Australian companies should assess modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains, following an interim report from a joint parliamentary committee enquiry tasked with considering whether modern slavery reporting requirements should be imposed in Australia.

The interim report recommends:

  • The Government should support the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia
  • The Act should establish supply chain reporting requirements for Australian companies
  • The Act should also provide for the appointment of an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

The Government has subsequently published a consultation paper which makes clear that the Governments preference is to introduce a new Act which would impose reporting requirements on entities with an annual turnover in excess of $100 million. The reports would take the form of a Modern Slavery Statement to be published online within five months from the end of the Australian financial year.

The Government's present position is that the minimum content of a Modern Slavery Statement would include:

  1. The entity’s structure, its operations and its supply chains
  2. The modern slavery risks present in the entity’s operations and supply chains
  3. The entity’s policies and process to address modern slavery in its operations and supply chains and their effectiveness (such as codes of conduct, supplier contract terms and training for staff), and
  4. The entity’s due diligence processes relating to modern slavery in its operations and supply chains and their effectiveness.

Legislation is expected to be introduced into parliament in the first half of 2018 and the Government has asked for public feedback on the consultation paper to be submitted before 20 October 2017. In the meantime, the parliamentary committee has indicated that it will continue its enquiries with a view to making further recommendations in a final report. These recommendations will encompass both the content of the proposed Modern Slavery Act and potentially other changes to Australian legislation relating to modern slavery, including in relation to the detection and prosecution of slavery offences.

Many Australian companies are already subject to the reporting requirements of the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) and may have published Modern Slavery Statements pursuant to that legislation. If you are not already reporting you should now consider whether you might be subject to the proposed reporting requirements and whether your company is taking effective steps to address modern slavery risks in your operations and supply chains.