Four changes needed to improve the proposed Modern Slavery Bill

A woman picks up a garment while shopping Photo: Tirachard Kumtanom/Pexels

Australia’s proposed modern slavery law needs revisions to be effective in addressing risks of modern slavery in corporate supply chains. In a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry into the proposed Modern Slavery Bill, Associate Professor Justine Nolan argues four changes are needed to improve the effectiveness of the law.


1. Publish a list of eligible reporting entities


The proposed Modern Slavery Bill does not provide for the publication of a public list of companies required to report. A list is essential to encourage compliance with the legislation and to aid effective monitoring both by Government and others.


2. Mandate and provide guidance on due diligence


Section 16(1)(d) of the Bill notes that a modern slavery statement must ‘describe the actions taken by the reporting entity and any entity that the reporting entity owns or controls, to assess and address those [modern slavery] risks, including due diligence’. 

The Government needs to work in collaboration with civil society and business to consider, and develop guidance on, not only what constitutes good practice with respect to human rights due diligence, but what does or should constitute minimum standards necessary to ensure that due diligence is undertaken in a way that is capable of effecting positive and meaningful change.


3. Include incentives to comply


The Bill does not provide for any Government led incentives or consequences for business around compliance with the reporting requirement. The Bill would be strengthened by including a provision that prohibits suppliers who fail to comply with the reporting requirement from participating in public tender processes. Lawmakers should also consider the phased in introduction of financial penalties for non-compliance by reporting entities.


4. Establish an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner


The proposed legislation should establish an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to lead and coordinate Australia’s response to combatting modern slavery.


Read submissions to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee online here.