Labor has criticised a new regime requiring large companies to report on modern slavery in supply chains because it lacks penalties for non-compliance. Source: SBS News.
Businesses turning over more than $100 million will have to report what they are doing to stamp out slavery in supply chains.
But companies won’t face any penalties for shirking responsibility or false reporting - a leading criticism of the legislation which passed the Senate yesterday.
“Big business cannot be trusted to police themselves on modern slavery,” Labor frontbencher Don Farrell said. “The experience overseas makes the need for penalties crystal clear.”
Government minister Linda Reynolds said civil penalties would be examined in a review of the scheme due three years after the laws come into place.
“Business feedback shows market scrutiny as well as reputational risk and reward will drive compliance more effectively than punitive penalties,” Senator Reynolds said.
Modern slavery practices include people trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage. More than 40 million people worldwide are believed to be victims of modern slavery, including 4300 Australians.
The draft laws will go to the House of Representatives to approve government changes requiring allowing the minister to send a please explain to companies failing to report.
Under the amendments, the minister also must report annually to parliament about how the regime is working.
Oxfam Australia applauded the government’s efforts but chief Helen Szoke said it was disappointing that calls for an independent anti-slavery commissioner were not heeded.
“Oxfam urges for this decision to be revisited as the act is reviewed in the future,” Dr Szoke said.
The need for penalties for non-compliance should also be reviewed, she added.
Meanwhile, in a statement on its website last night, Australian Catholic Religious Against Human Trafficking (ACRATH) commended the passage of the bill in the Senate.
"ACRATH congratulates all who have had a part in bringing the bill to this stage," the statement said.
Australian firms to face slavery reporting (SBS News)
Modern Slavery Bill Passes Senate (ACRATH)
Why ethical supply chains make great business sense (The Australian)