A coalition of organisations will today release a Statement of Support for the development of legislation to combat Modern Slavery.
It’s estimated that more than 40 million people are living in some form of modern slavery around the world, including human trafficking, servitude, child labour, sex trafficking, forced labour and debt bondage.
Australia is not immune, with an estimated 4,300 people living in modern slavery.
The Australian Government, through a joint-standing committee is investigating legislation to combat Modern Slavery. And in August, the Government announced its intention to introduce legislation that will make it a requirement for large companies to investigate and report on modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
The Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow says the Statement of Support is intended to assist both of these reform processes and provide guiding principles; including transparency, accountability, victim support and leadership.
“This Statement is significant because it brings together a diverse group of leaders from the Australian business community, civil society, the religious community and academia.
“As leaders, we support a unified approach in addressing modern slavery. This is the only way that real change can take place,” Commissioner Santow said.
The Statement of Support says a Modern Slavery Act should be aligned with and reinforce the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
It says clear guidance and support should be provided for organisations that find modern slavery in their operations or supply chains. It says there should be access to appropriate information, remedies and support for victims.
Mans Carlsson-Sweendy from Ausbil Investment Management Limited says the company is pleased to support for the establishment of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.
“Investment risks related to slavery include reputational risks and brand damage as well as general business risk. We therefore welcome improved transparency on how companies are managing modern slavery risk in their supply chains and their own operations.”
Jennifer Burn from Anti-Slavery Australia UTS says the Australian Government should be required to comply with the proposed reporting requirement.
“The Australian government spent close to $60 billion in government procurement in the 2016 financial year. The Australian government should exercise leadership and respond to the risk of modern slavery in its own supply chains,” she said.
Jenny Stanger, the National Manager of the Freedom Partnership to End Modern Slavery says modern slavery is more prevalent today than at any other time in human history.
“I hope that a wide cross-section of the Australian community will endorse this statement. Only by joining together can we tackle this important human rights issue," she said.
The release of the statement coincides with the Annual Australian Dialogue on Business and Human Rights being held in Melbourne today. The event brings together Australian business, government, civil society, investors and academia. This year’s Dialogue will focus on human rights due diligence, a fundamental element of the UN Guiding Principles.
Signatories of the Statement of Support for an Australian Modern Slavery Act
Anti-Slavery Australia UTS
Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans
Australian Human Rights Commission
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
Global Green Tag
Green Building Council Australia
Supply Chain Sustainability School
Uniting Church in Australia - Synod of Victoria & Tasmania
The Freedom Partnership
UNSW Law & Australian Human Rights Institute
Lindy Kerin for Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow
M: 0430 366 529
Jennifer Burn - Anti-Slavery Australia UTS
M: 0403 538 309
Jenny Stanger - Freedom Partnership
0402 399 400