Provisions of and support for the bill
The first part of this chapter summarises the key provisions of the
bill, which would:
establish a modern slavery reporting requirement;
set out which entities would be required to make Modern Slavery Statements
under the requirement, what information would need to be included in statements,
and provide for the creation of a government-administered central registry on
which statements would be published and made publicly available;
establish a Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit in the
Department of Home Affairs, which will work with the business community to
support the implementation of the reporting requirement; and
provide for a review of the Act three years after commencement.
This chapter also summarises the broad support for the bill expressed in
evidence received by the committee.
Provisions of the Bill
Slavery Reporting Requirement
As noted in
the previous chapter, the bill would establish a reporting requirement that
would require reporting entities to provide an annual statement, known as a
Modern Slavery Statement, to the responsible Minister. Statements would also be
published online on a central register administered by the government.
required to report
slavery reporting requirement would apply to a range of entities operating in
and foreign entities carrying on business in Australia would be required to
submit a statement for every 12-month period that their annual global revenue
exceeds $100 million. In explaining the $100 million threshold,
which would capture approximately 3,000 entities, Assistant Minister Hawke
indicated that this would ensure the reporting requirement was focused on
'entities that have the capacity to meaningfully comply and the market
influence to clean up and address their global supply chains'. A number of inquiry participants
commented on whether the threshold had been appropriately set—this question is
explored further in the next chapter.
Commonwealth would also be required to publish an annual consolidated statement
under the Act on behalf of all non-corporate Commonwealth entities, as defined
in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
corporations and companies would not be included in the Commonwealth's
consolidated statement, and would instead be treated like any other entity. As
such, if those entities meet the revenue threshold, they would be considered a
'reporting entity' and must comply with the reporting requirement.
Explanatory Memorandum explains that requiring Modern Slavery Statements from
the Commonwealth, corporate Commonwealth entities and Commonwealth companies:
...helps to create a level playing field by covering as many
entity types as practicable. It will also help ensure that potential modern
slavery risks in Government procurement are assessed and addressed.
Additionally, entities falling under the threshold would still be able
to provide a voluntary public statement of compliance with the Act, should they
wish to do so. As the Explanatory Memorandum notes, this will facilitate
voluntarily statements where, for example, an entity wishes 'to demonstrate
their commitment to identifying and mitigating modern slavery risks in their
operations and supply chains'.
Mandatory criteria for Modern Slavery
Section 16 of
the bill sets out what reporting entities, including the Commonwealth, must
address in their Modern Slavery Statement. The mandatory criteria are intended
to provide reporting entities with clarity as to their obligations, while also
helping ensure that statements are consistent and can be easily compared.
statements would include certain mandatory criteria set out in the Explanatory
structure, operations and supply chains;
modern slavery risks in the entity's operations and supply chains;
entity has taken to assess and address those risks, including due diligence and
remediation processes; and
entity assesses the effectiveness of those actions.
Slavery Statements would also:
the reporting entity, describe consultation with other entities and details of
approvals, and can include other relevant information. A Modern Slavery
Statement must be signed by a responsible member for the entity, approved by
the principal governing body of the entity and provided to the Minister within
six months from the end of the entity's financial year.
It should be noted that Section 10 makes it clear that the bill extends
outside Australia. As such, in preparing Modern Slavery Statements, reporting
entities will need to consider modern slavery risks in their global operations
and supply chains, not only their operations and supply chains in Australia.
Access to Modern Slavery Statements
through central register
The government would make entities' Modern Slavery Statements available
through a free, publicly accessible central register, to be administered by the
Department of Home Affairs. Entities would also have discretion to publish
their statements on their webpages, in annual reports or elsewhere.
Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit
includes provisions to establish a Business Engagement Unit in the Department
of Home Affairs. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, this measure would
'ensure business is appropriately supported to address modern slavery risks in
their supply chains'.
Explanatory Memorandum notes that the Business Engagement Unit would create a
single point of contact for stakeholders to seek guidance and non-binding
advice on compliance with the reporting requirement, including how to remedy
identified risks of modern slavery. The functions and performance of the Business
Engagement Unit would be assessed on an ongoing basis, including through the
Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery's annual report to
Parliament, Senate Estimates and feedback from businesses.
of the Act
provides that the Minister must commence a review of the Modern Slavery Act
three years after commencement, and complete the review within 12 months.
The purpose of the review will be to ensure the Modern Slavery Reporting
Requirement 'remains effective and responsive to the Australian context'.
Explanatory Memorandum notes that the timeframe of the review means that it
would take place:
...after reporting entities have published at least two Modern
Slavery Statements to ensure there is a sufficient evidence base to inform the
review. This will facilitate an effective review of the practical operation and
implementation of the Act, including the levels of compliance by reporting
entities and the quality of Modern Slavery Statements.
Support for the bill
received by the committee was overwhelmingly supportive of the bill, even in
instances when inquiry participants suggested certain amendments (as discussed
in the next chapter). In particular, a large number of inquiry participants
welcomed the bill as an important first step toward addressing the challenges
of modern slavery, with some also noting that the bill stood as a sign of the
government's commitment to addressing slavery and slavery-like conditions in
Australian supply chains.
submitters noted that the proposed Act would put Australia at the forefront of
global efforts to address slavery. For example, Project Respect noted that the
bill 'ensures the Australian Government is one of the few global governments
which are actively addressing the issue of slavery in supply chains'.
In a similar
vein, some inquiry participants noted that the measures in the bill to tackle
modern slavery in supply chains compared favourably to approaches taken in
other jurisdictions. For example, the Uniting Church submitted:
combined with the establishment of a new Modern Slavery Business Engagement
Unit, is a vastly superior system design for the reporting of entities on what
they are doing to address modern slavery in their supply chains over the UK
Modern Slavery Act. It keeps the number of reporting entities to a workable
number, making it hard for companies that give the least consideration to the
risks of modern slavery from being able to hide in a pack of thousands of
entities that fail to fulfil their reporting obligation. It also, unlike the UK
Act, spells out meaningful aspects that the reports by entities must address.
Ideally, the bill would have additional sections addressing other issues, but
as the Bill stands it is a valuable step forward even without amendment.
the Walk Free Foundation (Walk Free) commended the bill, and observed that,
while it has been 'modelled on the United Kingdom Modern Slavery Act..., [it]
is in several respects a significantly superior piece of legislation'. Walk
Free also highlighted the value of the central register, and welcomed the
inclusion of the Commonwealth as a reporting entity in the proposed regime:
creation of a central repository within government for lodging business
statements will be a powerful force for transparency and compliance and will
address a significant weakness of the UK Act. The decision to include
Commonwealth public procurement in the supply chain reporting regime is a world
first and will have resonance in other jurisdictions. No longer will
governments be able to set expectations on business for tackling modern slavery
that they do not also apply to their own departments and agencies. Both
measures are important initiatives in driving effective accountability for
tackling modern slavery.
A number of
submissions identified a number of other features of the bill that would make
the Act strong and effective. For example, the Freedom Project welcomed the inclusion of a
number of the bill's provisions:
The broad definition of a 'reporting entity'–especially
inclusion of the Commonwealth;
The definition of 'Modern Slavery' to include the worst forms
of child labour;
A voluntary Modern Slavery Statement for those outside the
Mandatory criteria for the Modern Slavery Statement,
including being signed by a responsible member of the company;
A Minister responsible for maintaining a register of Modern
The registration of revised Modern Slavery Statements and;
A review of the Act after 3 years.
Council of Australia (BCA) observed that the measures contained in the bill
would complement the existing work being undertaken by large businesses to
identify and tackle slavery in their supply chains. In particular, the BCA
expressed its support for how the bill sets out:
effective and proportionate reporting requirement that harnesses transparency
to drive better practice and governance of modern slavery risks in supply
chains and operations.
will complement the existing initiatives underway by large businesses to
voluntarily disclose modern slavery issues and continuously improve the
governance of modern slavery risks in their supply chains and operations.
believe the current Bill adopts the right focus of encouraging companies to
continuously assess their supply chains and operations for evidence of modern
slavery, instead of a more prescriptive or punitive approach.
A number of
submitters supported the Business Engagement Unit as a central feature of the
Act to encourage compliance and provide advice to the business sector. For
example, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH)
commented that it:
the announcement from the Government in May 2018 that an Anti-Slavery Business Engagement
Unit will be
established to support and provide advice to business on modern slavery risks
and manage a central repository of all Modern Slavery Statements.
A number of
submitters highlighted the extensive consultation that informed the
Commonwealth's development of the bill, and commended the high level of
engagement shown by parliamentarians and the public sector in the discussion about
how to tackle modern slavery.
For example, the Salvation Army submitted that it:
like to acknowledge the enormous effort that has gone into this legislation by
hundreds of stakeholders, particularly the work of the public servants in the
Department of Home Affairs who have undertaken extensive, genuine consultation
to inform this bill. We commend the government for its leadership in developing
the Modern Slavery Bill and are grateful for the genuine engagement offered by
many Members, Senators, and Committee representatives.
thread in much of the evidence received was that the Parliament should pass the
bill with multiparty support as soon as possible, even when they noted
potential areas in which the bill could be strengthened.
For example, Walk Free argued:
for the prompt passage of an agreed Modern Slavery Bill comes from nearly every
section of Australian society and politics. Business, civil society, religions,
academics, and lawyers have all argued their support to pass legislation to
tackle modern slavery. The Government, the Labor Opposition, the Greens
and other Parliamentarians have been supportive and have engaged seriously in
the policy work. The [Joint Committee] Report was unanimous.
consensus is rare indeed and one well worth sustaining.
Ms Laura McManus, Responsible Sourcing Manager, Woolworths Group Ltd,
also spoke about the goodwill and consensus that has characterised the
development of the bill, and hoped this would continue in its consideration by the
[I]t feels like we're close to having a modern slavery act in
Australia, and it's a really exciting prospect. I commend all parties on the
momentum to get us to this point, particularly the early work of the joint
standing committee, and welcome ongoing bipartisan support to see the timely
passage of the legislation.
sentiment was echoed by Dr Mark Zirnsak, the Senior Social Justice Advocate for
the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church of Australia (Uniting
Church), who told the committee that:
perspective, the worst possible outcome here, given the momentum that now
exists towards doing the reporting [under the Act], would be that we have a
bill that gets amended in the Senate but then can't pass the House of Representatives
and gets stuck in permanent stalemate. We will lose all that momentum.
Kakoschke-Moore, Special Adviser for the International Justice Mission
Australia (IJM Australia), told the committee:
to make this point very clear: we do not want the perfect [to] be the enemy of
the good, and we would like to see this legislation passed without delay. It is
no exaggeration to say that the lives of millions of people stand to change for
the better once Australian entities start investigating their supply chains,
but given the opportunity still exists for this legislation to be amended, we
would encourage this committee and the government to remain open minded about
ways to enhance the effectiveness of this legislation and to ensure it achieves
its intended aims.
Summary and next chapter
As noted previously, the evidence received by the committee was broadly
supportive of the bill as an important step toward addressing the challenge of
modern slavery. In particular, inquiry participants were overwhelmingly supportive
of the bill's objective of assisting the business community in Australia to
take proactive and effective actions to address modern slavery.
Notwithstanding this broad support, many inquiry participants suggested
ways in which the bill might be amended to extend or, in their view, otherwise
strengthen the government's actions to address modern slavery. These suggested
amendments, and the issues they relate to, are considered in the next
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