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IJM Australia welcomes Modern Slavery Bill tabled by Federal Parliament

advocacy, IJM Australia, slavery

Written by IJM
Posted on 28 June 2018 under Media Releases, Recent posts, Stories of system change.

IJM Australia welcomes the supply chain reporting requirement that was introduced in the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 (Cth) by the Hon Alex Hawke MP, Assistant Minister for Home Affairs. The measure is an important step towards protecting the estimated 40 million children, women and men who are victims of slavery around the world, over 60% of whom are in the Asia-Pacific region. As Assistant Minister Hawke stated, Australia has a ‘moral imperative to eradicate this practice from our supply chains and our businesses’.

IJM Australia’s Chief Executive, Caroly Houmes, believes the legislation shows that there is strong support throughout the Australian community for action to eradicate modern slavery.

‘It is encouraging to see that government, business and civil society are in firm agreement that transparency about modern slavery is good for everyone,’ said Ms Houmes.

‘It benefits businesses who are already undertaking due diligence by highlighting their good work. It helps those who feel overwhelmed by the complexity of their supply chains by providing them a basic framework to start from and best practice examples to follow. It allows consumers to use their voice and their wallets to tell companies that they expect action on modern slavery. And most importantly, it means that the men, women and children currently oppressed by slavery can have hope that their suffering will not remain hidden.’

The reporting requirement has the potential to reduce the use of forced labour to produce goods sold and used by Australian companies by encouraging targeted and risk-based procurement practices. The Bill implements some of the key recommendations for which IJM Australia has advocated along with other civil society organisations, including:

• clear and comprehensive guidance for businesses,
• a central, public register of all modern slavery statements,
• the application of the reporting obligation to the public sector, and
• a commitment to review its effectiveness every three years.

However, the effectiveness of the provision will depend on rigorous and sustained collaboration between business, civil society and the Government’s new Anti-Slavery Business Engagement Unit.

This will be greatly assisted by the Government’s commitment to providing a Government-run public central repository of Modern Slavery Statements, but the lack of a penalty for non-compliance could make it difficult to mainstream compliance and create a cultural shift across industry.

‘It is really encouraging that there has been a unanimous commitment from Australia’s federal politicians to implement transparency legislation that addresses modern slavery in supply chains to date,’ Ms Houmes stated.

‘These measures can be effective if they are accompanied by proactive and collaborative action by government. The government has made a commitment to monitor the implementation and review the legislation, which is really encouraging.’

IJM Australia looks forward to working with the Government and other civil society organisations to develop the guidance and to adequately equip businesses to identify and eradicate slavery in their supply chains.

Comparison to UK and NSW Legislation

The table below shows the features of the UK, NSW and Commonwealth Modern Slavery Acts. Darker shading indicates stronger regulatory measures likely to bring about broader compliance and cultural change in corporate procurement.

* The Bill states that entities ‘must’ report on each of the criteria listed. However, given there is no penalty for non-compliance, it is difficult to see how this is ‘mandatory’. ** The Bill empowers minister to specify criteria upon which entities must report.

As this outline indicates, the Commonwealth’s proposal does, in many ways, provide a stronger regulatory framework than the framework established in the UK. IJM Australia believes the Australian framework will encourage and empower businesses to comply, which will lead to concrete steps taken to reduce the risk of modern slavery in supply chains. There are also areas that could be improved.

For media inquiries, contact:
Bianca Bryson
Director for Marketing, IJM Australia
1300 045 669 |

Download our fact sheet on the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Bill.

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