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MP Fails In Bid To Ban Slave-Made Goods

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Maryan Street
Maryan Street

Wellington, July 29 NZPA - A Labour MP's bid to ban products made by slave labour failed in Parliament tonight after the Government said it would be impossible to identify them.

Maryan Street drafted the member's bill which would have inserted a clause into the Customs and Excise Act to prohibit "goods manufactured or produced wholly or in part by slave labour".

She said although the abolition of slavery was a cornerstone of human rights legislation all over the world it still existed in some African countries and child slaves were used in West Africa.

"There are cases in Asia of people selling their children into slavery and debt slavery operates in Asia and South America," she said.

"Banning the fruits of this vile traffic is a moral imperative."

Ms Street's bill does not explain how goods made by slave labour could be identified and Trade Minister Tim Groser said that was the problem.

"I share her sentiments," he said.

"If we're honest about this issue we have to admit she is correct. We all struggle with this."

Mr Groser said traditions of servitude and forced labour in some societies had proved to be extremely hard to eradicate.

"Many fine minds grapple with the issues the member is trying to focus political attention on," he said.

"Even in this century, people have struggled with defining this problem."

Mr Groser said the growth of the global supply chain compounded the problem because many products from many different countries were often used to manufacture an item.

The Apple Ipod used components from more than 20 countries.

"How would a New Zealand customs officer deal with that?" he said.

"And sugar -- it emerges in numerous imported food. How would we ever differentiate between sugar produced by slaves and sugar produced by poor people?"

Ms Street said she knew she was taking an idealistic position but she thought a select committee could work on the problems.

The bill was defeated 63-58 on its first reading. Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, the Progressive Party and United Future supported it. National and ACT voted against it.

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