Modern slavery is a heinous crime that affects millions of people around the world. Evidence to this inquiry has highlighted the devastating impact of modern slavery and the need for stronger measures to combat it.
This interim report addresses one aspect of how to better combat modern slavery in the global supply chains of Australian businesses, companies, organisations and governments.
Conduct of the inquiry
On 15 February 2017, the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, referred the inquiry to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT). On 15 February 2017, the JSCFADT referred the inquiry to its Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee to undertake.
In referring the inquiry, the Attorney-General requested the Committee ensure there would be no unnecessary overlap between this inquiry and an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement (JCLE) into human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices. The report for the JCLE’s inquiry was tabled on 18 July 2017.
At the time of publication the Committee had published 201 submissions. These submissions are available from the Committee’s website. The full list of submissions and other evidence will be published in the Committee’s final report.
At the time of publication, public hearings had been conducted in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Transcripts of these hearings are available from the Committee’s website. The full list of public hearings will be published in the Committee’s final report.
The Committee thanks those submitters and witnesses who have provided evidence to the inquiry to date. The Committee will continue to consider submissions and hold further public hearings as it prepares its final report.
Overview of inquiry
‘Modern slavery’ is a broad umbrella term used to describe a number of crimes including, but not limited to, human trafficking, forced labour, sexual slavery, child labour and trafficking, domestic servitude, forced marriage, bonded labour including debt bondage, slavery and other slavery-like practices. Estimates suggest 45.8 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, including 20.9 million victims of forced labour. Notably there are an estimated 30.4 million victims of modern slavery in the Asia-Pacific region.
This inquiry addresses how Australia can better combat modern slavery in Australia and around the world to eradicate these exploitative practices. Central to the Committee’s inquiry is the question of whether Australia should introduce a Modern Slavery Act similar to and improving on the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 (UK Act). The Committee has received a large number of submissions addressing a wide range of issues, including, but not limited to:
defining ‘modern slavery’;
the prevalence of modern slavery in Australia and overseas, including human trafficking, forced labour and child exploitation through orphanage tourism;
identifying and prosecuting cases of modern slavery;
supporting and protecting victims of modern slavery;
establishing an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner; and
introducing supply chain transparency reporting requirements.
Scope and purpose of interim report
The Committee recognises that the Australian Government is co-hosting the Bali Process Government and Business Forum on human trafficking in Perth on 24-25 August 2017. The forum aims to bring together ministers and business leaders from the 45 Bali Process countries to determine policies to tackle human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour. The forum will be led by Mr Andrew Forrest AO and Mr Eddy Sariaatmadja as the private sector co-chairs, recognising the private sector's critical role in combating these crimes in supply chains in the region.
Ahead of the forum, the Committee agreed to prepare an interim report summarising responses to whether Australia should, more generally, introduce a Modern Slavery Act and, under this Act, introduce requirements for companies, businesses, organisations and governements operating in Australia to report on how they identify and address risks in their global supply chains, similar to section 54 of the UK Act.
The Committee received a large number of submissions from a range of stakeholders including governments, businesses, non-government organisations, academics, peak bodies and individuals commenting on the supply chain reporting aspect of the UK Act. This interim report summarises these submissions.
The Committee notes that submissions addressed a range of other important issues for consideration including support for victims of modern slavery, prevention of orphanage tourism, Australia’s visa regime and identification and prosecution of cases of modern slavery in Australia and overseas. The Committee agreed to address these issues in its final report.
The Committee notes that the JCLE’s report on human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices has made a number of recommendations relating to issues addressed in submissions to this inquiry, including establishing an independent anti-slavery and trafficking commissioner, improving Australia’s visa framework and establishing a federal victim compensation scheme. The Committee also notes that the NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council Select Committee on human trafficking in New South Wales is due to report by September 2017 on the role and effectiveness of NSW law enforcement agencies in responding to human trafficking. The Committee will consider the recommendations of these inquiries in its final report.
Outline of interim report
This chapter sets out the scope and purpose of this interim report.
Chapter two summarises and examines the operation of section 54 of the UK Act and other international examples of supply chain reporting and due diligence requirements. It also summarises the outcomes of a parliamentary delegation of members of the Committee which visited the UK in April and May 2017 to investigate the operation of the UK Act.
Chapter three summarises submissions to the inquiry responding to whether supply chain transparency reporting should be introduced in Australia, similar to section 54 of the UK Act. It highlights the significant support from Australian businesses and organisations to introduce supply chain transparency reporting, and outlines many key principles identified by submitters and witnesses to consider in the development of any proposed legislation.
Chapter four outlines the Committee’s recommendations, statements of in‑principle support and areas for further consideration in the Committee’s final report.