The New Zealand government is drafting new legislation to tighten up companies’ action on human slavery in supply chains – though it is expected to be three years before the laws come into force.
Deputy prime minister and workplace relations and safety minister Carmel Sepuloni said under the new laws organisations with over NZ$20m in revenue will be required to address exploitation risks in operations and supply chains.
Companies will be obliged to report on the steps they have taken as part of the legislation.
The government said the legislation would meet requirements to tackle modern slavery laid out in the EU and UK free trade agreements.
Sepuloni said it could be years before the legislation was finalised.
"All up, about three years," she told journalists. "It takes a bit of time, because we've got to draft the legislation, introduce the legislation to the House, then it's got to go through the process, and then it's got to be enacted, then it's about a year from then."
The drafting process is starting now and is expected to take about six months — bringing legislation to Parliament in late January 2024 at the earliest. This will be after the country’s October election – though Sepuloni told journalists that she thought it was unlikely that even a change of administration would lead to the legislation being changed.
New Zealand believes its new laws and register would be among the world's strongest reporting systems for tackling modern slavery.
“During consultation we heard clearly from business that this legislation is crucial. We already know some businesses are ensuring they don’t have modern slavery in their supply chains, and this will help level the playing field,” she said.
"World Vision estimates Kiwi households inadvertently pay an average of $34 each week to industries whose products are implicated in modern slavery."
The changes to human slavery laws would boost New Zealand’s reputation among export markets and on the global stage.
“Our focus on larger organisations strikes an appropriate balance, by encouraging those most able to influence their more extensive supply chains, and not overburdening small businesses,” she added.
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