Catholic organisations have called for laws to be strengthened in submissions to a Commonwealth review into the operation of the Modern Slavery Act.
The Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network (ACAN), representing 51 Catholic entities, made a submission to the review, while Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking Humans (ACRATH) made a joint submission.
CRA explained the current Australian law works as a reporting and transparency-based framework rather than a mechanism to prevent human trafficking.
“The current legislation has no authority to investigate and ensure compliance, and no penalties for non- submission of reports,” said Fr Peter Jones OSA, CRA president.
There are 50 million people who live in slavery globally, 71 per cent of whom are women and girls. However, only one in five victims are detected in Australia.
CRA national executive director Anne Walker said, “Human trafficking is an insidious and pervasive cancer in our society and one which must be tackled at both an individual and systemic level.”
ACRATH executive officer Christine Carolan said, “The mobile phones we use, the coffee we drink, the clothes we wear all may have been tainted by modern slavery, and yet consumer action to stop the slavery is reliant on an incomplete Modern Slavery Reporting Register.
“The onus is on government to ensure transparency in supply chains and a more effective and well-resourced register.”
In a statement about its submission to the review, ACAN said: “With 50 million people trapped in modern slavery today it is clear that ACAN must urgently continue its collective efforts to create the “economy of care” that Pope Francis has called for. This economy will offer products and services for the growth of the common good and guarantee dignified working conditions for all.”
ACAN, CRA and ACRATH each requested a speedy establishment of an Independent Modern Slavery Commissioner. ACAN has pressed for greater penalties for entities that fail to comply with the act, while CRA and ACRATH called on the Government to establish a national compensation scheme for survivors of modern slavery.