Summary of Recommendations

1.There needs to be greater provision of resources for a strong monitoring program which would provide better quality and more segregated data. This would enable policy makers and relevant stakeholders to make relevant interventions in the anti-slavery system.

2.In order to comply with the obligations under the UNGPSs the Government should introduce Australian anti-slavery legislation. This would greatly contribute to giving effect to a global effort to promote human rights in business supply chains.

3.The Government must commit further resources to the FWO so they are able to investigate and run more cases.

4. The Fair Work Act should be amended to clarify that all workers are covered by the Act, regardless of immigration status which would encourage more exploited workers to seek help.

5. The Government should provide funding to unions and relevant community organisations to provide all arriving visa holders with education and contacts in their languages. This would create relationships of trust allowing exploited workers to remain legally in Australia to pursue civil action against offending employers.

6. In line with the Queensland state government, the Federal Government should establish a licensing and regulation scheme for the labour hire industry. This would compel labour hire agencies to stop exploiting workers and create the threat of losing their right to operate if they do.

7. The Government should amend the Charging for a Migration Outcome section of the Migration Act to reflect the power relations inherent in the transaction.

8. The modern slavery act should apply to a broad range of companies – This should be done based on annual turnover. The model should ensure that all large Australian businesses are captured, with the exemption of small businesses not engaged in international trade.

9. The modern slavery act should cover public bodies – This is currently being proposed in the legislative amendment to the MSA UK currently before their parliament. Procurement by all levels of government has a huge role to play in ridding supply chains from forced labour.

10. A central register of statements hosted by a Government agency should be set up– This will allow trade unions and the rest of civil society as well as all levels of government, to monitor whether companies that are meant to report have done so, and the quality of their reporting. A repository hosted by government also implies oversight and some level of accountability. There are a number of different options for the control/location of this repository including ASIC, DFAT, the Australian Human Rights Commission, or the National Contact Point under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Corporations.  

11. A list of companies subject to the act’s provisions should be published by the Government – This would further improve the capacity of stakeholder to adequately scrutinise compliance.

12. A template on the form and substance of mandatory disclosure requirements should be created – A template outlining reporting standards would provide clear guidance for companies on how and what to report and allow adequate comparison. Australian legislation should mandate these standards.

13. Penalties should be enacted for failure to publish a statement or issuing a fraudulent statement – In order to emphasise the seriousness of the legislation, the Government should enforce financial penalties, as well as exclusion from Commonwealth tendering for companies that fail to disclose.

14. The legislation should apply extra-territorially – Australian companies operating abroad should disclose the risks in their supply chains domestically and overseas.

15. The Australian Government should include due diligence in its modern slavery act. This would bring them in line with their commitments to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights.

16. The Australian Government should incorporate the French corporate duty of vigilance law in its legislation.

17. To clarify the Australian Government’s expectations of contracting parties and their suppliers, the Commonwealth Procurement Framework should be amended to:

  • Perform and mandate risk assessments based on industry, commodity and location to determine the extent of exposure to supply chain exploitation;
  • Require parties bidding for government contracts to provide information about measures they have taken to avoid labour exploitation in their supply chains;
  • Make the award and renewal of government contracts, as well as any subsidies to companies, conditional on efforts to avoid exploitation in supply chains;
  • Create a process whereby unions and civil society groups can report can report concerns about suppliers of government contracts, and have these concerns addressed and resolved effectively to ensure that suppliers are held accountable for human rights abuses in the supply chain.

18. That the Australian Government support the ACTU’s “Buy Australian” Act.

19. The Government in its trade negotiations should look to negotiate enforceable labour chapters which would create a level playing field for Australian companies to compete with.

The submission that follows provides the ACTU’s responses to the terms of reference of the inquiry and reasons behind our recommendations.