In August 2017 the Australian government proposed legislation requiring businesses to report annually on the steps they take to address modern slavery in their supply chains. After a series of stakeholder engagement roundtables, consultations and public hearings, the Modern Slavery Act (2018) (the ‘Act’) passed through all stages of Parliament and entered into force on 1 January 2019.
The Act models itself on existing legislation such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (2010) and Section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) (the ‘UK Act’) which require corporate disclosure of the steps businesses are taking to address and mitigate risk of modern slavery throughout their operations and supply chains. Whereas the UK Act seeks to define and legislate against all forms of exploitation and trafficking by all actors, the Australia Act is dedicated solely to eradicating modern slavery in business.
The Act contains guidance on the entities to whom the reporting requirement applies, the meaning of reporting, the content of reporting statements, and makes provision for a publicly accessible register of statements. An estimated 3000 businesses will be required to report under the Act.
It received cross-party support and an almost unanimously positive reception from private sector and civil society. The passing of this Act signifies sincere, bipartisan recognition of the prevalence of and need to combat modern slavery today. It signals a clear commitment to ensure businesses operating in Australia are not contributing to this crime and are instead working to eradicate it wherever it occurs across the world.
In June 2018 New South Wales became the first jurisdiction within Australia to pass state-level modern slavery legislation. The NSW Modern Slavery Act (2018) is distinct from the federal legislation and has a lower reporting threshold at AUS$50m rather than the $100m of the Australia Modern Slavery Act.
The Australian Government has committed to setting up a Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit. The Unit has been allocated $3.6m and will sit within the Department of Home Affairs to advise and support businesses on the content and legal reporting requirements of the Act.
Ardea International submitted evidence to the Australian Parliament during their enquiry. We have produced a guide setting out key aspects of the Australian Act. A guide on the NSW Act will follow once the legislation comes into force. Click here to access the guide.
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