Australia  |  

Parliament passes Modern Slavery Act

Anti-slavery advocates celebrate historic laws

Australia’s first federal Modern Slavery Act has been passed by Parliament, passing through the House of Representatives this afternoon and having already received the support of the Senate yesterday.

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Entities with an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million will be required to report on the slavery risks in their supply chains.

Under the new laws, entities with an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million will be required to report on the slavery risks in their supply chains.

Anti-slavery organisations have applauded the historic legislation which is estimated to affect more than 40 million people trapped in modern day slavery in the world today.

The Act is the result of years of advocacy by anti-slavery organisations and the peak legal body on the issue, the Law Council of Australia, who fought to see the original proposed bill amended and strengthened.

“Changes to the Bill will ensure that the responsible Minister has additional powers to request an explanation from entities that fail to report or comply, to ask for remedial action and to publish information about failed compliance,” explained Dr Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive.

“There will also now be an annual report to the Parliament on the level of compliance with the Act, and the Government has confirmed that a list will be created of the entities that need to report.”

The Law Council of Australia President, Morry Bailes, congratulated the Australian Government, and Parliament, for making a Modern Slavery Act a reality.

“The Law Council has long advocated for a Modern Slavery Act, because we believe it is necessary if Australia is to play its part in eliminating slavery and slavery-like conditions,” Mr Bailes said.

The truth is there are millions of people today held in slavery, and that includes in Australia.

“Too often we are tempted to think of slavery as a relic of the past. But the truth is there are millions of people today held in slavery, and that includes in Australia. Introducing accountability into the supply chains of large organisations will go a significant way toward mitigating the scourge of modern slavery.”

Despite being very pleased with the amended bill’s passing, anti-slavery organisations are disappointed their calls for an independent anti-slavery commissioner or advisor have not been taken on.

“We believe such a Commissioner would act as a useful point of contact for all matters relevant to modern slavery in Australia,” Mr Bailes said. “A Commissioner could also provide community outreach and education to stakeholders involved in Australia’s response to modern slavery, including law enforcement, civil society and the private sector.”

The Anti-slavery also does not include the penalties for non-compliance anti-slavery advocates believe are essential for ensuring companies report.

“The most effective way to ensure company comply would be to include substantial penalties for non-compliance,” Mr Bailes noted.

However, they are hopeful that a penalty regime will eventually form part of the Act, and have commended the Senate on amendments passed yesterday that ensure the question of the need for civil penalties will be specifically reviewed as a part of a built-in three-year review of the legislation.

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