A crucial step has been taken to address growing concerns about the international trade of human organs as Australia passed its first anti-slavery bill in the New South Wales (NSW) upper house on May 3.
The bill has now been sent to the lower house for debate before it can become law.
The purpose of the bill, which was introduced in March this year by NSW Christian Democratic Party MLC Paul Green, is to confront the ongoing injustices of slavery, slavery-like practices or human trafficking, including servitude, forced labour, forced marriage, and child exploitation.
The Hon. Paul Green said: "In Australia, there are well over 4,000 cases of human trafficking, with many remaining hidden in plain sight."
If the bill is passed into law, it will allow for the appointment of an anti-slavery commissioner who will prepare plans to combat human trafficking and slavery-like practices in NSW.
The commissioner will also be responsible for educating and informing residents, including young people and children, about modern slavery and will work cooperatively with government bodies like the police on suspected cases.
It will also prevent public hospitals or private health facilities in the state of NSW from engaging in any unethical trading of human organs.
He said that if passed, the new law will "ensure that organ trading is not involved in supply chains, meaning corporations would need to be able to prove they, and their international suppliers, are not using organs or tissues that come from black markets or are the result of trafficking."
His bill would make it an offence to use organs or any human tissue without prior consent and would carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. The maximum penalty would apply where a vital organ was removed that would result in the death of the donor. A smaller penalty would apply for people obtaining non-vital organs or tissues.
“We have a moral duty to make sure we don’t take advantage of people overseas.”
However, his bill has yet to be successfully passed into NSW law.
The department said the threat of criminal prosecution "may be insufficient to discourage desperate Australians from travelling overseas to receive lifesaving or life-changing organ transplantations." It also added that there were "significant practical challenges in investigating crimes across international borders."
"It will raise awareness among medical practitioners and the communities around this state, and hopefully around Australia, about the practice of organ harvesting and the illegal trade in human tissue that, sadly, is a growing problem on this planet," he said.
"It will also put those involved in organ trafficking, and those potentially wanting to engage in this deeply unethical trade, on notice that the citizens and residents of NSW will no longer be able to participate in this inhuman trade."
He also added that even though it is rare for state laws to govern outside their jurisdiction, it is not unheard of.
A number of countries have already made it illegal for their citizens to engage in the international trade of human organs.
"Australia, as a developed nation and economy in the Asia region, needs to ensure that we do not engage in the unethical Transplant Tourism, therefore creating a market for organ harvesting and organ trafficking," she said.
"Australia has an obligation to do its part in legislating against the unethical international trade in human organs."