Media Release: Labor supports Australian Modern Slavery Act

Walk Free Foundation founder, Andrew Forrest AO, today welcomed the commitment of the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten and the Australian Labor Party to support Modern Slavery Legislation for Australia.

“This is fantastic and I congratulate Bill Shorten and the Shadow Minister for Justice, Clare O’Neil, for the great work they have done to craft good policy that seeks to strengthen Australia’s capacity to eradicate modern slavery both here and abroad,” Mr Forrest said.

“In what we trust and believe will be bipartisan, all-of-government support, Labor has listened to the voices of the churches, the NGOs and business.”
Business support for the legislation is strongly reflected in the submissions to the Joint Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Committee Inquiry by companies such as Rio Tinto, ANZ, Fortescue, Adidas, Woodside, NAB, Konica Minolta and South 32.

Mr Forrest said Labor’s commitment to the appointment of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner was an essential element in Australia building a world leading response to slavery. “That Office would provide a strong independent voice that will hold us all accountable,” he said.

An estimated 45.8 million people are subjected to conditions of forced labour and slavery. More than half are in Australia’s region and many work in the supply chains of companies that provide food, clothing and other goods purchased in Australia.

“The commitment of the Labor Party and the positive feedback the Walk Free Foundation has received from Government, Opposition, Greens and Independent MPs gives me great confidence that a Bill introduced into Parliament by the Government would be overwhelmingly supported,” Mr Forrest said.

In the UK, there was bipartisan support for the UK Modern Slavery Act and today’s announcement by Labor ensures that the same bipartisan support is possible in Australia. The report of the Parliamentary Committee, which is chaired by Government MP, Mr Chris Crewther, will provide the detailed analysis to inform the Parliament’s consideration of legislation.

The Walk Free Foundation is grateful for the Attorney General, the Hon George Brandis QC, and the Government for initiating the Parliamentary Inquiry, the Prime Minister’s positive engagement with the Walk Free Foundation on the issues, Minister for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan’s Departmental review of the UK legislation and the strong stand the Government has adopted in international forums.

Mr Forrest said the initiative of the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, in convening the first Bali Process Government and Business Forum – to be held in Perth in August – was another strong sign of the Government’s commitment to tackle modern slavery in the Asia-Pacific and enjoin the power of business in that fight.