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Australian Government announces inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act

UN Global Compact Network Australia | February 17, 2017

Today, the Australian Government announced an inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, a move welcomed by the Global Compact Network Australia.

The Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has commenced an inquiry into whether Australia should adopt national legislation to combat modern slavery, comparable to the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act 2015.

‘The appalling practice of modern slavery is a scourge that regrettably continues to affect millions of people around the world, including in Australia,’ Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee Chair, Mr Chris Crewther MP, said.

According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, an estimated 45.8 million people around the world are in some form of modern slavery, which describes a range of exploitative practices including human trafficking, forced labour, wage exploitation, forced marriage and debt bondage.

‘The Attorney-General’s action in approving this important topic initiated by the Sub-Committee provides the opportunity to explore whether Australia’s laws could be improved to prevent modern slavery both in Australia and in supply chains of businesses and organisations that operate in Australia and overseas.’

The Australian Government has already taken a number of significant steps to address modern slavery, including the implementation of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-2019, establishment of the Supply Chains Working Group and changes to the Criminal Code to strengthen penalties for offenders. The Committee has previously looked at the impacts of modern slavery in its 2013 report, Trading Lives: Modern Day Human Trafficking.

Since that report was released, governments around the world have introduced legislative changes to combat modern slavery, most notably the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 which strengthens anti-slavery laws and introduces new measures to improve transparency in global supply chains.

Mr Crewther said the inquiry ‘seeks to build on this work to explore what further changes could be made to strengthen Australia’s efforts to combat modern slavery. This is particularly timely in light of the UK’s recent introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and allows the opportunity for the Committee to assess whether similar changes could be applied here in Australia.’


The full media release is available here.

Further details about the inquiry, including terms of reference and information about how to make a submission, are available here.

Submissions are due 28 April 2018.


The GCNA will shortly be confirming details of a Modern Slavery Forum for business. Stay tuned for details.

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UN Global Compact Network Australia