Senate debates

Thursday, 7 December 2017


Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Joint Committee; Report

4:30 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of Senator Fawcett, the Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, I present the report Hidden in plain sight: an inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, an inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia. I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate the tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

I'm pleased to table the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade's report for its inquiry into modern slavery. The inquiry particularly focussed on assessing the effectiveness of the United Kingdom's Modern Slavery Act 2015 and whether similar or improved measures could be introduced in Australia.

During the inquiry, the Committee received 225 submissions and held 10 public hearings. The Committee heard from a range of dedicated individuals, businesses and organisations working to combat modern slavery. On behalf of the Committee, I thank all those who made a contribution to this important inquiry.

The Committee's report makes 49 recommendations to improve Australia's efforts to combat modern slavery here and around the world. The Committee found that modern slavery is often 'hidden in plain sight', with evidence of these crimes present across a range of industries in Australia and in the global supply chains of businesses and organisations operating here.

The Committee acknowledges the significant work that the Australian Government has undertaken to address modern slavery here and around the world. However, evidence to the inquiry suggests that more can be done to combat these crimes and to better support victims.

The Committee heard strong support for key elements of the UK Modern Slavery Act, particularly the establishment of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the introduction of global supply chain reporting requirements. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a Modern Slavery Act including a range of measures as outlined in this report.

The Committee recommends the establishment an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to lead and coordinate Australia's response to combatting modern slavery. Evidence suggests that the UK Commissioner has made an important contribution to raising awareness of modern slavery, better coordinating UK law enforcement agencies and advocating for improved supports for victims.

Building on its interim report of August 2017, the Committee recommends establishing a supply chain reporting requirement for certain entities operating in Australia. This would require entities to take responsibility to ensure that they are not profiting, or gaining a competitive advantage, from modern slavery in their global supply chains. The Committee welcomes the announcement by the Minister for the Justice that the Australian Government plans to introduce a reporting requirement and makes a series of recommendations to improve the Government's proposed model.

The Committee found that there are still gaps in the way victims are identified and supported, and the way our criminal justice agencies cooperate to bring perpetrators to justice. The Committee recommends changes to the way Australia's victim support programs operate, including by introducing a national compensation scheme. The Committee has also makes a series of recommendations to improve coordination and training for Australia's law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. These support the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement's recommendations from its July 2017 report into human trafficking and slavery.

A number of submitters raised particular concerns about the practice of orphanage trafficking and the exploitation of children in overseas residential institutions. The Committee recommends a series of measures to ensure Australian donations and volunteers do not inadvertently perpetuate these exploitative practices overseas.

The Committee was also concerned by allegations of exploitation and slavery-like practices here in Australia, particularly for migrant workers and backpackers in regional areas. The Committee recommends that these workers be better protected through changes to Australia's visa framework, particularly by eliminating or replacing 'tied' visa conditions and by introducing a national labour hire licensing scheme.

Modern slavery describes some of the greatest crimes of our time. The recommendations from this inquiry make a significant contribution to ensuring that, here in Australia, we are doing all we can to eradicate these crimes.

Question agreed to.