The Australian Government has announced its intention to require large businesses to report annually on their actions to address modern slavery.

Minister for Justice Michael Keenan has released a consultation paper on the Australian Government’s proposed model for such a reporting requirement, and is seeking submissions from interested parties.

It is the first step in an extensive consultation period with industry on the Government’s Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement discussion paper.

The issuing of the consultation paper comes as the interim report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia was tabled on 17 August 2017.

The report recommends that the Australian Government consider introducing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, including supply chain reporting requirements as well as the creation of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The interim report also offers ‘in-principle’ support for a number of proposed elements of a Modern Slavery Act, including:

  • mandatory annual modern slavery supply chain reporting requirements to apply, above a particular threshold, to companies, businesses, organisations and governments operating in Australia;
  • the introduction of an opt-in option to allow companies, businesses, organisations and governments below the threshold to undertake supply chain reporting on modern slavery;
  • a  requirement that the Board (or equivalent level) approve modern slavery statements;
  • the Australian Government to fund public awareness raising information and training about modern slavery, particularly for companies and businesses;
  • penalties to apply to those that do not report in accordance with the Modern Slavery Act reporting requirements;
  • the Australian Government to introduce into its procurement requirements that it only engages with companies, businesses, organisations and other Australian governments that have submitted modern slavery statements (i.e. to encourage smaller companies to also report via the opt-in option).

The Sub-Committee did not give a recommendation concerning the appropriate level of the threshold above which businesses and organisations must report. The Sub-Committee will continue to receive submissions and evidence in public hearings, as well as consult with businesses and organisations, in the lead up to the final report to determine an appropriate threshold.

The proposed reporting requirement will ensure large businesses and other entities operating in Australia publish annual statements outlining their actions to address modern slavery.

Mr Keenan said the Coalition Government was committed to continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure the final legislation is as simple, sensible and effective as possible.

The deadline for submissions to the consultation paper is 20 October 2017.

AMMA members who will likely be effected, either because they meet the yet to be determined threshold (for example, the UK Modern Slavery Act has a turnover threshold of £36 million) or would look to opt-in voluntarily, are asked to consider the kind of framework that could be implemented to meet the Government objectives while not unduly adding regulatory burden.

For more information on the Government’s Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement or any other matter related to this issue, please contact AMMA’s Head of Policy, Sarah Cerche, at [email protected].