• Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash.
    Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash.

A draft bill for the Modern Slavery Act has been released as part of a nationwide move to make more Australian businesses accountable.

The Australian Government’s Modern Slavery Bill 2018, now before Parliament, will require more than 3000 large companies to publish annual statements on their actions to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations.

Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand CEO Molly Harriss Olson said stamping out modern slavery will give ethical businesses a competitive edge.

“It will demand more accountability from our largest companies, transform our supply chains, and ensure everyone shares in the benefits of prosperity,” she said.

The Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people in 167 countries are in some form of modern slavery – whether forced labour, debt bondage, or exploitative work.

Releasing the draft bill this week, Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Alex Hawke said the requirements will “foster a ‘race to the top’ culture that will ensure Australia is a regional and world leader”.

Harriss Olson also applauds the Australian Government’s commitment to publish its own annual statement on possible modern slavery risks in Commonwealth procurement.

Nestle was among those to make a submission to the joint standing committee on foreign affairs and trade as part of a federal inquiry into slavery.

The company said that from time to time, its responsible sourcing audits uncovered incidents of forced labour and modern slavery along its supply chain.
And this week, The Woolworths Group announced it would roll out a revamped ‘responsible sourcing program’ over the next 18 months.

The program, replacing the current ‘ethical sourcing policy’, will see Woolworths improve oversight of social compliance processes to “help ensure human rights and internationally recognised labour standards are upheld across its global supply chain.”

The new initiative will require all direct and own brand suppliers to submit social compliance assessments to the supermarket chain.