Slavery bill at risk of becoming a ‘toothless tiger’

Catholic groups say further work on the bill is needed to protect the vulnerable. (Bigstock)

Peak Catholic groups are concerned the Modern Slavery Bill 2018, currently before federal Parliament, could become a “toothless tiger” if their recommendations to the inquiry are not adopted. Source: ACBC Media Blog.

Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) and other Church groups have made submissions strongly supporting the legislation, but have urged politicians to make changes to protect the vulnerable.

Key recommendations from Church groups include: the appointment of an independent anti-slavery commissioner; registration and monitoring of labour hire agencies; the establishment of a national compensation scheme; and penalties for entities that refuse to comply with reporting obligations.

Introduced into Parliament in June, the Modern Slavery Bill will require Australia’s largest businesses – ones with annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million – to publish annual statements on the steps they are taking to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations.

The inquiry and subsequent bill follows Pope Francis’s call for a concerted worldwide effort to address the root causes of human trafficking, which he describes as a crime against humanity.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, chairman of the Bishops Commission for Justice, Ecology and Development, welcomed the bill as a first step in national efforts against slavery.

“But further work is needed to establish an independent anti-slavery commissioner with the resources to drive efforts to eradicate modern slavery, hold large organisations accountable and to introduce human rights due diligence on all public sector procurement,” Bishop O’Kelly said.

The Josephite Counter-Trafficking Project (JCTP), a congregational project of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, argued that any response to the trafficking of people in Australia should have a human rights approach.

“We acknowledge that criminal proceedings do act as a deterrent to traffickers, but we are more concerned about the human dignity and wellbeing of the trafficked person,” the JCTP told the parliamentary inquiry, adding that “mandatory reporting without penalties for non-compliance is like a toothless tiger”.

“JCTP recommends that a comprehensive and consistent national compensation scheme be added to the bill to make restitution for the harm that has been suffered by victims of trafficking.”

In ACRATH’s submission, its president Sr Noelene Simmons SM welcomed the bill, but pointed out its legislative limitations, echoing other calls for the appointment of an independent anti-slavery commissioner and the establishment of a compensation mechanism.


Catholic groups want anti-slavery legislation strengthened (ACBC Media Blog)

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