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Time For An Act Against Modern Slavery

1 December 2016

Time For An Act Against Modern Slavery

MEDIA RELEASE: 'Time for an Act against Modern Slavery'

Friday 2 December 2016

Eighteen national faith leaders of the Australian Freedom Network have called on the Federal Government for an Act of Parliament to discourage slavery-like conditions both in Australia and in our trading partners.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to coincide with the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, leaders of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish faith wrote:

“Australia has an opportunity to lead and an opportunity to learn from what has worked and not worked in other countries to identify, mitigate and eradicate modern slavery,”

Read the full letter to Prime Minister Turnbull HERE.

“Every person deserves to live a life of freedom. As people of faith we have pledged to work together to overcome this terrible evil still being suffered by so many of our fellow human beings. The eradication of modern slavery needs to be a national priority for all of us - Government, business and civil society. It’s only by working together that we can succeed in abolishing slavery,” said Australian Freedom Network partner Archbishop Dr Philip Freier Anglican Primate.

“Globally human trafficking and forced labour is on the rise. While Australia has a solid judicial framework to criminalise such behaviours, it is clear we can and need to do more,” said Australian Freedom Network Chair, Former Commissioner James Condon of The Salvation Army.

“Last year the UK Government showed great global leadership by introducing a Modern Slavery Act that significantly raised community awareness, increased identification, reporting and care for victims. The Australian community and business need to begin the discussion about taking this path.”

The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 includes a public obligation on large businesses to report on steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in their business or in their supply chains. The Act also established an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner position.

“Australians consume goods and services from all over the world. As consumers we do not want to inadvertently contribute to the profits of slavery. Increased transparency in supply chains means there is no longer an excuse to say we do not know if there is slavery in the supply chain,” said Stuart McMillan President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

“Many Australian businesses are already acting ethically and taking the issue seriously. Nevertheless pressure for cheap goods and services, a growing workforce of temporary migrant workers and unregulated labour hire create an environment which is susceptible to the growth of modern slavery.

A national conversation about a Modern Slavery Act would help focus on the most vulnerable.”

Latest estimates from the Global Slavery Index indicate there are more than 45.8 million people in 167 countries in some form of modern slavery, including an estimated 4300 people in Australia.

The Australian Freedom Network’s call for a Modern Slavery Act has received endorsement from global anti- slavery experts Nick Grono CEO of The Freedom Fund and the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland.

Australian business leader, Dr David Cooke, Managing Director of Konica Minolta has also endorsed the call for action.  

"The UK Modern Slavery Act has demonstrated the power of legislation to bring one of the major social issues of our time into prominence and galvanise opposition to this form of human rights abuse. The Federal Government must look seriously at following its UK counterpart.

"I believe every business should take responsibility for ensuring their supply chain is free of modern slavery and other forms of human rights abuse," said Dr Cooke.

Mr Andrew Forrest, Chairman of the Minderoo Foundation, Founder of the Walk Free Foundation and Chairman of Fortescue Metals Group has been leading the global conversation to fight modern slavery.

“It is critical for businesses around the world to look for slavery within their operations, but not all business leaders will come willingly to this issue. To this end, all governments have a crucial role to play in ensuring there are laws that require companies to look for and report instances of slavery, as a means of addressing the greatest human rights challenge of our era.

 “In 2012, we conducted an audit of the supply chain at Fortescue Metals Group, and were shocked to find instances of slavery. This prompted Fortescue to put policies and systems in place business-wide that ensured a zero tolerance for slavery in our supply chain,” said Mr Forrest.

Amy Sinclair, Chair, Business and Human Rights Sub-Committee at Australian Lawyers for Human Rights says:

"The endless cycle of worker exploitation scandals shows we desperately need to clean-up our supply chains. A Modern Slavery Act for Australia would provide an essential tool to drive transparency and end the exploitation of vulnerable workers, both here and overseas."

- ENDS - 


Available for comment:

David Cooke, CEO Konica Minolta Australia 0400 221 137

Fiona David, WalkFree Foundation 0409 300 076

Jenny Stanger, National Manager The Freedom Partnership to End Modern Slavery The Salvation Army 0402 399 400