The enactment of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) took effect on January 1, 2019. This legislation mandates that larger corporations and other entities operating in Australia must provide information about their efforts to prevent and deal with the potential for modern slavery in their operations and supply networks. The Act’s performance and adherence to regulations during its initial three years in effect are being assessed through an official review by the Australian Government. This evaluation commenced on March 31, 2022, and concluded in March 2023.
The latest review from the statutory review into Australia’s Modern Slavery Act issues a compelling call for immediate action, illuminating the urgent obligation of both businesses and the government to combat modern slavery. Amidst a shocking 41,000 individuals trapped in modern slavery within our borders, the demand for reform has reached a critical juncture.
This comprehensive review highlights three key domains for crucial legislative transformation:
- Elevated Reporting Standards: The review suggests refining modern slavery reporting procedures, advocating for triennial full statements with biennial updates. It proposes standardised coversheets, a lowered reporting threshold of AU$50 million, and high-risk area identification. This potential enactment could reshape business operations and supply chains.
- Enhanced Reporting Compliance: The Modern Slavery Review suggests enhancing reporting enforceability. Non-compliance should be an offense for entities in specific situations, including submitting false information or failing to follow Minister’s requests. It proposes requiring due diligence systems, strengthening current provisions. This aligns with international trends, benefiting businesses operating across jurisdictions. If introduced, entities must adapt systems and offer remedies for victims. The review also advises reporting on incidents, risks, and complaint mechanisms. These changes require early consideration by businesses to meet new requirements.
- Harmonised Statements: The Modern Slavery Review emphasises inadequate guidance for reporting entities, resulting in vague statements that don’t address risks effectively. More guidance is urged for businesses to understand legal requirements and drive substantial change. The review suggests releasing guidelines on reporting requirements and specific issues
This review marks the initial stride toward fortifying Australia’s anti-slavery legislation. The government’s allocation of resources for an independent anti-slavery commissioner in the 2023-24 Budget demonstrates commitment, alongside ongoing consideration of the review’s recommendations.
Integrating these recommendations could raise Australia’s global role in fighting modern slavery. Businesses must strengthen anti-slavery efforts for upcoming reforms. Prompt readiness is vital.