Commentary: Modern Slavery Laws in Australia: Steps in the Right Direction?

Author: Amy Sinclair & Justine Nolan, Business and Human Rights Journal, Published on: 3 July 2019

Governments are increasingly introducing legislative measures imposing reporting requirements on corporations to address a range of human rights abuses including modern slavery. A new federal Modern Slavery Act (Federal Act) took effect in Australia…. This follows similar laws enacted in the United Kingdom (UK) and California, with draft bills under consideration in other jurisdictions such as Canada, Hong Kong and the United States.

The modern slavery laws introduce social disclosure regimes requiring large businesses to report publicly on the actions they are taking to address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. …[S]uch legislation aims to spur companies into action through the power of public scrutiny, coupled with fear of reputational damage. It is designed to create ‘a level playing field’ for businesses and drive a ‘race to the top’ in terms of respecting human rights. What is less clear, however, is whether such disclosure requirements can link transparency and generate substantive (not just procedural) compliance with human rights standards...

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