Big Business Welcomes Anti-Slavery Legislation
6 June 2017 at 1:18 pm
A coalition of Australian big businesses has backed calls to introduce Australia’s first anti-slavery legislation.
The Modern Slavery Act, introduced by the federal opposition to Parliament on Monday, will mean big business will be forced to clamp down on slavery in their supply chains.
If passed, the policy will mean that major Australian companies will have to publicly report all of their efforts to identify and stop slavery on an annual basis.
Labor’s legislation also called for the establishment of an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
The Business Council of Australia, representing the chief executives at Australia’s top companies, welcomed the anti-slavery measures.
A spokesperson from The Business Council of Australia said by backing the proposed legislation Australia’s largest businesses had taken “a leadership role in promoting and supporting clean supply chains”.
“Australians’ living standards have risen enormously through greater international trade. However, it has also increased the risk that products and services sold here are tainted by the use of forced labour,” they said.
“Increased transparency will help consumers, investors and business partners more easily determine which companies are acting morally and working to maintain clean supply chains. Transparency also makes competition between businesses fairer.”
The Business Council of Australia also called for bipartisanship on “this important moral issue”.
According to the latest Global Slavery Index an estimated 45.8 million people around the world are in some form of modern slavery and two-thirds of people trapped in slavery worldwide are reported to be in the Asia-Pacific region.
The index said 4,300 people were currently trapped in slavery in Australia.
Labor MP and shadow minister for justice Clare O’Neil said the number of people in slavery today were greater than at any other time in human history.
“For most Australians slavery probably feels very remote, but it’s not,” O’Neil said.
“We are inextricably intertwined with the lives of these people. We know that many people who are enslaved today are working in supply chains of products and goods and services that Australians use every day, and that gives us a very clear moral obligation to act.”
The proposed Modern Slavery Act was also welcomed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Salvation Army.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said companies whose “business models exploit people in the worst way” had been “put on notice”.
“Too often we are horrified when we hear stories of workers who are exploited, threatened with deportation and forced into debt bondage – the Modern Slavery Act is a huge step forward in dealing with these problems,” Kearney said.
Salvation Army national secretary Samuel Pho applauded the act and said it included “a more inclusive and strategic role for business to meaningfully contribute to ending contemporary forms of slavery”.
Pho said the legislation was “a good first step” but full implementation and a commitment to ongoing self-assessment were also necessary.
“Slavery in all its insidious forms has evolved, and persisted over the centuries. So too must our approach – it is only through working together, learning, improving and reinventing ourselves and our approaches that we truly, finally make slavery a thing of the past,” Pho said.
If passed Australia will join the United Kingdom, France, California and the European Union in having Modern Slavery Acts.
The legislation could be introduced as early as next year.