was in any way morally or legally wrong. 
To get an understanding of the gross hypocrisy of having Gareth Evans as the guest speaker at the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association’s fundraising dinner, imagine how the organisation would feel about somebody who treated Palestine the same way Gareth Evans treated East Timor. That is, how would the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association feel about somebody who supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, used Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine to steal Palestinian resources, defended Israel’s human rights record in Palestine, sought closer military ties between Australia and Israel, recommended Israel’s Foreign Minister for the Order of Australia medal, and refused to admit any wrongdoing? 
Furthermore, one of the portfolios Gareth Evans held prior to becoming Foreign Minister was Australian Minister for Resources and Energy, which he held from 1984 to 1987. In 1985 the “National Times” newspaper reported that Gareth Evans had a meeting with the then Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Clyde Holding. The meeting was about the issue of Indigenous Australian land rights. At this meeting, Gareth Evans put to Clyde Holding what Evans described as “the three S’s” that had to be accepted. They were that exploration and mining were not to be STOPPED on Indigenous Australian land, that explorers and mining companies were not to be STUFFED AROUND when undergoing administrative procedures for applications to explore and mine, and that mining companies were not to be SCREWED by unreasonable claims for compensation and royalties by Indigenous Australian communities. 
This raises the question: How would the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association feel about somebody who treated the issue of Palestinian land rights in the same way that Gareth Evans treated the issue of Indigenous Australian land rights?

References:

http://hass.unsw.adfa.edu.au/staff/Documents/Gareth%20Evans%20and%20R2P.pdf

http://www.alternet.org/story/154807/why_one_of_the_world%27s_leading_peace_advocates_threatened_to_punch_me_in_the_face/?page=1

” A Secret Country” by John Pilger, pages 48-49

The petition eventually received 65 signatures, including my own.

I sent the petition via e-mail to the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association. A few days later Sam Shahin from the organisation e-mailed me back. In his e-mail he stated that, while he respects my opinions, he disagrees with them, and that the Evans’ speaking appearance at the fundraising dinner would go ahead. I replied to the e-mail asking what exactly Sam Shahin disagreed with. I received no reply. Evans’ speaking engagement at the Australian Friends Of Palestine Association’s fundraising dinner went ahead.

 

FAIR TRADE COLA

Karma Cola is a certified Fair Trade brand of cola. Fair Trade is an accreditation system in which products qualify by being made and/or harvested in environmentally-sustainable ways, and the people making and/or harvesting them are paid a decent wage and have decent working conditions. It is a way of combating poverty, sweatshop labour, environmental destruction, and slavery.

I recently interviewed the founders of Karma Cola.

When did the idea of Fair Trade cola come about? Who came up with the idea?

It all began on a beach in New Zealand where three friends were throwing around the idea of making a cola called Karma. But cola nut, the name ingredient for the world’s most popular brand of drink, like most things, originally came from Africa.

The word “karma” came from an idea we had about forming a company to find ingredients that were good for the land, good for the people who grow them and good for the people who eat and drink them. After some head-scratching we landed on a blindingly obvious name for our new venture. We combined the “goods” and called it “All Good”. But the idea of a product with karma at its core was still there.

We wanted to create something that would connect buyers with farmers in a way that respected everyone and everything involved – because what goes around comes around.

We thought a bit about karma and the concept of cause and effect.

Karma Cola sounded like a great name for a drink made with fairly traded, organic ingredients so we dug around to find out more about cola. This led us to imagining a product that might balance the inequality of a fantastically weird statistic that we tripped over in our research. We discovered that the world drinks about 1.7 billion cola drinks every day – a mind-blowing notion and a huge amount of cola. Where does it all come from? What’s in it? Who grows all those ingredients? And, importantly, what actually is cola?

Finding answers to these questions took us all the way to a small village in West Africa and introduced us to a load of wonderful people.

We’d like to show you what real cola is, where it comes from, introduce you to a few of the people who grow it, and explain why it’s so important to their lives and how a crazy idea about a fizzy drink might be able to do some good.

Which ingredients in Karma Cola are Fair Trade? Where are they sourced?

With Karma Cola what goes around really does come around. Every time you drink it, part of the proceeds from each bottle sold will go back to the Boma Village in Sierra Leone. This will help build a fresh water well, processing centre and store for crops, and help to buy tools to rehabilitate the cola plantations to help the Mende people to grow and sell more cola nut.

If you want to make a cola that tastes as good as Karma Cola you need to start with proper cola nut. Ours come from West Africa where cola has ritually welcomed friends and refreshed travelers for centuries.

You’ll need to crush your fresh cola nuts, add water and alcohol and then leave the mix to soak for two days.

If you’re tempted to chew your cola nuts you’ll probably want to spit them out, but the more you chew the more the bitter taste gets sweeter. By steeping the nuts in alcohol, you’ll draw out and intensify the flavour.

To balance this bitterness you’ll need to add organic roasted spring barley malt and real vanilla from Huiwana Fair Trade Cooperative in Papua New Guinea. The delicate vanilla flavour is achieved by extracting crushed dried vanilla pods in much the same way as our cola. The malt and vanilla combo marries perfectly with the cola, rounding it off nicely without having to use nasty burnt sugar-based colouring and flavourings typical in other cola products. Then you’ll need to finish it off with a delicate blend of natural and organic citrus oils and spices sourced from around the world, this adds complexity and a character.

Mix this with organic Fair Trade cane sugar from the Manduvira Fair Trade Organic Farmers in Paraguay, plus some water, and the result is the real, real thing – Karma Cola.

Tasting notes: citrus, spice, malt, cinnamon, vanilla, bitter and sweet.

Where is Karma Cola sold?

Karma Cola is sold in some of the best local cafes, restaurants and bars around New Zealand and Australia. We’ve listed our most recent stockists and some who’ve been with us longer on our Facebook page.

You can e-mail us directly at info@karmacola.co.nz and we’ll tell you where you can find your closest stockist.

How can people find out more about Karma Cola, including how to buy and/or sell it?

We’ve made a little video to show where Karma Cola comes from and what life is like in Boma, Sierra Leone, Check it out on our website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Vimeo.

 

AMERICAN POLITICIAN PRAISES A MURDEROUS ENSLAVER

News website Raw Story has reported that Steve King, who is the Representative for the state of Iowa in the USA Congress, has delivered a speech to the USA House of Representatives in which he made the following statement:

I think of this Western Hemisphere, all of it, as the domain of, as Churchill described it from this hemisphere, Western Christendom; the foundation of Western civilization, Judeo-Christianity; the values that come from the Old and New Testament; the values that Christopher Columbus brought here across the ocean.

Here is British journalist George Monbiot writing about Christopher Columbus and the “values” he brought to the Americas:

He [Christopher Columbus] slaughtered the native people of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) by unimaginably brutal means. His soldiers tore babies from their mothers and dashed their heads against rocks. They fed their dogs on living children. On one occasion they hung 13 Indians in honour of Christ and the 12 disciples, on a gibbet just low enough for their toes to touch the ground, then disembowelled them and burnt them alive. Columbus ordered all the native people to deliver a certain amount of gold every three months; anyone who failed had his hands cut off. By 1535 the native population of Hispaniola had fallen from 8m to zero: partly as a result of disease, partly as a result of murder, overwork and starvation.

The Conquistadores spread this civilising mission across Central and South America. When they failed to reveal where their mythical treasures were hidden, the indigenous people were flogged, hanged, drowned, dismembered, ripped apart by dogs, buried alive or burnt. The soldiers cut off women’s breasts, sent people back to their villages with their severed hands and noses hung round their necks and hunted Indians with their dogs for sport. But most were killed by enslavement and disease. The Spanish discovered that it was cheaper to work Indians to death and replace them than to keep them alive: the life expectancy in their mines and plantations was three to four months. Within a century of their arrival, around 95% of the population of South and Central America had been destroyed.

Here is the late American historian Howard Zinn writing about Christopher Columbus and the “values” he brought:

[A]pproaching land, they [Christopher Columbus and his crew] were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears.

This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields.

On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die.

Columbus’s report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China (Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:

Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful … the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals….

The Indians, Columbus reported, ‘are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone….’ He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage ‘as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask.’ He was full of religious talk: ‘Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.’

Because of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives. But as word spread of the Europeans’ intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.

Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were ‘naked as the day they were born,’ they showed ‘no more embarrassment than animals.’ Columbus later wrote: ‘Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.’

But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

Thus, Steve King delivered a speech in which he claimed that a man who was both an enslaver and a mass murderer had a positive effect on the societies to which he subjected those horrors.

MONTAGNARD STORY

BY MATT BUCKLEY

When I was at university one of my assignments was to record a short radio news report. This was in 2012.  I did mine about the plight of Vietnam’s indigenous Montagnard people. This is a transcript of that report.

 

TRANSCRIPT

MATT BUCKLEY

The 18th of September, 2011. About eight o’clock in the morning. Vietnam. Members of Vietnam’s security forces arrive at the home of Nay H’Moanh, who is the wife of prisoner Siu Thoan. The security officers arrest Nay H’Moanh and take her to the village commune’s office. The security forces ask Nay H’Moanh, “Do you know why we have brought you here? We know you have been calling your husband Siu Thoan in prison. Why have you contacted him? Who told you to contact him?” Nay H’Moanh replies, “He is my husband and he is very ill. He has called me to ask for medicines to help him with his pain. No one told us to call him. What have we done wrong?” One of the security officers starts slapping Nay H’Moanh in the face. So Nay H’Moanh covers her face. So the security officer resorts to beating Nay H’Moanh in the head, and says to Nay H’Moanh, “If we find out that you talk on the phone with your husband again, we will come for you and put you in prison for three years. In addition, if you do not do what we tell you your husband will serve another fifteen years in prison.“ The security officers confiscate H’Moanh’s hand-held telephone, and refuse to release her until she signs a pledge not to call her husband again, not to leave her village, and not to convene with large groups of people for activities that are not sanctioned by the authorities. At eleven o’clock a.m. Nay H’Moanh is released after signing the pledge. Nay H’Moanh and her husband are members of the Montagnard people. The treatment that the Vietnamese security officers gave Nay H’Moanh is typical of that dished out to the Montagnards. Also known as the Degar people, the Montagnards are the indigenous people of the Vietnamese highlands. Made up of a couple of dozen ethnic and linguistic groups, the term “Montagnard” was applied to them by the French. It means “mountain people”. The term “Degar” was coined by the people themselves, in order to collectively identify themselves in the face of ethnic Vietnamese encroachment onto their lands. Here in Australia we hear a lot about particular human rights problems around the world, such as that of Palestine, Syria, West Papua, and Tibet. And rightly so. But we hear little about the plight of the Montagnard people. I recently went around the University of South Australia’s Magill campus and asked people if they knew who the Montagnard people are.

MATT BUCKLEY

Do you know who the Montagnard people are?

PERSON 1

No idea.

MATT BUCKLEY

Also known as the Degar people. Spelt D-E-G-A-R.

PERSON 1

Still no idea.

MATT BUCKLEY

Do either of you people know who the Montagnard people are?

PERSON 2

No. Sorry

PERSON 3

No. Sorry.

MATT BUCKLEY

Also known as the Degar people.

PERSON 2

Never heard of them.

MATT BUCKLEY

Spelt D-E-G-A-R.

PERSON 2

Still never heard of them.

PERSON 3

Still haven’t. Sorry.

MATT BUCKLEY

Do you know who the Montagnard people are?

PERSON 4

No.

PERSON 5

No.

MATT BUCKLEY

Also known as the Degar people. D-E-G-A-R.

EITHER PERSON 4 OR 5

Nuh.

EITHER PERSON 4 OR 5

Nuh.

MATT BUCKLEY

Do you know who the Montagnard people are?

PERSON 6

Sorry?

MATT BUCKLEY

The Montagnard people. Do you know who they are?

PERSON 6

No I don’t. Sorry.

MATT BUCKLEY

Do you know who the Montagnard people are?

PERSON 7

No.

PERSON 8

No.

PERSON 9

No.

MATT BUCKLEY

Also known as the Degar people.

EITHER PERSON 7, 8 OR 9

No.

MATT BUCKLEY

During the Vietnam War many Montagnards fought alongside the Americans. This was because they believed the Americans could assist them in their struggle against Vietnamese government oppression and discrimination. However, North Vietnam won the war, and subsequently took over all of Vietnam. The Montagnards suffered swift retribution at the hands of the new Vietnamese government. Scott Johnson is from the Montagnard Foundation, which campaigns for the human rights of the Montagnard people.

SCOTT JOHNSON

Immediately after the war the leaders – the North Vietnamese Communists – rounded up the population. Leaders were imprisoned or executed on the spot. There was a Montagnard senator named Ksor Rot. He was publicly executed in 1975. And, you know, basically captured.  And he was a civilian, you know, leader under the South Vietnamese government. They just took him out to the middle of the square in Cheo Reo, which is a little town in the northern highlands, and he was just executed. Many of the others, of the other ones, the leaders, were thrown into re-education camps. Some of them died. Some of them survived. Nay Luette was the Ethnic Minority Minister under the South Vietnamese government. Now he was working for the South Vietnamese government, but he was representing his people in the South Vietnamese government. He was a Montagnard. And basically he was put into a re-education camp and they tortured him to death. He died in the mid 1980s. It was under very terrible circumstances that he was subjected to. The other leaders were the religious leaders. They were also imprisoned, either killed or put into long-term in prison.

MATT BUCKLEY

The Montagnard people are mainly Protestant Christians, and worship in what are known as “house churches”, which are church services held in individual peoples’ homes. These house churches are not recognised by the Vietnamese government, and the Montagnards regularly face imprisonment for conducting the services. Scott Johnson says the Vietnamese government’s hostility to the house churches is due to it seeing religion as a threat to its power, and to the Montagnards’ refusal to pledge allegiance to the government above God.

SCOTT JOHNSON

In the last ten years they’ve arrested thousands of Montagnards, imprisoned many. Hundreds of them have been sentenced to long prison terms. They’ve tortured and killed people in custody. You know, some of the worst violations including such outrageous policies they had was actually forcing the tribal ethnic minorities to renounce Christianity in a ceremony involving drinking rice wine mixed with animal blood, if you can believe it. Now, you know, you sort of think these as some sort of medieval practice but, you know, they were documenting cases of this in 2005, 2006, 2007 even. But it was official policy up until in that time. The soldiers, the paramilitary police would go into villages, drag the Christians, force them to attend a meeting, and they’d all have to renounce Christianity, sign some document saying, “Oh no, we’re only going to follow the Communist government and Ho Chi Minh and everything”, and then they would seal this sort of thing by signing something and drinking rice wine mixed with animal blood. Pig’s blood or whatever.

MATT BUCKLEY

And this is what Vietnam’s prison conditions are like.

SCOTT JOHNSON

We have hundreds and hundreds of people who have been given long prison terms. You know, some of them maybe seventeen years. Twelve years is not uncommon. And a few years in a Vietnamese prison camp can really sap you. Many people don’t survive. Five, six years can take years off your life. And quite often what the Vietnamese prison authorities do is they imprison people, they treat them terribly in prison, and it might involve torture and so forth, and then their health deteriorates very fast, they release them, and then they die in the community. And Human Rights Watch has in fact documented at least twenty-five cases of people – Montagnards – who have died either in custody or they’ve died shortly after release. And what we do know is what they report to us is that prisoners are beaten deliberately often on the body so they would, you know, beat the bodies – the abdomen, the back, and so forth – so that the internal organs are damaged. And then they release you, there’s no marks on you or very little. And then you have complications from all these internal injuries and you die slowly at the village.

MATT BUCKLEY

A further problem faced by the Montagnards is the Vietnamese government’s practice of forcibly taking over their traditional lands.

SCOTT JOHNSON

All the ancestral lands of the central highlands. The Montagnards were the traditional custodians of the land. They had vast regions of – even to the 1950s, early 60s – they pretty much had most of, large sections of Vietnam. Western parts. Since that period the Vietnamese have sort of moved in there. They had official policies where they would move migrants – transmigration policies – kick the Montagnards off the land, shove them onto little plantations and then they would use that land for, their ancestral lands for rubber plantations, state-owned operations. Also cutting all the forests down.

MATT BUCKLEY

Scott Johnson also says the Vietnamese government has subjected the Montagnards to forced sterilisation – a form of genocide.

SCOTT JOHNSON

They started implementing sterilization involving surgical sterilization, depoprovera injections, intra-uterine devices and so forth, administered often by the United Nations Population Fund, the World Bank funded these projects. So they specifically – and now I use [the term] “race targeting”. You know, we have race-based sterilization. So that the Montagnards – the indigenous people – were subjected to these separate policies from what the rest of the Vietnamese were.   They would go into villages and, you know, I have interviewed so many of them and documented so many cases of how entire villages were forced virtually every day to attend a meeting. Now these occurred during the 1990s. Certainly, you know, we had examples of this occurring in the last few years.  But what they would do is they would go into the villages in the 80s and the 90s and they would make everyone attend a mandatory meeting. You only can get out of this meeting if you get sterilized or get a uterine device. And for Montagnards who have to tend the fields, you know, you found people given, in some cases they were bribed with – and I use the word “bribed” very clear – you know, you get a bag of rice, you know, if you get a tubal litigation. And very uneducated people, they didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve seen a woman show me a little scar on her lower abdomen. She was surgically sterilized without her consent. She went into hospital for an unrelated illness. Some kind of fever. And next thing, you know, she woke up and she found out she had also her tubes tied. And she showed her scar on her lower abdomen, with no knowledge of what they did to her or why and so forth. As far as the Vietnamese go, you know, I’m sure they had every intention, knowing the history of how the Vietnamese security forces work, how the government works. Every instance the best thing they could do was eliminate, lower the population of the Montagnards. That would be their goal. Even there were a couple of cases in Vietnam where they were using an acid called quinacrine, which they’d basically take a little tablet of an acid, they’d insert it into the uterus, and it burns the uterus shut.

MATT BUCKLEY

Scott Johnson says the Montagnards want the Vietnamese government to give them their land back and to allow them to have religious freedom. Scott Johnson accuses the United States government, including the State Department, of whitewashing the Vietnamese government’s human rights record towards the Montagnards, in order to have good trade relations with Vietnam, and to bring Vietnam away from China’s influence and further towards that of the United States. He says that governments around the world will only pressure Vietnam to respect the human rights of the Montagnards if those governments are pressured by their own citizens to do so.

[sociable]

CLASH OF REMEDIES: THE DEBATE OVER HOW TO COMBAT SEX SLAVERY

BY MATT BUCKLEY

 

When I was at university one of my assignments was to make a fifty-minute radio documentary on a topic of my choice. This was in 2012. I did mine on the disagreement between different organisations on how to combat the problem of sex slavery. Here is a transcript of that documentary.

 

TRANSCRIPT

MATT BUCKLEY

Clash Of Remedies – a report by Matt Buckley. I was wearing a black T-shirt with The Salvation Army’s Red Shield logo blazoned on the front. Directly across from me were two women manning a stall that sold vibrators. Next to them was a stall that sold fantasy role-playing outfits, with the saleswomen dressed in outfits from the collection. I was smitten by the drop dead gorgeous blonde saleswoman wearing the nurse’s outfit. It was the 2010 Adelaide Health, Sexuality, and Lifestyle Exhibition, or “Sexpo” for short. The Sexpo organizers had invited The Salvation Army to have a stall at the exhibition to raise awareness about human trafficking. The Salvation Army accepted the offer. I had volunteered to help out at The Salvation Army’s anti-human trafficking stall at the Sexpo. Our stall had information about human trafficking and the Fair Trade movement. What is human trafficking? Here is Glynn Lewis, who is the superintendent of the Australian Federal Police’s Crimes Operations Program.

GLYNN LEWIS

It’s referred to sort of as modern-day slavery. It’s basically people being forced or coerced or threatened to perform a role that they otherwise wouldn’t perform, and they have no freedom to leave.  And it can range from forced labour in the hospitality industry to working as a sex worker in a brothel, and whether that be a licensed brothel or a non-licensed brothel. But effectively what you’re talking about is people being, having their liberty taken away from them. And you have to say, “modern-day slavery”. It’s not like, I mean, if you look at history slavery seemed to be like you’d be indentured, and so would your children and their children and their children. That sort of set-up. Modern-day slavery – or human trafficking – you’d sort of characterise it as people being forced to perform a role or function or work that they otherwise wouldn’t choose, and/or they’re sort of coerced and deceived to do something that they otherwise wouldn’t choose. And then they’re often debt bonded. So you’ll find that for example, coming into Australia, there was a recent matter in the ACT Supreme Court that found Watcharaporn Nantahkhum guilty of six charges including “possessing a slave”. And in that particular matter she forced a sex worker to pay off a debt of forty-three thousand dollars to bring that person to come and work in Australia as effectively a sex worker. And so you look at that it would be a sexual servitude condition. That person is indentured effectively until they pay the forty-three thousand dollars off. And what you find is often that they get told they owe forty-five thousand, forty-three thousand dollars when they arrive, and they weren’t informed that they would have such a debt bond before arriving and then they’re sort of charged for accommodation, maybe food, maybe other things. They might have their passports taken away. They may be threatened. And not necessarily physically. They may be threatened that their visas – they might give them up to the authorities. And often they don’t know how authorities will respond or behave. So they’re sort of caught up in a trap and they also often cannot speak English.  So there’s some difficulties there. They don’t have the usual connections with their, I guess their social or their family and friends. And they find themselves in a situation where they’re effectively in debt servitude often performing acts that they don’t want to perform.

MATT BUCKLEY

Glynn Lewis points out that restriction of movement can be physical, or it can be psychological, or both.

GLYNN LEWIS

What we’ve seen in Australia is we can characterize coercion has shifted away from physical assault to more to the psychological means of coercion, and in fact currently there’s an amendment to the criminal code 1995 actually before parliament, and what it’s done is it’s recognized and broadened the definition of “threat” to psychological coercion as well. So if that gets passed those more subtle forms of coercion and threat and deception – they’ll be picked up under the new legislative framework. And so, yeah, it can be, the more what we call subtle forms of coercion as opposed to the bruising and blood and all those other things that might come with somebody being assaulted.*

MATT BUCKLEY

Now, back to the Sexpo. During my break time I got to have a look around at the other stalls. One of them I came across was of the Sex Industry Network, or SIN for short. SIN is the South Australian branch of the Scarlet Alliance, which is Australia’s chief national organisation representing sex workers. Here is Jules Kim, who is the Migration Project Manager of the Scarlet Alliance. Jules Kim lays out the definition of “sex worker”.

JULES KIM

Why we use the term “sex worker” rather than “prostitute” is in recognition of the fact that we believe it is a valid occupation. We’re kind of using language to try and re-frame the way that people think about sex work. So we do believe it is a legitimate occupational choice, just like you might choose to work in any other occupation. But it also represents people that aren’t necessarily, I suppose “prostitution” tends to refer to full service, whereas, you know, somebody might be a stripper or a BDSM practitioner and consider themselves to be a sex worker.

MATT BUCKLEY

Later that day at the Sexpo, members of SIN came to The Salvation Army’s stall and took a photograph of it. It turned out that they had taken offence to a poster at the stall which described how The Salvation Army had assisted a gay gigolo to get out of the sex industry. I went over to the SIN stall and asked them, should they distribute the photograph, not to include my image, as I personally did not have an opinion on sex work per se, and was simply there to help combat human trafficking. They understood and were very obliging. A few weeks later, while walking to the bus stop from university, I happened to pass a tavern in which the Sex Industry Network was having an open day. So I went in and spoke to them. I told them that I had partaken in The Salvation Army’s anti-human trafficking stall at the Sexpo and had become aware of the tension between SIN and The Salvation Army at the event. I also explained that I did not have a personal opinion on sex work per se, and was simply interested in combating human trafficking. The SIN spokesperson at the open day explained to me that the organisation strongly believes in the decriminalisation of sex work as a means to combat human trafficking, and sent me a number of studies to back up the organisation’s position. It was here when I began to become aware of a major disagreement. Two sides have strongly opposed positions on how to combat the same problem. The problem: sex trafficking. In the blue corner are organisations such as the Scarlet Alliance and the Australian Sex Party**, who advocate the decriminalisation of sex work as the remedy. In the red corner, organisations such as Project Respect and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, who advocate what is known as “the Nordic model”. Also known as “the Swedish model” because that is where it was first used, the Nordic model consists of the clients, pimps, madams, and traffickers of sex workers being prosecuted, but the sex workers themselves not being prosecuted. Instead, the sex workers are given assistance to get out of the industry. Firstly, how big is the problem of human trafficking in Australia? Here is Dianne McCinnes, co-author of the book Sex Trafficking.

DIANNE MCINNES

We don’t have as big a problem as Europe, because of our borders and things. They have to either, normally they fly in and it can be costly for the bribery, et cetera that would have to happen in order for them to get in. We [co-author of Sex Trafficking Paul Wilson and I] had a lot to do with talking to Scarlet Alliance, which is the sex workers’ organisation, and they were very open with talking to us and they do a lot of research and recently I was very surprised with some research that was advertised and I can’t remember published, sorry, and they were saying that they believed there were a thousand a year. Our figures were much lower than that. I believe from my figures that there’s only two-to-three hundred a year. But from the last lot of figures from the people that said they researched but there was no talk about them having gone to Scarlet Alliance. They were more The Salvation Army and maybe Catholic organisations and things, they say a thousand a year. I believe it’s only two-to-three hundred.

MATT BUCKLEY

Here is Glynn Lewis from the Australian Federal Police.

GLYNN LEWIS

Human trafficking is actually an issue that touches every country in the world as far as I understand. But if you look at us in Australia, the problem is comparatively small to most countries, not only in our region but also in the world, where trafficking is rife. The reality is that we’ve got pretty tough border controls. Most people that have been trafficked in Australia have at some point been issued a valid visa, so they’ve got a valid visa to come to Australia and then they find themselves in a situation of servitude. And so it’s pretty difficult to get trafficked to Australia, if you’re thinking in human trafficking terms.

MATT BUCKLEY

Here is Shirley Woods, who is the Outreach Coordinator for Project Respect. Project Respect is a feminist organisation that provides outreach and support to women in the sex industry. It provides female sex workers with information and referrals about health, housing, child custody, domestic violence and other topics. It also has shelters for sex trafficking victims.

SHIRLEY WOODS

I think it’s [sex trafficking in Australia] a lot bigger what people realise. I mean, people are always surprised. It surprises me the people who are still surprised. But, yeah, look, I think it’s a hell of a lot bigger than what people think. I think the traffickers are getting – you know, every time you create a new law criminals will find loopholes. I think the way that trafficking is done changes all the time. Criminals learn from every court case. You know, how to get around the law. So, but no, I think that it’s alive and well for sure.

MATT BUCKLEY

The United States of America’s State Department has an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Every year it issues a Trafficking In Persons report, which details the modern-day slavery situation on a country-by-country basis. The 2012 State Department’s Trafficking In Persons report described Australia as – quote – “primarily a destination country for women subjected to forced prostitution, and to a lesser extent, women and men subjected to forced labour.” End quote. The report then goes on to say that – quote – “Child sex trafficking also occurs with a small number of Australian citizens, primarily teenage girls, exploited within the country, as well as some foreign victims.” End quote. Now here is Jules Kim from the Scarlet Alliance explaining what the organisation means when they say that they advocate decriminalisation of sex work.

JULES KIM

“Decriminalisation” is the removal of any criminal law in relation to sex work. Now people think that this means that there is no regulation, but this is not the case at all. It is actually then regulated like any other industry and subject to regulations, Occupational Health and Safety, Workcover, tax, and zoning laws as well. So it’s subject to fairly stringent regulations. It’s just not seen as a crime in itself.

MATT BUCKLEY

Dianne McInnes also supports the decriminalisation model.

DIANNE MCINNES

They arrive here under, you know, on a visa that’s either a student visa or perhaps a visa to work in a massage parlour. They are supposedly going to do massages or whatever or sports medicine or sports therapy or something like that. So that is the first step which is slightly illegal because it’s been put down there that they are coming in for another purpose. Then they arrive here and they know they owe money for their airfares and all the various things and ways of getting here. But they don’t realise they owe sixty-to-seventy thousand [dollars] for coming here and they have to work that off. Quite often they have to work, they work seven days a week. They work for six days and often for the brothel owner and the people that brought them in here or if it’s not in a brothel it’s privately but they’ve got people organising them. So then on that other day they may work and that money may be sent home which is sometimes often more than they’ve earned at home. But we as Australians, you know, absolutely feel dreadful about these conditions that these people are being put through, and that’s a problem. And that’s probably what needs to be changed. So one of the things we believe is that if they could put down that it’s a legal profession in most states of Australia and there’s a need, so if they could fill out the proper forms and know that if they were mistreated they could then go to the police or the authority and say they’re mistreated, then that would be a way of solving the problem. To me, ninety per cent of the people that came in knew what job they were coming in for but they didn’t know their conditions, and they couldn’t complain about their conditions because they were fearful of being in here with the wrong paperwork.

MATT BUCKLEY

Now, onto the other side. The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia is a feminist organisation which campaigns against all prostitution, pornography, and mail order bride-selling. Caroline Norma is from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia. Here she lays out the position of the organisation.

CAROLINE NORMA

We advocate what’s called “the Nordic model” of legislation, which is a model that’s currently enacted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and in South Korea with just a slight amendment there. It’s enacted in those countries and what it involves is criminalizing the purchasers of people in prostitution, and also criminalizing the people who make money off the prostitution industry, so the pimps and the other agents involved in the business end of things. But it also, it’s not just a criminal model. It’s, at its centre is public education campaigns from the government saying that prostitution is a form of violence against women. It’s something we want to eradicate from our society in the same way we’ve made attempts to eradicate other forms of violence like domestic violence. And then it also encourages purchasers of people in prostitution to attend things like “john schools” where they can go along and get individualised education and awareness-raising about the harms that are done, particularly to women and children, as a result of their activities. And then the third prong is a large scale, comprehensive exit, what’s called “exit programs”, which are set up to assist women, people in the sex industry, to transition out. They’re not criminalized in any way, so if they want to remain within the sex industry that’s their decision, but if they want to transition out, then the exit programs offer them counselling, legal services, medical services, housing, and also peer support and politicisation about violence that’s been done to them and to assist them to integrate back into mainstream society.

MATT BUCKLEY

I pointed out to Caroline that slavery is known to exist around the world in not just the sex industry, but also in the hospitality, agricultural, manufacturing, and domestic housekeeping industries. I said that I was not aware of any calls for any of those industries to be banned in order to combat slavery. I asked Caroline what makes the sex industry any different.

CAROLINE NORMA

The sex industry cannot conduct its activities without the enslavement of people. At the individual level, the individual buyer effectively enacts a little master-slave relationship with the person there, buying for the half-hour or hour for starters. There is no basis to their sense of entitlement to be able to buy someone for that half-an-hour or hour. What’s more, there’s no basis to the entitlement of pimps or traffickers or brokers of any kind to buy and sell a human being, a person in the sex industry to leverage profit from. So, certainly there are other industries that I would question whether they should exist as well. The tobacco industry for starters. But I question those industries on a different basis. In other words, while the tobacco industry might be leveraging profit off the labour of its workers, and certainly that might be done in slave-like arrangements, in which case that should be abolished. However, they can still leverage profit off workers who are not enslaved. There is no product or service that people in the sex industry that people are producing from which, for the business-owner to leverage profit. They’re leveraging profit off literally the bodies of those workers. And you don’t find another industry in the world that’s literally leveraging profit off peoples’ bodies. The only other place you find that is within slavery. Other forms of slavery, which still exist. You have to be careful about the equivalence of the situations you described. There is slavery within other industries, and obviously we would advocate for the abolition of that just as strongly as we would the abolition of the sex industry. But that’s not a problem, it’s a different, yeah, qualitatively different problem that we have with the sex industry in that that is an industry that is organised on the basis of slavery. It’s not enslaving workers for the basis of producing a product.

MATT BUCKLEY

Shirley Woods is the outreach coordinator for Project Respect. Here she lays out her organisation’s position.

SHIRLEY WOODS

In Sydney prostitution is decriminalised and they’ve had more sex trafficking cases there than they have even in Melbourne where it’s legalised. But both states, you know, Sydney and Melbourne are the main states where there are trafficked women, and one’s legalised, one’s decriminalised and both have had trafficking cases. So decriminalisation doesn’t stop trafficking. The only thing that’s going to strike it is addressing the demand. We support, in part, the Swedish model, which criminalises the demand. We certainly don’t think women should be, or the sellers or sexual services should be criminalised. So I guess, yeah, we support the Swedish model. But in saying that I recently had a trip to Sweden to have a really good look at this rather than just relying on research papers. And I think that if we were going to – we certainly would still support the Swedish model – but it’s been going now since 1999, so there’s going to be an evaluation coming out shortly. But I think that we would certainly need to be looking at very thorough support services for women if something like that was to be implemented here. But I really feel that the answer to trafficking is addressing the demand. As I said I’ve recently been to Sweden, and when I say “recently” I got back last Monday, so it’s very recent, and I spoke to organisations in Sweden who were both pro-prostitution and anti-prostitution. I also spoke to ministers. I spoke to research people, so, you know, a pretty good range of people to get an idea of what’s happening there. And by all accounts, especially speaking to the police, it seems that creating this law of criminalising the purchase of sexual services has decreased trafficking. They – police – tap the phones of organised crime people and have heard many of them saying that Sweden is not a viable market because of the criminalisation of sexual services. It’s easier to send them to a country where it’s legal.

MATT BUCKLEY

I asked Jules Kim from the Scarlet Alliance about the organisation’s position on the Nordic model.

JULES KIM

For a start, that’s, I mean, people say that sex workers are not affected by this policy and that it seeks to criminalise clients and pretty much everybody related to the sex worker. But it does in fact affect the sex worker. It, I know, like, for example that a lot of organisations are holding up Korea, for example, as a model that, of sex industry regulation because they have adopted the criminalisation of clients. Yet, we know that the punishments for clients are often very farcical, whereas for sex workers, they result in gaol terms. They also have such laws that criminalise sex workers working in, like, for example, in Australia where sex work is variously legal or decriminalised or tolerated, and even if they were working legally in a different country, they can still be criminalised once they return to Korea. So it’s a, we found as well that the Swedish laws target absolutely everyone. There have been cases in Sweden where even the son of the sex worker was charged with pimping because he wasn’t paying rent to his mother. It, there have been cases where, for example, where a website owner was gaoled for two years for simply running a website where sex workers had placed ads. So this has meant that sex workers can’t advertise, that they’re having a hard time getting rental properties as well, because landlords can be convicted of pimping for hiring out premises to a sex worker, even just to live there. So this is isolating sex workers, and it means sex, it drives sex work underground. We also know from research that the anti-client laws that are used in Sweden, they are used maliciously against sex workers, and the estimated number of clients in Sweden is the same now as it was prior to the criminalisation of the behaviours relating to sex work. The estimated number of sex workers in Sweden is the same now as it was prior to the criminalisation of behaviours relating to sex work. It has just led to a restructuring of the industry and pushed sex workers underground and away from the support services.

MATT BUCKLEY

I asked Caroline Norma from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia if she knows of any research that has been done on the effects of decriminalisation.

CAROLINE NORMA

There are. The recent one came out this year in 2012, done by the University of New South Wales – a research team within the University of New South Wales, commissioned by the New South Wales Health Department, found overwhelmingly positive effects of having a decriminalised prostitution system, which is extremely odd because then the New South Wales government was forced to introduce measures to legalise parts of the industry. In other words, put laws on their books to regulate the industry in some way. They were forced to do this because New South Wales has a massive problem with trafficking, with businesses not registering with local governments like they’re supposed to, with organised crime, with all the things that we know the sex industry attracts and fundamentally relies on for its activities. So this particular study, for many, many reasons I find absolutely laughable that it found decriminalisation to be a successful operating system. And the same for New Zealand as well. Studies have been done of that model that laud its beneficial effects for society and for women in general. I think these are up for question for the very fact that governments haven’t been able to sustain the decriminalised model. They inevitably are forced to put laws on the books to regulate the sex industry because the sex industry is fundamentally an industry of massive exploitation and organised crime. It’s intrinsic to it. There can’t be any other way.

MATT BUCKLEY

I also asked her if she knows of any studies done on the effects of the Nordic model.

CAROLINE NORMA

There’s been two done by economists in the past two years, and one actually done by a maths professor as well. That’s looking, they’re quantitative studies looking at the effectiveness of legalised prostitution and this Nordic-type model of approach to prostitution in terms of its effect on trafficking rates. So in other words they’ve set out to find out whether the different forms of legislation impact, either reduce or increase or neutralise the rate of trafficking, and the model that we advocate has been through quantitative studies proven to halt trafficking or reduce it. So they’re the quantitative studies. On top of the quantitative studies there are of course qualitative studies and studies done of police and the judiciary and how their impressions of how the model is going and they’re also very positive. And those studies have been done in the Nordic countries as well as South Korea. So there’s a fairly large gathering body of evidence about the effectiveness of the model.

MATT BUCKLEY

I asked Jules Kim from the Scarlet Alliance if she knows of any research into the effects of each model.

JULES KIM

The LASH [Law and Sexual Health] report. It is an excellent report that looked into, there was a report to the New South Wales government released in 2011 and it examined the sex industry in New South Wales. And there’s, in addition there is the five-year review which is a New Zealand government report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee on the operation of the Prostitution Reform Act in 2003. That’s also another- Sorry, it was in 2006. Excuse me. So it was another great research piece. In terms of the Swedish model, there is the Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and  Documented Effects, by Susanne Dodillet and Petra Östergren. As well as this there’s also a piece written by the principal policy officer from the Prostitution Licensing Authority in Queensland, which is the body that actually administers the prostitution regulations in Queensland, and it’s called The Ban On Purchasing Sex In Sweden, and that’s by Bob Wallace, and that, all those reports find that in Sweden that it has just served to drive the sex industry underground, and that sex workers, and I quote from the PLA [Prostitution Licensing Authority] report, they report that the sex workers feel less secure and consider themselves at greater risk of violence since the introduction of the Swedish model. And as I stated before, the research has found that there is the same estimated number of clients and the same estimated number of sex workers in Sweden since, prior, now, as it was prior to the criminalisation of behaviours related to sex work. And a U.N. rapporteur on trafficking – a special rapporteur on trafficking who recently came to Australia – stated that the over-sexualisation of the discourse on trafficking has hindered real efforts at trafficking prevention. Now this is highly problematic. And she did say that she has researched extensively the Swedish model herself and found no evidence that it had any effect on trafficking. So we need to separate those issues because it is not only harming sex workers, it is also hindering trafficking, real trafficking prevention.

MATT BUCKLEY

Jules Kim from the Scarlet Alliance claims some anti-human trafficking measures in Australia do more harm than good.

JULES KIM

That’s problematic when people aren’t recognising sex work as a legitimate work choice. That makes it very difficult to campaign for rights. You know, that becomes problematic when, and certainly we have found that there’s been some highly discriminatory law being proposed or introduced in the name of anti-trafficking. So, it’s kind of one of those situations where they say that, “this is for your own good”, but yet sex workers don’t want this. So we have a situation where there is a law being proposed in W.A. where it would limit sex work for migrants. So only for migrants and only sex work. So that migrants will be ineligible for sex work in W.A. That’s a bill that’s being proposed there. We found as well in response to a trafficking inquiry in Victoria that the regulation of the sex industry has moved out of the hands of Consumer Affairs and back to the police as primary regulators. So we find that trafficking has been used as an excuse to overstep the reasonable application of the law for sex workers. And it’s a dangerous situation, and it’s one that I could probably liken to, perhaps, in the wake of terrorism, you know, where peoples’ human rights were taken away, and it’s done extensively for your own good. You know, and, it’s, there, I think in the case of trafficking, there’s no evidence of a widespread problem to actually warrant the measures that are being taken. And additionally, the measures that are being proposed remove the human rights of all migrant sex workers and don’t assist those people that are in trafficking situations.

MATT BUCKLEY

The two sides in the debate also disagree on how much human trafficking is tied in with the sex industry in Australia. Here is Jules Kim from the Scarlet Alliance.

JULES KIM

There is no issue in terms of people wanting to prevent trafficking. That’s not what’s at issue here. The problem is that people are using trafficking as an excuse to try to abolish the sex industry. Now this is a legitimate industry, and you wouldn’t see that occurring in any other industry because of cases of exploitation being found in any other industry. Nobody talks about removing that industry. I guess the issue is that when people are viewing all sex work as exploitation this is problematic, and it’s problematic for all sex workers, including those that are, have faced, are facing trafficking-like conditions. So we are talking about having an effective prevention approach to anti-trafficking, and this means recognising trafficking as a crime and recognising sex work as work. So alternative steps that the Australian government could take to prevent trafficking include providing safe legal channels and equitable access for sex workers to migrate to Australia. This would reduce the need for migrant sex workers to rely on third party agents in order to travel for work. Just a simple approach would be to provide translated information on visa access and conditions, industrial rights, human rights, justice mechanisms and the law, in multiple languages. This is a key step to enhancing the rights of all migrant sex workers. And Australia is yet to ratify the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families.

MATT BUCKLEY

Here is Shirley Woods from Project Respect

SHIRLEY WOODS

They’re [the sex industry and human trafficking] are definitely connected. One doesn’t exist without the other. I mean, if you actually look into the prosecutions that we’ve had so far here in Australia with trafficking, they’ve all been found, the women have all been found in legal brothels.

MATT BUCKLEY

One thing that becomes clear when you interview these people, is that they not only disagree on what laws should be in place regarding sex work, but they also disagree on the nature of sex work itself. Here is Jules Kim from the Scarlet Alliance.

JULES KIM

Look at the evidence, and this is despite the mountains of evidence that people aren’t willing to see that [sex work is legitimate work], and I think there is this moral barrier to seeing sex work as work, and as a legitimate occupational choice, as well as this, I think there is, also a bit of racism there where people are unwilling to see Asian women as having agency, and having the right to choose their occupation, and having the right to choose sex work.

MATT BUCKLEY

Here is Shirley Woods from Project Respect.

SHIRLEY WOODS

Well, I mean, apart from the obvious physical damage, there’s a lot of psychological damage. Even women who have been out of the industry for quite some time. Three to five years. We get phone calls from women who have been out of the industry for quite a while, and all of a sudden a couple of years later the impact of being in the industry hits them. So it causes a lot of problems, from, I mean, I’ve been doing outreach for nine years now, so I’ve worked with a lot of women. It appears to cause a lot of problems in future relationships, relating to men in general, and women’s feelings about men. It often impacts on women when children find that they’ve been in the sex industry. So yeah, there’s a lot. There’s both physical and psychological impacts.

MATT BUCKLEY

Here is Caroline Norma from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia.

CAROLINE NORMA

Yeah I think the sex industry relies on trafficking for its business. I think we see in Australia, Australia is a particularly good example because we’ve got in the major cities – and studies have been done of this – we’ve got more than fifty per cent of women in the sex industry now coming from either poor or non-English-speaking backgrounds. I think while those women, and they’re mainly Asian women, Asian background women, while it might be the case that those women haven’t been trafficked, I think statistics like that tell us that the industry is relying on bringing women in from outside. Why would they have to being relying on this in order to run their businesses? The reason is because prostitution is generally horrendous for anyone involved in it. I’m quite happy for women to say that they love it or that it’s a job that they can tolerate, and that’s fine. I have no, nothing to say to those women, except for the fact that I speak for the other hundreds and thousands of women who have a terrible time in the sex industry and empirical evidence shows us that most women have a terrible time in the sex industry in terms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, mental illness, homelessness, any measure of social well-being and health finds that women, people in the sex industry are not doing well, and I speak for them. If Scarlet Alliance wants to speak for the minority, the very small minority of people who seem to be able to withstand life in the sex industry then that’s fine. They can do that. But they mustn’t say that they’re speaking for the majority of people in prostitution because actually we’re speaking for the majority because the majority don’t have a good time in it. We would love to see sexual harassment laws enforced in relation to Australia’s sex industry, but unfortunately prostitution, by its very nature, is the sexual harassment and worse of women. So it’s fundamentally a contradiction to say that women like me in Australian society in other jobs have rights to protect ourselves from sexual harassment. We can make claims against sexual harassers and have them dealt with by the Human Rights Commission. In prostitution that is the job, and the fact that that is the job says that there is something fundamentally wrong with it, that women from poor backgrounds, marginalised, from overseas, can come here and be in an industry where they don’t get the same protections as I get. And that’s a reason to get rid of the industry. The idea that legalising prostitution allows government to regulate it – number one: doesn’t play out in relation to escort prostitution in particular. Governments, when they legalise the sex industry, tend to allow escort prostitution to take place, and that’s where we find women going out to hotels and houses and being seriously injured. And there’s many court cases in Australia where they’ve been, you know, effective- I mean, one in Tasmania has been killed. So the most horrendous abuses have occurred in escort. Again, in brothel prostitution, what is the government regulating? They’re regulating that the bins have liners in them or that the beds are in good repair. They’re not standing in the room while a man pays three hundred dollars to penetrate a woman anally, of which, you know, in any other profession that would be cast as a serious sexual assault. They’re not standing there regulating the things that really hurt women. And until they can do that with their little models of legalisation, then these models are laughable. They’re not regulating anything. They’re certainly not, don’t’ have women’s health and well-being at the centre of their model, and certainly the Nordic model is an alternative to that, because that does see that what’s done to women in prostitution as fundamental harm – that it’s not just these other things like having liners on bins that is what produces the harm in prostitution for women. It’s actually what the buyers do to them, and the pimps do to them. And so, that’s why we support the Nordic model of regulation, because that is the real, has women’s health and safety at its heart in regulating the sex industry.

MATT BUCKLEY

I asked Jules Kim from the Scarlet Alliance if there can be any common ground between the two sides.

JULES KIM

I think for organisations that do support the Swedish model the issues are that they actually do see sex work as a crime, and they see all migration for sex work as trafficking. So sex work is seen as exploitation in itself. We know from decades of research that we have a relatively healthy sex industry in Australia, and there is no evidence to show that there is a widespread trafficking issue in the sex industry in Australia.

MATT BUCKLEY

I put the same question to Caroline Norma from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia.

CAROLINE NORMA

There’s no common ground. It’s my understanding that the Scarlet Alliance say that trafficking is either non-existent or extremely rare [in Australia]. That’s not just one thing that they’ve said. They’ve said that repeatedly in various reports and statements to media. So we don’t agree with that. On any measure we understand trafficking to be endemic to the sex industry and its activities in any country, particular Australia. I mean, I understand that they can’t accept that prostitution might be intrinsically harmful to women’s well-being and health. But it’s another thing again to then say that trafficking isn’t a part of the industry in general either. I think that is an outrageous claim, that’s questioned by research upon research. Empirical-based research upon empirical-based research. I don’t see that there’s any grounds for saying that. But they continue to say that and I think that that brings the basis of their organisation into question because obviously there’s some ideological reason why they would be saying such an outrageous thing when there’s no evidence to establish that fact in Australia or overseas. You could never go to the United Nations and say that Australia doesn’t have a problem with trafficking. No one would believe you. So, yeah, I think if there was, certainly, I would hope that there would be common ground with the Scarlet Alliance to decriminalise prostituted people, people in the sex industry. We certainly advocate their decriminalisation. But we do that with a view to abolishing the industry overall. So every measure we take to support women in the sex industry and help them with exit programs or with their lives withstanding prostitution, that’s fine, but always with a goal to get rid of the sex industry as a fundamental, you know, imposer of harm against people in the sex industry.

MATT BUCKLEY

I also put the same question to Shirley Woods from Project Respect.

SHIRLEY WOODS

Scarlet Alliance have a different position on prostitution than what we do. From my understanding of Scarlet Alliance’s position is that they believe that prostitution is empowering and that a woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body and to choose, whereas our position is that prostitution is a form of violence against women. And so, that’s essentially when you’re talking about choice, it’s a choice made when there are really no other choices, or a whole lot of really crappy choices, and we certainly don’t think it’s empowering.

MATT BUCKLEY

I figure it must be difficult for Australian politicians who want to combat human trafficking to decide what legislation they should endorse. Just in case you are wondering what the laws in Australia regarding sex work are, they are all listed on the Scarlet Alliance’s website, which is www.scarletalliance.org.au. “Scarlet” is spelt with one T. Whether or not you have decided which side of the debate is correct, if either of them, we can all still do our part to combat human trafficking. Glynn Lewis from the Australian Federal Police describes how the Federal Police combat human trafficking.

GLYNN LEWIS

We’ve got dedicated investigators that have been trained in this particular crime type, because it is quite a unique crime type for us at the Commonwealth level. Most of our crimes against, like, the Commonwealth are state. These offences relate to the individuals. So, crimes against the person at the national level. Obviously we do community policing in a few places that look at crimes against the person and all that sort of stuff. But at the national level this one’s quite unique. So what we have is we have dedicated investigators. We run a training program every year. So we look at training those that will work possibly with victims of trafficking. We send them on a two-week human trafficking investigations program. And in that program we also have, we invite the state and territory police to send participants as well. So this year we had participants from New South Wales and Victoria police also attend the program. So obviously we work very closely with state and territory police. And you know, we’re very dependent on them and rely on them on occasions, and we have a very strong relationship with them obviously, because often they are the ones that detect victims of trafficking, as do the Department of Immigration as well. So yeah. It is a very victim-oriented crime. So we look at each victim on their own, and we understand, we try to understand their story. And then we look at trying to corroborate their story with other evidence. And then if we have a case that proves they’re in some form of, you know, servitude, whatever that may be, then we’ll refer it to the Commonwealth prosecutor and we’ll give it a go in court. Anyone that’s a victim of trafficking, and they effectively cooperate in a criminal investigation, whether that investigation is successful or not, and we can deem that they may be in danger if they are returned to where they’ve come from, they, we support, we apply for a Witness Protection Trafficking visa for them. And the attorney-generals and the Department of Immigration then decide whether they issue a permanent visa to stay in the country. So that’s a Witness Protection Trafficking visa. And so they can stay in the country. We’re one of the few countries in the world that offer a permanent settlement of victims of trafficking and their close family, can also with that visa be covered as well and get permanent status in Australia. If they’ve cooperated in a criminal investigation and, whether successful or not, and we think they’re in danger of going home, and that might be simply being, the threat of them being re-trafficked. Now, obviously there’s some pretty, you know, awful people that traffick people. And so you can imagine there’s a lot of threat, force and coercion that we don’t want to subject a victim to again if we can determine that they have been trafficked to Australia. So yeah, if they’re in danger, we’ll support the victim, we’ll support a Witness Protection Trafficking visa, and yeah, we’ve had a lot of them actually be given permanent residency in Australia. And I said, that’s quite a unique outcome from global terms.

MATT BUCKLEY

Francesca Pagani is the Red Cross’ National Outreach Coordinator of the Support for Trafficked People program. She describes how the Red Cross in Australia assists human trafficking victims.

FRANCESCA PAGANI

The way in which the program works is that there is a whole of government strategy  on trafficking. Essentially, it’s the Attorney-General’s department that is responsible for coordinating the entire trafficking framework, but within that there’s the Australian Federal Police who are responsible for investigating the allegations of the alleged trafficking offences, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for prosecuting those offences, and then FACSIA [Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs] is the government arm that is responsible for funding the Support for Trafficked People program, and we fall under there. Basically the way in which it works is that the Australian Federal Police will come across a survivor of trafficking. If they identify that that person has trafficking indicators then they will refer them to the program. So I’ll get a phone call essentially and then we’ll deploy a case worker to go and meet with the client and they are responsible for all the health and welfare supports that that client may have while they’re on the program. So that can include anything from, you know, accommodation, through to referrals to medical appointments, to counsellors, you know, we provide a living allowance, and all that sort of thing.

MATT BUCKLEY

I asked Glynn Lewis from the Australian Federal Police if there are any symptoms of human trafficking that people can look out for.

GLYNN LEWIS

Well, I mean, I’d sort of characterise a case. We’ve had our first successful forced labour conviction. It was Divje Trivedi in, on the sixth of October, 2011, pleaded guilty to, you know, trafficking-related offences. And basically in that situation the worker, and it was in a restaurant setting. They were sort of working twelve hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. They would get, they would receive minimal pay. They were observed living in a store room and, you know, they had to bathe in the kitchen. Their passports were taken away from them and they had limited access to it. And they were subjected to, as you said, as you sort of raised earlier in the interview, sort of those psychological, coercive, and you could characterise it as mental abuse and threats, that was directed at the victim, and also their family. And their freedom was restricted. And I’ll go back to some of those things, like, you know, their passport might be taken away, they’ll have false travel documents. You know, the visa that they’re coming into the country [on], you know, they’ll be contrary to what that visa has, you know, been issued for. They might exceed the hours that they’re supposed to be working. There’s minimum standards in Australia that they need to, you know, that they’re obliged to follow in Australia. So there’s this sort of on along a spectrum. You’ll have someone who [has] sort of harsh and unjust working conditions, right up to a point where, you know, their freedom is, you know, severely restricted, and you might have physical injuries. They might be bruised and so on. They might have no access to medical care. Very little social interaction, and if you were, for example, to frequent a restaurant, you might see someone there that’s working, you know, extraordinary hours. They may obviously be unhappy. So they’re sort of some of the indicators that might appear. Often, you know, a victim, for example, in a hospitality setting, would really need to sort of disclose some of these issues about their lack of freedom, and sort of, maybe promises that have been held out to them to come to Australia. They may have a large debt bond. So they might, you know, have a fifty thousand dollar debt. When you think about coming to Australia, what have you got? You know, a couple of grand and an airfare and a visa. It’s not going to cost you fifty grand. It’s probably going to cost you a couple of grand if someone sponsored you. So those sort of things you’d look at.

MATT BUCKLEY

Glynn Lewis says that the Australian Federal Police have a hotline that members of the public can call if they suspect a situation might be slavery.

GLYNN LEWIS

We’ve got a hotline number – 131 AFP. So 131237. So if they see someone in immediate threat or danger they’ve got to ring the local police. So I guess in Adelaide, what is that? Triple zero? I’m not sure what the number is.

MATT BUCKLEY

Yeah.

GLYNN LEWIS

And then, if they see indicators of trafficking and they’re not sure if anyone’s under immediate threat, but if we talk about, you know, travel movements restricted, travel documents taken away from them. They can’t speak English. You can see they’re obviously in harm or pain. There’s no contract or agreement. They’re not happy to, sort of, they’re reluctant to state where they work. They have little money or access to their earnings. They’re traumatised, intimidated. They have little access to medical care or no social interaction. Any of those things, and then they can ring, you know, our hotline – 131 AFP, or alternatively, sort of, that’s 131237, and that gets reported to us, and then we obviously treat this sort of crime very seriously, and we equate it sometimes, if you’re a victim of sexual trafficking, if you’re having to perform sexual acts and don’t want to do it, you’re effectively being raped-

MATT BUCKLEY

Yes.

GLYNN LEWIS

-over and over again. So we implore you, if you’re going to talk about this crime type, that the legislative framework is there, the Criminal Code 1995. And there are offences of sexual servitude, slavery, and forced labour. And the AFP take it, anything referred to us very seriously. And if someone is scared of coming to the police, well, there’s a whole bunch of other agencies out there that they can go and talk to. If they see someone in immediate threat of physical harm they are to call whatever relevant state or territory police there are to go straight away. For example, in Canberra our AFP would respond, but if it’s in Adelaide the South Australian police. You know, all the Australian police services are very professional, and they respond to that stuff, you know, immediately. And as I said, if it’s something that doesn’t look like it’s immediate, well then ring, you know, 131 AFP.

MATT BUCKLEY

To find out more about how to combat modern-day slavery, you can go on to the Australian Federal Police force’s anti-human trafficking website, which is at www.afp.gov.au/policing/human-trafficking.aspx. You can also try Anti-Slavery Australia’s website, which is at www.antislavery.org.au.

*UPDATE: This amendment was superseded.

**When I made this documentary I said the Australian Sex Party supports decriminalisation of sex work because at the 2010 Adelaide Sexpo the Australian Sex Party’s President Fiona Patten told me she supports it. However, upon looking at the party’s website I have found that it does not list such a policy.

[sociable]