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Australia Finally Introduces A Modern Slavery Act

by: Lucy Jones | 1 year ago | News

Female garment workers in Cambodia. Image source.

Over 40 million people all around the world are trapped in some form of modern slavery. Many of these people make clothes for fashion companies, particularly fast fashion companies. According to a recent report by the Walk Free Foundation, an organisation dedicated to ending modern slavery, the fashion industry has the second-highest rate of slavery in the world. Australia's newly introduced Modern Slavery Act will help to free workers in the fashion industry, and many other industries, from slavery.

Under the new laws, Australian companies that make more than $100 million a year will be required to release annual reports about the risks of slavery in their supply chains, what they did minimise those risks, and how effective those measures were. Smaller companies can also choose to report about their supply chain practices voluntarily.

“Too often we are tempted to think of slavery as a relic of the past. But the truth is there are millions of people today held in slavery, and that includes in Australia," Law Council of Australia President, Morry Bailes, said.

“Introducing accountability into the supply chains of large organisations will go a significant way toward mitigating the scourge of modern slavery.”

Modern slavery refers to the exploitative practices of forced labour, human trafficking, debt bondage and forced marriage. The Act will help to ensure that these human rights abuses aren't taking place in the supply chains of massive Australian companies.

“An Australian Modern Slavery Act is essential if Australia is going to play a role in making slavery a thing of the past,” Walk Free Foundation co-founder Andrew Forrest said

“This Act will help us ensure the goods we buy are slave free. We cannot continue to allow the often-invisible victims of modern slavery to be stripped of their freedoms," he added.

"The products they produce are found in the supply chains of Australian and international companies that provide the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear and the consumer goods we use." 

The Act encourages companies to be transparent about slavery in their supply chains, but it does not impose penalties for those that fail to report or for those that report false information. The Australian Council of Trade Unions said that without penalties in place, companies will continue to exploit workers.

"As it stands, this bill doesn't send a strong enough message to companies — we need fines in order to really be able to say they cannot get away with tolerating the presence of slavery as 'business as usual'," ACTU president Michele O'Neil said

NSW has passed its own Modern Slavery Act which will penalise companies for failing to comply with regulations. In NSW, companies with a turnover of $50 million will be required to report. If they fail to do so, they will face fines of up to $1.1 million. 

These laws will hopefully help to free some of the thousands of millions victims of modern slavery.

Via SBS News.

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