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

Author: Ben Doherty, The Guardian, Published on: 11 November 2019

"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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