Modern slavery currently claims the freedom of more than 45 million people globally. These people may be subjected to conditions involving domestic servitude, sex trafficking, orphanage trafficking, bonded labour, forced marriage and other forms of modern slavery
The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that more than 4,000 victims are within Australia..
To participate in an inter-governmental movement for tackling the issue , MLC Paul Green introduced into the NSW Legislative Council the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 (NSW) ("the Bill"), with the objective of providing a "stepping stone" to eliminate modern slavery in Australia, and globally.
The Bill follows the Inquiry into Human Trafficking in New South Wales, but it also comes following the release by the Commonwealth Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade in December 2017 of its report into modern slavery, "Hidden in Plain Sight: An Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia". The federal report recommended:
- the establishment of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia and an Anti-slavery Commissioner,
- the refinement of a proposed model for mandatory supply chain reporting, and
- support for victims including a national compensation scheme.
The report can be accessed online.
The bill – a brief breakdown
The Bill provides for the appointment of an independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, with responsibilities that would include supply chain risk monitoring and advice, the development of codes of practice, and broader community awareness-raising and education.
The Bill seeks to achieve supply chain transparency by requiring commercial organisations with turnovers of more than $50 million to prepare an annual public modern slavery statement, with penalties for non-compliance. One of the Commissioner's roles would include maintaining a freely-available public register which records where organisations have disclosed that their goods or services are potential products of supply chains involving modern slavery (including whether any remedial steps have been taken).
The Bill contains provisions for modern slavery risk orders for some offences, which enables courts to make orders prohibiting certain conduct if satisfied of specific matters. Contravention of an order, without reasonable excuse (where the onus of proof is reversed), is an offence potentially punishable by pecuniary penalties and/or imprisonment. The Bill also introduces new offences for cybersex trafficking, forced marriages of children and other slavery-like conduct.
At the time of writing, debate on the Bill had been briefly adjourned, but the two major parties have provided provisional support for the Bill.
Modern slavery is one of the most abhorrent global human rights problems at present, with a troubling number of instances still occurring both in Australia and overseas. The Bill is a step in the right direction, and if passed by the NSW Parliament, it will demonstrate the state's strong commitment to the abolition of modern slavery.
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