The Australian Government is understood to be preparing to release draft legislation proposing the introduction of a 'modern slavery in supply chains' reporting requirement.

According to law firm Littler, the proposal is expected to be released in April and could require all companies operating in Australia and meeting a threshold of AUD100m (US$78.05m) in total annual global revenue to report annually on their efforts to address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.

"If enacted, the Act will add to the increasing number of national laws that place direct obligations on certain companies to report upon efforts to identify and mitigate human rights risks such as human trafficking, child labour, and other forms of forced labour from their global operations," the law firm says.

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

The Consultation Paper recognises that while other countries – including the UK, the US, France, and the Netherlands, as well as the European Union (EU) – have strengthened national laws on modern slavery, the current Australian regulatory framework does not directly encourage companies to take action to combat modern slavery.

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."

It is intended to apply to a broad range of entities, including corporate bodies, unincorporated associations or bodies of persons, superannuation funds and approved deposit funds – regardless of industry or sector or the level of risk for "modern slavery." Any of these entities that are either headquartered in Australia or have "any part of their operations in Australia" and meet the revenue threshold of AUD100m in total annual global revenue, are subject to the Proposed Act.