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Creating Responsible and Transparent Supply Chains in Australia

Production of products, goods and services in the global market place relies on a complex weave of international sourcing for components, ingredients and labour. With each country having it’s own set of labour laws it is of concern to many consumers whether they are supporting or encouraging ethical sourcing, and inadvertently supporting the growing trade in human trafficking or slave and child labour.

Most people are unaware how far a field the ingredients and components for many products may come from e.g Perhaps the bargain you just got on chocolate was made possible by child labour or the the clothing you just purchased was made in unsafe sweat shops. Elements of production that would be prohibited under Australian labour law may be allowed or overlooked under other international laws. When these issues in supply chain come to light there is public outrage.

The Australian Government has introduced legislation to make supply chains more transparent so elements of the supply chain can be readily scrutinized by consumers.

The Legislation - Modern Slavery Act 2018

At both Federal and State level, the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (the Acts) have now commenced. The objective of the Acts is to increase awareness of and assist the Australian business community in addressing the issue of modern slavery and to reduce the risk of such practices occurring.

The Acts aim to ensure that the business community create responsible and transparent supply chains to assist consumers and investors to make well-informed decisions when buying and selling goods and services from supply chains as to whether or not they are facilitating modern slavery practices.

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery practices are serious crimes and major violations of human rights. The definition of modern slavery is outlined in Australian legislation in Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, as well as various sections of the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900. Examples of modern slavery include activity such as human trafficking, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices.

International Law - Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and Article 3 of the ILO Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour provide the original and international basis for our laws.

What does it mean for business?

The Act imposes a requirement for reporting. Large businesses and other entities are required to provide the Minister with a Modern Slavery Statement annually.

This Statement must include:

- A clear identification of the entity that is providing the report;

- The entity’s structure, operations and supply chains;

- Potential modern slavery risks in the entity’s operations and supply chains;

- Actions taken by the entity to address the risks, including due diligence and remediation processes;

- How the entity assesses the effectiveness of those actions;

- Describe the process of consultation with any other entity under the entity’s control or ownership, or entity covered by a joint statement; and