With the election of a Federal Labour Government, changes to Australia’s efforts to address Modern Slavery are expected to occur. Prior to the election, the Labor Party outlined the following measures it intends to take:
- consult with stakeholders including business and advocacy groups in amending the Modern Slavery Act 2018 to introduce penalties for non-compliance and require mandatory reporting on exposure to specified issues of pressing concern;
- boost resources for the Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to help countries in our region strengthen responses to modern slavery;
- appoint an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, who will be tasked with publishing a list of countries, regions, industries, and products with a high risk of modern slavery on a yearly basis. Companies importing from these places would be required to prove goods are not made with forced labour.
Whilst many corporations have reported under the Modern Slavery Act, some still seem to be grappling with what the requirements mean for them and how they should go about reporting, whilst others have not reported at all.
There are many different forms of slavery in the world today, including forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour. All of these practices are illegal under international law, but they continue to occur in countries all over the world. In some cases, businesses may not be aware that they are connected to slavery in their supply chains, but it is becoming increasingly important for them to take steps to address the issue.
While most agree that the legislation is a step in the right direction, there is concern that some companies may not take their obligations seriously enough and could face reputational damage as a result. However, under the new Labour Government, we may see penalties incorporated into the Modern Slavery Act, such that reputational damage may not be the greatest concern facing non-compliant reporting entities.