Minister for Justice Michael Keenan announced on August 16, 2017 that the Government would take an important step to further strengthen Australia’s world-leading approach to combatting modern slavery.
Keenan said the Government proposes to introduce legislation that will make it a requirement for large businesses to report annually on their actions to address modern slavery.
"The first step is an extensive consultation period with industry on the Government's Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement discussion paper.
"The proposed reporting requirement will ensure large businesses and other entities operating in Australia publish annual statements outlining their actions to address this crime.”
"It will support the business community to respond more effectively to modern slavery, raise business awareness of the issue and create a level playing field for business to share information about what they are doing to eliminate modern slavery.
"Importantly, it will also encourage business to use their market influence to improve workplace standards and practices.”
"Large businesses, peak bodies, investors and civil society have already voiced support for Government to take action on this issue through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia,” said Keenan.
"The Government is committed to continuing to work with these stakeholders to ensure the final legislation is as simple, sensible and effective as possible.”
"We will also carefully consider any recommendations coming out of the Committee's report on this important issue."
According to findings in the report globally, there is no single agreed estimate of the total number of modern slavery victims. Non-government estimates suggest there are up to 45.8 million people in modern slavery around the world. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates approximately 21 million people worldwide are held in forced labour alone. Sixty-eight per cent of these forced labourers are exploited in economic activities and more than half are exploited in the Asia-Pacific region.
The report goes on to say that modern slavery can occur in any industry and exists in both the formal and informal economies, meaning that modern slavery can be present at all stages of the supply chain and in many different settings. Internationally, key industries of concern include agriculture, construction, electronics, fashion, hospitality and extractives.
According to the report since 2004, the Australian Government has identified over 350 suspected victims of modern slavery. During this period, the Australian Government has prosecuted 55 individuals for human trafficking, slavery or slavery-like offences under the Commonwealth Criminal Code and has recorded 20 convictions. Victims of modern slavery in Australia have been identified in a range of industries, including domestic service, hospitality, construction and sex work.
Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee Chris Crewther has welcomed the announcement saying that this consultation, in conjunction with the inquiry will help determine the final content of the proposed legislation to combat modern slavery.
“It is an unacceptable reality that millions of people are trapped in modern slavery. The International Labour Organisation estimates 21 million people worldwide are being exploited through forced labour, with more than half in the Asia Pacific region.
Australia has one of the strongest responses to modern slavery in the world, including tough criminal offences, dedicated teams within the Australian Federal Police and a Government-funded support program for victims. This legislation will build on our record.”
Image sourced by Flickr cc: Eduardo M.C