Modern Slavery Bill Update

The Australian Parliament is considering the Modern Slavery Bill which will require large businesses operating in Australia to report on the risks of modern slavery in their supply chains, both domestically and internationally. The Bill is modelled on the UK Modern Slavery Act and will apply to all businesses with an annual turnover of more than $100 million.

The legislation has passed the House of Representatives and will be debated in the Senate during the November sittings. The Bill enjoys cross party support, however a number of amendments were moved but narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives.

These amendments are also likely to be moved and debated in the Senate, where the Government does not command a majority. The key issues still at stake include: the creation of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Office like the successful UK initiative; the imposition of penalties on businesses that fail to report in accordance with their obligations under the Act; and the exclusion of the offence of Forced Marriage from the scope of the business reporting requirement.

Walk Free continues to focus on arguing strongly for the creation of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner type Office that could provide leadership in developing a better domestic response that improves the capacity for identifying and supporting victims; the charging and prosecution of offenders; an increased public awareness of the issue and their role in combatting this crime. Every Parliamentary Committee that has examined the development of the Australian Legislation has unanimously endorsed the need for an Independent Statutory Anti-Slavery Office to be included in this Bill. Such an amendment is supported across the wide spectrum of civil society, business, faiths and the legal profession who have come together to support legislative action.

We remain hopeful that the Government will work with all other Parliamentarians to agree a robust Act that reflects world’s best practise in the fight against the crime of modern slavery.