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November 30, 2018

Australia passes Modern Slavery Act

Large companies in Australia will be under obligation to report their efforts to identify and mitigate human rights risks such as human trafficking and child labour in their global operations after the government passed the world’s second Modern Slavery Act.

Large companies in Australia will be under obligation to report their efforts to identify and mitigate human rights risks such as human trafficking and child labour in their global operations after the government passed the world’s second Modern Slavery Act.

Following in the footsteps of the UK, which passed its anti-slavery legislation in 2015, Australia’s Parliament passed the law yesterday (29 November). The legislation requires companies with a turnover of AUD100m (US$73m) or more to report annually on the slavery risks in their supply chains and what they are doing to stamp it out.

Since 2004, the Australian Government is said to have identified 350 suspected victims of modern slavery and prosecuted 55 individuals under criminal laws.

As such, the Government’s purpose for the Act is to: “equip and enable the business community to respond effectively to modern slavery and develop and maintain responsible and transparent supply chains.”

Australia’s legislation is said to be stricter on the information companies must provide than the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, according to Reuters. And there has also been criticism for its lack of an independent anti-slavery commissioner and financial penalties for non-compliant companies. It is understood the inclusion of civil penalties will be considered in a review three years after the legislation comes into force.

Despite this, anti-slavery organisation the Walk Free Foundation commended the passing of the legislation.

“This Act will help us ensure the goods we buy are slave free,” said founder Andrew Forrest. “We cannot continue to allow the often-invisible victims of modern slavery to be stripped of their freedoms. The products they produce are found in the supply chains of Australian and international companies that provide the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear and the consumer goods we use.

“It is our responsibility to end this criminal abuse of human rights, and this world-class legislation will help us do that.”

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