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Modern Slavery Registry Advisory Committee recommends Australian modern slavery legislation requires mandatory due diligence and disclosure, procurement incentives, and strengthens access to remedy

The Advisory Committee of the Modern Slavery Registry (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Humanity United, Freedom Fund, Anti-Slavery International, Ethical Trading Initiative, Unicef UK, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), Freedom United, CORE Coalition) has published its submission regarding the inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.

The Advisory Committee strongly recommends the Australian government act as a leader in its region and introduce mandatory due diligence and transparency legislation that would be applicable to all companies of a certain size operating within Australia. The Committee recommends a Modern Slavery Act should be introduced in Australia, to ensure coherence with global legislative developments, to ensure a level playing field, to increase disclosure which in turn allows companies to understand what good practice looks like, and enables stakeholders to understand to what extent companies understand and address risks and hold them accountable. Most importantly, legislation can, and in the case of the UK has driven change.

As the UK law built and improved upon the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, the Australian law should build upon existing legislation in the establishment of its own modern slavery act. The Advisory Committee recommends

  • to replicate strong elements of the transparency in supply chains provision of the UK Modern Slavery Act, namely: annual reporting, legal requirements (board approval, director sign-off, link on homepage), inclusion of both large and medium sized companies, extra-territorial reach, and government guidance on reporting
  • to improve on the UK Modern Slavery Act, namely: introduce a central registry maintained by the government as well as a publicly available list of companies required to report, require mandatory due diligence and disclosure, include procurement incentives, strengthen monitoring and enforcement by government and access to remedy for victims.

Critically, modern slavery legislation in the UK has helped create a discussion on these issues in the public sphere, which has increased the demand for action. It has also highlighted the role business plays in creating and perpetuating the conditions for modern slavery, but also the potential to assist in eradicating it. It is up to leading governments to drive this discussion even further and continue to demand more of companies no matter where they operate.