A coalition of human rights organisations and academics, including Associate Professor Vikram Bhakoo from the University of Melbourne, has released a new research report revealing the results of a detailed survey of nearly 90 business groups on the impact of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act.
Supported by in-depth focus groups, it is the first in-depth study using both survey and focus groups to examine business responses to modern slavery in Australia.
The report Australia’s Modern Slavery Act: Is It Fit For Purpose? finds that, of the businesses surveyed:
- 70% support the establishment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
- 67% would find it easier to comply with the Modern Slavery Act if it were harmonised with international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- 61% would likely improve modern slavery responses if required to undertake human rights due diligence.
- 54% would likely improve modern slavery responses if financial penalties were introduced.
The research also investigated company approaches to remedying modern slavery in supply chains, finding that failing to engage stakeholders presents a major barrier to remediating modern slavery, while increased transparency between companies and their suppliers results in more effective remediation practices.
The coalition are calling on the government to strengthen the legislation by:
- Requiring companies to undertake due diligence to prevent and address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains;
- Introducing penalties for companies that fail to comply with the Act;
- Ensuring appropriate oversight and enforcement of the Act by appointing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
Associate Professor Bhakoo said, "Harmonising the Modern Slavery Act with international standards and introducing penalties for non-compliance would significantly enhance the effectiveness of the Act, encouraging companies to take a more proactive role in addressing modern slavery in their supply chains."
From a supply chain perspective, this report provides an a very nuanced insight into the problematic issue of remediation practices and highlights the importance of transparency as critical for developing effective remediation practices for victims and survivors of modern slavery.
You can download a copy of the research report here.
Australia’s Modern Slavery Act: Is It Fit For Purpose? is the third report released in a multi-year collaborative project evaluating company responses to Australia's modern slavery reporting regime, and follows earlier reports ‘Broken Promises’ and ‘Paper Promises’.
The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) is currently under a three-year statutory review lead by Professor John McMillan AO, which ended on 31 March 2023. The review is expected to be released publicly in coming weeks.
The research was undertaken by academics from the Australian Human Rights Institute (UNSW Sydney), Business and Human Rights Centre (RMIT), the University of Melbourne, the University of Notre Dame Australia, the University of Western Australia and Willamette University, together with the Human Rights Law Centre and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.