The government increased law enforcement efforts. Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, when read together, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the definition of “trafficking” under Division 271 required the element of movement of a victim. However, Division 270, which criminalized “slavery,” “servitude,” and “forced labor” offenses, could be utilized to prosecute trafficking offenses that did not involve victim movement. Division 271 prescribed penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Division 270 prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for slavery, up to 15 years’ imprisonment for servitude, and up to nine years’ imprisonment for forced labor. These penalties were all sufficiently stringent.
In 2019, the government referred 213 suspected cases of trafficking for possible investigation, an increase compared with 179 in 2018 and 166 in 2017, and initiated prosecutions against nine defendants, also an increase compared with two in 2018 and six in 2017. Authorities continued prosecutions from previous reporting periods against 12 defendants. The government secured convictions in two cases against three defendants under the trafficking provisions of the criminal code, compared with zero convictions in 2018 and five in 2017. One case involved two defendants for forced labor of a Fijian domestic worker; courts sentenced the traffickers to five and six years’ imprisonment. Courts convicted the other defendant for sex trafficking of two Thai migrants and sentenced her to eight years’ imprisonment. The government also prosecuted 30 defendants for engaging in, or planning, sexual activity with children overseas (some of these cases were initiated in the previous reporting period); efforts led to 10 convictions (11 prosecutions with no convictions reported in 2018, four prosecutions in 2017). Authorities often opted to pursue labor or employment violations in lieu of trafficking charges, resulting in potential labor traffickers receiving only fines and other civil penalties that were inadequate to deter trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. The government funded and facilitated training on trafficking investigations, legal provisions, and victim support for approximately 170 Australian Federal Police (AFP), prosecutors, and other law enforcement officers and approximately 400 immigration officials. In September 2019, the government enacted new amendments to combat further child sex trafficking within Australia, overseas, and online, and initiated prosecutions for the new offense of possessing child sex abuse material sourced by a communications carriage service.