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3 Apr 2023

Australia's Modern Slavery Act: is it fit for purpose?


By requiring big business and other entities to report on their efforts to address modern slavery, the Australian Modern Slavery Act (MSA) aims to drive change in business conduct to prevent and redress modern slavery, but is it fit for purpose?

Based on data gathered from a survey of 90 businesses and focus groups conducted in 2022 and 2023, this joint report from a coalition of human rights organisations including Business & Human Rights Resource Centre provides new and critical data to inform policy change and business practice.

Key findings:

70% of businesses surveyed support the establishment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Two thirds (67%) would find it easier to comply with the Modern Slavery Act if it were harmonised with international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

61% would likely improve modern slavery responses if required to undertake human rights due diligence.

54% would likely improve modern slavery responses if financial penalties were introduced.

The research also investigated company approaches to remedying modern slavery in supply chains, finding that failing to engage stakeholders presents a major barrier to remediating modern slavery, while increased transparency between companies and their suppliers results in more effective remediation practices.

The coalition is calling on the government to strengthen the legislation by:

‣ Requiring companies to undertake due diligence to prevent and address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains;

‣ Introducing penalties for companies that fail to comply with the Act;

‣ Ensuring appropriate oversight and enforcement of the Act by appointing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The verdict is out and business supports reform of Australia’s modern slavery regime. Our latest research canvassed views on the impacts and implementation of the Modern Slavery Act. It reveals business support for human rights due diligence requirements and more robust policing of the Act. The ball is now in the government’s court.
Amy Sinclair, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre