Proposed New Laws to Help End Modern Slavery
16 August 2017 at 2:49 pm
The Coalition government is proposing legislation that will make it a requirement for large businesses to report annually on their actions to address modern slavery.
The move follows submissions from large businesses, peak bodies, investors and civil society calling on the government to take action on this issue through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.
Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said the first step was “an extensive consultation period” with industry on the government’s Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement discussion paper.
“The proposed reporting requirement will ensure large businesses and other entities operating in Australia publish annual statements outlining their actions to address this crime,” Keenan said.
“It will support the business community to respond more effectively to modern slavery, raise business awareness of the issue and create a level playing field for business to share information about what they are doing to eliminate modern slavery.
“Importantly, it will also encourage business to use their market influence to improve workplace standards and practices.
“We will also carefully consider any recommendations coming out of the committee’s report on this important issue.”
Federal Liberal MP and chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid sub-committee, Chris Crewther welcomed the announcement.
“This consultation, in conjunction with the inquiry I am chairing, will help determine the final content of the proposed legislation to combat modern slavery, something which should no longer exist in today’s world,” Crewther said.
“It is an unacceptable reality that millions of people are trapped in modern slavery. The International Labour Organisation estimates 21 million people worldwide are being exploited through forced labour, with more than half in the Asia Pacific region.
“Australia has one of the strongest responses to modern slavery in the world, including tough criminal offences, dedicated teams within the Australian Federal Police and a government-funded support program for victims.”
Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod said plans for a new legal requirement for large Australian companies to report on measures they were taking to combat slavery was “a momentous step along the path to an appropriately comprehensive anti-slavery regime”.
“Unfortunately, exploitation is alive and well in modern Australia,” McLeod said.
“Our estimate is that some 4,500 people are currently trapped in some form of exploitation in Australia and there are millions more across the world.
“In recent years alone we have seen shocking domestic examples of human trafficking, sex slavery, forced labour, deceptive recruiting for labour services, forced marriage, and debt bondage. And we know what comes to light is only a very tiny sample of what lurks in the shadows.
“Requiring large businesses to scrutinise their supply chains and report on measures they are taking to combat exploitation is a very important mechanism to shine a light on modern slavery.”
McLeod said she looked forward to engaging closely with government throughout the consultation process following the landmark announcement.
Aid agency Save the Children’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry into modern slavery called on the Australian government to help put an end to a growing trend of “orphanage tourism”.
“Well-intentioned Australian tourists, including many students, were inadvertently contributing to the growth of the orphanage ‘industry’ and subsequent exploitation of children in developing countries,” the charity said.
It said that more than eight million children lived in institutions globally, but more than 80 per cent of them had parents or other family.
The government consultation paper on supply chain reporting is available online at the modern slavery consultation page on the Attorney-General’s department website.
The deadline for submissions is 20 October 2017.