Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner Bill Falls Short

17 May 2024

IJM Australia welcomes the passage of the Modern Slavery Amendment (Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Bill 2023 in the Parliament but notes the Albanese Government has missed an opportunity to start the Commissioner off on a strong footing by ignoring the dozens of expert civil society recommendations it called for.

After successfully advocating for the establishment of Australia’s first Anti-Slavery Commissioner in New South Wales in 2022, IJM has long supported a robust federal model to provide greater transparency over Commonwealth and corporate responses to modern slavery. We congratulate the Government on delivering its election commitment to establish this new office.

Legislative amendments were proposed by members of the crossbench to empower the Anti-Slavery Commissioner to compile a list of regions, industries and products that carry a high risk of modern slavery; and to undertake due diligence processes to address risks of modern slavery practices in their operations and supply chains, instead of only reporting on those risks.

IJM Australia CEO David Braga stated, “Unfortunately, motions to strengthen the role of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner to enforce Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, and equip reporting entities to take proactive action to address modern slavery risks in their operations were not supported by a majority in the Parliament.”

The Government chose not to incorporate expert civil society recommendations, despite referring the Anti-Slavery Commissioner Bill to a committee inquiry, which received 43 submissions, including from IJM Australia, the NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Walk Free, Human Rights Law Centre, Be Slavery Free and Anti-Slavery Australia.

The Attorney-General further received a joint open letter from 41 anti-slavery experts, including IJM Australia, the ACTU, Amnesty International and Save the Children, but these concerns were also not addressed.

“It has been a year since the Government tabled the Modern Slavery Act review report including 30 expert recommendations, which they received from Prof John McMillan AO,” Mr Braga stated.

“Whilst IJM welcomes the establishment of the Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner, we are concerned the Government is delaying its response to these expert recommendations, which would set up the Anti-Slavery Commissioner for success,” Mr Braga said.

“We urge the Government to grant the Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner the authority to make declarations of high-risk regions, industries and products as part of their forthcoming response to the Modern Slavery Act Review, consistent with the report’s recommendation,” Mr Braga said.

To learn more about Modern Slavery in Supply Chains read our Spot Fires In Supply Chains report.

Media: Briony Camp – [email protected] – 0468 308 696

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