​Anti-slavery legislation: could it happen here?


​Anti-slavery legislation: could it happen here?

Should Australia adopt national legislation to combat modern slavery, similar perhaps to the recently introduced Modern Slavery Act 2015 in the UK?


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Should Australia adopt national legislation to combat modern slavery, similar perhaps to the recently introduced Modern Slavery Act 2015 in the UK?

On 15 February 2017, the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Commonwealth Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade announced it would conduct an inquiry into this issue. 

The committee is accepting submissions regarding the inquiry’s terms of reference until 28 April 2017.

This article examines the current terms of reference and summarises the provisions of the UK Act for background purposes.

Terms of inquiry

The terms of the inquiry are as follows:
  1. The nature and extent of modern slavery (including slavery, forced labour and wage exploitation, involuntary servitude, debt bondage, human trafficking, forced marriage and other slavery-like exploitation) both in Australia and globally 
  2. The prevalence of modern slavery in the domestic and global supply chains of companies, businesses and organisations operating in Australia
  3. Identifying international best practice employed by governments, companies, businesses and organisations to prevent modern slavery in domestic and global supply chains, with a view to strengthening Australian legislation
  4. The implications for Australia’s visa regime, and conformity with the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children regarding federal compensation for victims of modern slavery
  5. Provisions in the United Kingdom’s legislation which have proven effective in addressing modern slavery, and whether similar or improved measures should be introduced in Australia 
  6. Whether a Modern Slavery Act should be introduced in Australia
  7. Any other related matters”.

Overview of UK Modern Slavery Act

As the inquiry’s terms of reference will be using the UK Act as a potential model, it is worth studying its provisions.
  • On 31 March each year, all UK organisations that are involved in the supply of goods and services and which have a turnover of at least 36 million pounds per year are required to lodge a slavery and human trafficking statement. 
  • The statement has to set out the steps the organisation took during the previous year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in any of its supply chains and in any parts of its own business. Alternatively, it must explicitly state that the organisation took no such steps.
  • The organisation must place a copy of the statement on its website and include a prominent link to it on the website’s home page. If it has no website, it must provide a written copy of the statement within 30 days of receiving a request to do so.

Contents of a statement

Section 54 of the Act sets out the following contents a statement should contain:
  • Information on nature of the business, organisation structure and its supply chains
  • Organisation policies relating to slavery and human trafficking
  • Due diligence measures used in relation to preventing slavery and human trafficking in both the business itself and its supply chains
  • List parts of the business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking, and the steps taken to assess and manage those risks
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of those steps, and the performance indicators used in the evaluation
  • Details of any training provided to employees about slavery and human trafficking.
A recent article on the UK HR website Personnel Today expanded on the above contents and included links to sample clauses to include in a statement.

The contents of this article are summarised below:
  • Introduction – state commitment to understanding slavery/trafficking risks and ensuring they do not exist in business and supply chains
  • Organisation structure/supply chains – include a list of all countries the business operates in and flag those that may pose risks
  • Responsibility for anti-slavery initiatives – state who is responsible, and for what initiatives
  • Links to relevant organisation policies
  • Due diligence procedures, eg for reviewing supplier and issuing directions to them to take remedial action
  • Types of key performance indicators used in evaluation process, changes/trends since previous report, and when (if ever) the KPIs are likely to be met
  • Details of training provided, both local and overseas, as well as any awareness-raising initiatives.


Further details about the about the inquiry, including how to contribute, can be obtained from the committee’s website, or by contacting the committee secretariat, email jscfadt@aph.gov.au.

Further reading: Writing a Modern Slavery Statement: a Guide for Employers”, Personnel Today.
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