Modern Slavery an ANZ Update

CIPS 28 October 2020

Over the course of the global pandemic, there has been an increasing focus on modern slavery issues. There has been a greater level of risk triggered by the current environment, with organisations challenged by resource constraints and transparency measures hard to execute, this has only emphasised the importance of a coordinated response. Businesses, governments, and civil society along with NGOs need to work cohesively, now more than ever, to implement effective response strategies to address issues around modern slavery and human trafficking.  

Modern Slavery an ANZ Update

NSW Government Legislation

The NSW Government has provided its official response to recommendations made by the NSW Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Social Issues’ inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW). The essence of this response is largely positive and is pivoted around the dialogue with Commonwealth Government to increase harmonisation with the Federal legislation which came into effect in January last year – the Modern Slavery Act 2018. The greater alignment, particularly relating to reporting thresholds and supply chain requirements, will enable organisations to streamline their reporting efforts and ensure the focus shifts from compliance to effectiveness of the actions taken.

Whilst the NSW Government plans on making  some amendments to its Act, it intends to maintain the original components which are not inconsistent with the Commonwealth Act, these include the establishment of an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner; ensuring that goods and services purchased by State Government are not the product of modern slavery; and increasing the level of support and assistance to victims of modern slavery.

Finally, there are positive forward-looking elements – provisionally accepted by the NSW Government under the same principle of harmonisation with the Commonwealth Act – these relate  to the next statutory review that revisits the exemption for charities, not-for-profits and the obligations for councils which is currently missing. The suggestion is to receive input from charities and NFP and consider supporting mechanisms to enable those entities to meet reporting requirements and to extend the procurement and supply chain reporting obligations to local councils’ equivalent to those imposed on NSW Government.

Australian Government

The recently signed off federal budget has allocated $10.6m to implement the Government’s next five-year National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-25, which will guide Australia’s response to fighting modern slavery and supporting victims. This funding will help equip businesses to manage supply chain risks, provide multi-year grant funding opportunities for organisations to deliver projects to combat modern slavery in Australia, and assist international partners to address modern slavery and human trafficking.

New Zealand Government

Another encouraging step in the fight against modern slavery comes from New Zealand Government’s recent Draft Plan of Action against Forced Labour, People Trafficking and Slavery 2020-2025, released in late September.

New Zealand’s actions and approach to addressing people trafficking, forced labour and slavery are underpinned by a range of international agreements that the country is signatory to.

The Plan of Action against Forced Labour, People Trafficking and Slavery sets out the all-of-government approach to addressing these issues over the next five years. It brings together the various actions of government agencies under three existing and internationally recognised pillars – prevention, protection and enforcement. At the core sits collaboration, intended as a partnership across government(s), civil society and business – including worker and employer representatives.

The plan takes a victim-centred focus to its actions, with awareness and information sharing with vulnerable community and front-line workers being a pillar of this approach. Training and education aim to develop better understanding of the issue and improve accessibility to information so that clear actions can be taken by government employees, employers and, most importantly, victims.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, along with Customs and Police have been tasked to develop indicators to identify risk, malpractice and prosecution activities to support risk detection, disruption of malpractices and prosecution activities and victim identification and rescue – both on shore and abroad.

Different to Australia, New Zealand has already accounted for potential consequences to migrants (typically a vulnerable category) and is committed to make it easier for migrant workers to leave exploitative employment, through the development of a dedicated reporting and triaging function and new temporary visa, which will help to prevent further exploitation.

Like Australia, the spotlight is on procurement and supply chains; the government is committed to improve its procurement and supply chain practices and ensure effective employment guidelines.

Despite New Zealand Government’s vision to eradicate forced labour, people trafficking and slavery, at this stage a formal legislative requirement for businesses to publicly report on the transparency of their supply chain is only a consideration. This is an area where countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have taken the lead by mandating the public reporting for organisations with a turnover above a certain threshold.

An interesting aspect of the plan is the research that government will undertake on an ongoing basis to better understand root causes and the extent to which forced labour, people trafficking and slavery take place in New Zealand.

Throughout the draft plan, there are several references to the international collaboration required, with New Zealand taking an active role in supporting knowledge and best practice sharing, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.

The factor we see as most critical in the fight against modern slavery is a collaborative and coordinated response when malpractices are identified. Education, support and cooperation between all parties within a supply chain will determine whether the issue is addressed at its core or simply passed on as someone else’s problem. Turning a blind eye, ignoring red flags, terminating suppliers or publicly shaming them simply won’t help. No matter how many tiers down our supply chains the issue sits, when we uncover it, we have an obligation to do something about it.

There is much to be done if we are to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals target of eradicating slavery in the next ten years. We have started this journey to make the world a better place for all. Procurement and supply chain professionals, more than ever, have an opportunity to do more than just savings or operational efficiencies – they can help preserve basic human rights.

Supporting Ethical procurement and supply practices -

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