Landmark report on modern slavery inquiry released

Mr Crewther, Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, today tabled the Committee’s final report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, to Parliament.

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Mr Crewther, Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, today tabled the Committee’s final report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, to Parliament.

As Chair, Mr Crewther first sought to undertake this Parliamentary Inquiry as he felt it “would make a significant difference to Australia’s ongoing international efforts to combat modern slavery, both in Australia and globally.”

Mr Crewther subsequently led the Inquiry examining Australia’s efforts in combatting modern slavery, which received over 220 submissions and held ten public hearings around the country.

Latest estimates suggest that over 40 million people around the world, including 4,300 in Australia, are victims of some form of modern slavery, which includes human trafficking, slavery, debt bondage, forced labour, orphanage trafficking, child labour and other slavery-like practices.

The Inquiry has received significant public interest, given the importance of tackling this issue and the hidden impact on the lives of everyday Australians.

The report makes 49 recommendations to improve Australia’s efforts to fight modern slavery both domestically and globally.

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, similar to but improving on the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. The Committee also recommends that the proposed Act establish an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, as well as mandatory supply chain reporting requirements for entities operating in Australia with a turnover threshold above $50million, including government. The Committee further recommends improvements to:

  • support for victims (including a national compensation scheme);
  • criminal justice responses (including training for frontline officials); and
  • protections for workers vulnerable to exploitation (including changes to Australia’s visa framework and establishing a national labour hire licensing scheme).

The Committee heard particular concerns about ‘orphanage trafficking’ and recommends a range measures to ensure that Australians do not perpetuate the exploitation of children in overseas orphanages through donations or tourism.

This includes establishing a register of approved orphanages and a national awareness campaign on the risks of orphanage trafficking.

Furthermore, Mr Crewther noted that the Australian Government had already committed to developing modern slavery legislation around the supply chain reporting requirement, which is already a significant outcome of having launched the Inquiry.

Specifically in August, the Minister for Justice, the Hon. Michael Keenan MP, announced a similar supply chain reporting requirement for business, as well as opening up a consultation process around a proposed model.

Mr Crewther said that the Government “should introduce and enhance its legislation and practices in line with the recommendations in this report, in order to make a significant contribution to combatting modern slavery.”

“A wide-ranging Australian Modern Slavery Act would effectively operate in concert with other Australian efforts, such as the National Plan to Combat Slavery and the Bali Process, in fighting this heinous crime both domestically and globally,” said Mr Crewther.

Moreover, Mr Crewther was extremely concerned about reports of orphanage exploitation and the misuse of Australian charity, asserting that “we must ensure that the generosity of everyday Australians is not exploited by criminal elements.”

Furthermore, Mr Crewther was troubled by reports of exploitation in regional areas, noting that “we must guarantee that the most vulnerable workers in our community are able to access the same protections as every other Australian.”

The full report by the Committee can be accessed at the following link:
https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Foreign_Affairs_Defence_and_Trade/ModernSlavery/Final_report

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