New laws aimed at stamping out modern slavery in Australia and overseas were yesterday introduced in federal Parliament. Source: ABC News.
The Labor opposition has labelled the proposed reforms “toothless”, but plans to grant them bipartisan support.
If passed, the laws will mean around 3,000 businesses in Australia with an annual turnover of $100 million or more will need to identity any modern slavery in their supply chain, and report it to authorities.
“Businesses will then have to detail what steps they have taken, and will take, to address these risks,” said Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Alex Hawke.
“This bill will enable large businesses, consumers, civil society and government to work together to eliminate modern slavery in supply chains.”
A Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit, costing $3.6 million, will set up the reporting requirements and support the 3,000 affected Australian businesses.
Modern slavery includes where people are forced into prostitution, or forced to work for low wages in construction, sweatshops or food supply chains. It can include also underpayment of wages, denied visa extensions by employers or being forced to live in squalid accommodation.
Opposition justice spokesperson Clare O’Neil said the bill was weak because it did not set a penalty for businesses that refused to report on slavery in their supply chain.
“The penalties Labor is calling for are not for businesses that find slavery in their supply chain, because businesses who find slavery and do something about it should be applauded,” she said.
“We are talking about businesses that can’t even be bothered complying with the modern slavery act, because if they can’t be bothered making a report, then I think they should be penalised.”
A department spokesperson said penalties were not needed to ensure business followed the law, but the law would be reviewed in three years to see if it was working.
The government said the legislation was not a response to recommendations by a 2017 parliamentary inquiry into modern slavery, whose recommendations were still being considered.
Govt vows to lead by example on slave laws (SBS News)