Today, in a world first, business leaders from across the Indo Pacific region, made an unprecedented commitment to vigorously support the implementation of strong common laws to stamp out the hideous human rights travesty that is modern slavery.
The Walk Free Foundation founder and Co-Chair of the historic Bali Process Government and Business Forum (BPGBF) in Perth, Mr Andrew Forrest AO, said he was humbled by the unified conviction by businesses to effectively adopt complementary ‘Indo Pacific Modern Slavery Acts.’
In a significant breakthrough, this move was endorsed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, who hosted the forum with her Indonesian counterpart, Ms Retno Marsudi.
The ‘Indo Pacific Modern Slavery Acts’, to be rolled out in each of the Bali Process 45 member countries, would include transparent and mandatory reporting requirements, forcing companies to detail what they are doing to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains. The business leaders also agreed legislation was needed for ethical recruitment to protect at-risk workers and end the immoral practice of would-be employees paying upfront fees to recruitment agencies.
To drive the success of these laws in each country, independent commissioners would be appointed. These commissioners would provide important support to business to encourage them to confidently look, find and report on any slavery found in their supply chains.
As an incentive for corporates that adhere to these laws, there will be an anti-slavery certification that rewards them for responsible business practices.
“Business is part of the problem and business must be part of the solution,” Mr Forrest said. “As politicians and business leaders today, we must end this unforgivable scourge.”
Businesses, operating across different jurisdictions in the region, would only be required to report once, with a standard reporting framework to be developed.
The extraordinary suite of commitments came at the end of the two day event, that marked the first time business and governments have partnered in the Bali Process and the first formal cross-sectoral regional approach to tackling this horrific abuse of unprotected people.
“We cannot live in a world where people are treated worse than farm animals, “ Mr Forrest told the forum. “We cannot live in a world where children know they are no more than goods or chattel that belong to someone else.”
The forum heard an emotional testimony from Mr Moe Turaga, a victim of debt bondage. Mr Turaga came to Australia as a 17-year-old from Fiji and was forced to work on a grape farm in Victoria for two years without pay, and without his passport.
“I am marked by slavery for ever,” Mr Turaga said. “The scars on my back, from when I fell into barbed wire and received no medical care, are a regular reminder of this traumatic time in my life.” The father of four told the delegates that, in regional Australia, there are still people exploiting others for their own profit.
“Everyone at this forum has shown leadership,” Mr Forrest said. “They have seized the unique opportunity to take a stance against one of the great human right injustices of our time.
You can make your mark in history by contributing your piece of the puzzle to the eradication of modern slavery.”
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