Effectiveness over efficiency’ in Australia’s duty to prevent modern slavery

25 civil society organizations call for ‘effectiveness over efficiency’ in Australia’s duty to prevent modern slavery

25 civil society organizations have called for a focus on effectiveness in ending modern slavery over efficiency of implementing the Modern Slavery Act, as part of Be Slavery Free’s submission to the Modern Slavery Act Review.

Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 (the Act)– which currently focuses on corporate supply chain transparency and reporting of modern slavery risks – does not consider a whole-of-government approach to anti-slavery legislation and initiatives. This means there is no coordinated approach to prevent modern slavery from occurring, respond to risks as they arise, or provision of remedy to victim-survivors of slavery when it occurs.

The Act is undergoing its first review, three years after implementation. However, the focus so far has predominantly been on improving efficiency in corporate reporting against the Act – rather than effectiveness in ending modern slavery.

Be Slavery Free is calling for a shift to a due diligence approach, rather than a reporting and transparency-based framework, that ensures all companies are required to ‘do no harm’. As part of this response, companies should receive support from Government to improve the accuracy of their reporting and face penalties for non-compliance.

“Simply requiring companies to make a statement about modern slavery in their supply chains and their activities to mitigate risk is at best ineffective, and at worst, harmful” says Carolyn Kitto, Co-Director, Be Slavery Free.

“More than 50 million people are in slavery around the world. Australia will continue to contribute to this exploitation unless corporate standards are enforced, practice is analysed, and penalties for failing to uphold required standards”, Carolyn Kitto continued.

Without rigorous checks and significant penalties, companies who are doing the right thing and working to end slavery in their supply chains are at a competitive disadvantage, compared to those who neglect their responsibilities.

Be Slavery Free recommends the appointment of an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to oversee and enforce the Act and all other modern slavery interventions. Doing so would help position Australia alongside other world-leading countries in its response to modern slavery.

Amongst the 11 recommendations submitted by the coalition of civil society organisations, Be Slavery Free calls for more published guidance and support for companies working in high-risk regions and industries, as well as for small and medium enterprises, who are impacted by the Act’s reporting requirements.

Additionally, Australia’s response to modern slavery – through the Modern Slavery Act and the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery – relies on civil society organizations and academia to review and assess data, raise awareness and provide practical support to victim-survivors of slavery. However, the sector receives no ongoing funding to undertake this work.

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