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Human Rights Commission backs calls for modern slavery law

Business and Human Rights Business and Human Rights
Female workers in a garment factory. Wikimedia Commons Marlssa Orton

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow has welcomed the call – across political lines – for a modern slavery act in Australia.

A sub-committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade yesterday tabled its final report, Hidden in Plain Sight, following its inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.

The Sub-Committee, chaired by Chris Crewther MP, found new laws were needed to combat modern slavery. In particular, the Committee recommended that large businesses be required to identify and report slavery risks in their supply chains. The proposed legislation would draw on a similar law passed in the United Kingdom in 2015.

“Hidden in Plain Sight shines a light on modern slavery. The report sets out a reform process that is practical and realistic,” said Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow.

“Worldwide, we know there are more slaves now than at any time in human history. About half of the world’s 45.8 million slaves live in our region – the Asia Pacific.

“We have an obligation to address modern forms of slavery, which can include human trafficking, forced labour, wage exploitation and debt bondage.

“This can also occur here in Australia, where there are estimated to be at least 4300 people being exploited in slavery conditions.”

In October, the Commission brought together a diverse group of leaders calling for new legislation to combat modern slavery in Australia. The leaders’ statement welcomed the progress that had been made so far, and set out principles to guide this reform process.

“By introducing effective modern slavery legislation, Australia can establish itself as a global leader in the fight against modern slavery," Commissioner Santow said.

“This is an opportunity to work cooperatively to address the modern incarnation of an ancient problem."

The Hidden in Plain Sight report was the culmination of a year-long parliamentary inquiry, which attracted multi-party support.

“It is very significant that the major political parties have come together to work co-operatively on this vital human rights reform,” Commissioner Santow said.

“I commend the Chair of this Parliamentary Committee, Cris Crewther MP, and the members from all sides of politics who contributed to this report."


Photo: Marrissa Orton via Creative Commons