Australia: BHRRC supports the New South Wales modern slavery reporting regime and recommends it is brought into effect

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has published its submission to the Inquiry of the New South Wales Parliament into the (NSW) Modern Slavery Act.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre supports the modern slavery reporting scheme introduced by the NSW Act...the scheme will play a significant role in addressing modern slavery in the supply chains of certain companies operating in and from the state of New South Wales… by having a lower reporting threshold than the Modern Slavery Act (Cth) 2018 (Cth Act), the NSW Act extends the scope of legislative modern slavery reporting to cover approximately 1400 additional reporting entities…[it is] an important complement to the Cth Act.   

…The inclusion of penalties for non-compliance with the provisions of s24 of the NSW Act, and provision for an Anti-Slavery Commissioner, represent key improvements, not only on other Australian legislation, but on comparable modern slavery reporting laws worldwide. In this respect, the NSW Act is leading the way globally in terms of legislative action to address the scourge of modern slavery in corporate supply chains.

…Enactment of the NSW Act represents an important component of global moves to introduce laws that curb human rights abuses, including the use of slaves, in corporate supply chains. We encourage the Parliament of NSW to support this crucial step by bringing the NSW Act, and associated instruments, into effect...

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Article
11 November 2019

Concern over possible discardment of strong modern slavery reporting provisions in New South Wales

Author: Ben Doherty, The Guardian

"NSW anti-slavery act could be abandoned despite being voted into law", 8 November 2019

The first state legislation mandating penalties for Australian companies that fail to address slave labour in their supply chains could be entirely abandoned by the New South Wales government despite being voted into law. [Anti-slavery] groups have argued the NSW Modern Slavery Act…should be brought into force immediately, saying…it could be weakened, delayed or discarded altogether,…while business groups, and some within government, are pushing for the…regime to be discarded in favour of a weaker federal scheme.

[The NSW law] was scheduled to come into force on 1 July this year….[however]…the NSW government…deferr[ed] the bill indefinitely…Special minister of state Don Harwin said the bill had “defects requiring urgent attention” and may be inoperable because of inconsistencies with the federal Modern Slavery Act.

There are key differences between the NSW and federal laws…Unlike the NSW legislation, the federal law does not appoint an anti-slavery commissioner, nor can it hold the NSW government…accountable to the anti-slavery reporting provisions. [F]ederal law has no penalties for companies who deliberately file false or misleading information…,while the NSW legislation imposes fines of up to $1.1m or two years’ jail. Paul Green, the former Christian Democratic party MLC who introduced the bill, told parliament the inquiry risked “the possibility…of stripping the backbone out of this legislation”.

The interim anti-slavery commissioner…said she had proposed amendments…“to ensure if works efficiently”. [NSW] Business Chamber told the inquiry…that slavery regulation should be imposed at the federal level. [However], Professor…Paul Redmond [(Anti-Slavery Australia)]…said…“The [NSW] Act is the strongest of all the anti-slavery reporting provisions in the world…the notion of abolishing it is…an affront”.

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Item
19 September 2019

Submission to the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues, Parliament of New South Wales Inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and associated matters

September 2019

We refer to the Inquiry by the Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Social Issues, Parliament of New South Wales, into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and associated matters. We note that submissions are invited to the Terms of Reference (ToR) for this inquiry.

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In responding to the issues raised in the ToR, we have provided information and insights on the issues that relate directly to our organisational experience and expertise, namely matters relating to s24 (Transparency of supply chain) of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW Act) and accompanying draft Regulation. As such, our submission addresses ToR 1(a), (b), (g), (h) and (i).

[...]

We recommend that the NSW Act is brought into effect, with application to those companies not within the scope of the Cth Act, namely companies with a total annual turnover of between AUD$50m-AUD$100m and not reporting voluntarily under the Cth Act.

The inclusion of penalties for non-compliance with the provisions of s24 of the NSW Act, and provision for an Anti-Slavery Commissioner, represent key improvements, not only on other Australian legislation, but on comparable modern slavery reporting laws worldwide. In this respect, the NSW Act is leading the way globally in terms of legislative action to address the scourge of modern slavery in corporate supply chains.

Download the full document here