Moderate Attention to Modern Slavery in Federal Budget

The Albanese Government is making progress toward addressing modern slavery issues in our region, whilst overall aid budget funding continues to stall in this Federal Budget.

Aid Budget Funding

The aid budget goes up $193 million to $4.961billion but remains static at 0.19% of Gross National Income (GNI). According to analysis by @ACFID, the total official development assistance (ODA) budget estimate in 2024-25 is an increase of $193m in nominal terms on the previous year.

When adjusted for inflation, the ODA budget has marginally increased in real terms in 2024-25 but is set to flatline over the forward estimates.

IJM Australia Chief Advocacy Officer Grace Wong said, “Whilst incremental increases to Australia’s ODA budget are welcome, the Albanese Government must take concrete steps to scale up foreign aid to its stated target of 0.5% of GNI.”

Online Safety for Children

Whilst much has been made of government’s $6.5 million trial of an age verification scheme to protect Australian children from being exposed to online pornography, there was limited funding announced to tackle online sexual exploitation of overseas children by Australian offenders.

“Earlier in the year, the Federal Government announced $20 million to help enhance inclusion and accessibility in the Philippines justice system for women, children and other socially disadvantaged groups. More initiatives like this, with a targeted focus on countering online sexual exploitation of children, should be prioritised as part of the Australia’s official development assistance funding for the Philippines, worth $94.2 million in this budget,” Ms Wong said.

“Meaningful investment in justice system strengthening programs in the Philippines could protect up to half a billion children from being trafficked to produce child sexual abuse material to paying foreign offenders, including Australians.”

Amid the ongoing Online Safety Act review, IJM welcomes the budgeted investment of $1.4 million over two years for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to support legal and compliance functions under the Online Safety Act.

“As the world witnesses the legal arm wrestle between national regulators and multinational tech companies over community safety, IJM welcomes this additional investment for the eSafety Commissioner’s legal and compliance functions, which should go toward protecting children all over the world from online sexual exploitation and abuse by Australian offenders,” Ms Wong stated.

Countering Scams

This budget includes $37.3 million over four years in anti-scam funding for the ACCC, ASIC and ACMA to administer and enforce mandatory industry codes for regulated businesses to address scams on their platforms and services, initially targeting telecommunications, banks and digital platforms services relating to social media, paid search engine advertising and direct messaging.

Whilst the government’s regulation of Australian businesses to protect consumers from online scams is a welcome step, it falls short of addressing the supply-side issue of tackling the transnational organised crime gangs which fuel this global industry.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, over 220,000 people are engaged in online scamming in Cambodia and Myanmar, an industry with widespread reports of labour trafficking and abuse. It is likely that hundreds of thousands of people from at least 35 countries around the world are being exploited in the scamming compounds including in Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR.

“IJM encourages the government to invest meaningfully to stop scams at the source. A priority for the government’s additional investment of $222.5 million for the Mekong-Australia Partnership in this budget should be countering trafficking into forced criminality in online scam centres,” Ms Wong said.

Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

The Federal Government is choosing to lead on addressing modern slavery supply chain risks by investing $2.5 million over two years to undertake an audit of government supply chains and procurement procedures.

“IJM Australia welcomes this investment into an audit of federal government supply chains to prevent the taxpayer-funded importation of goods produced by forced labour,” Ms Wong stated. Overall, the 2024-25 Federal Budget takes steps toward addressing modern slavery challenges in our region, whilst more emphasis should be placed on countering the technology-fueled and rapidly growing forms of exploitation and abuse in our region, including online sexual exploitation of children and forced scamming.

IJM Australia media: Briony Camp, [email protected] 0468 308 696

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