The Federal Government is inviting consultation on proposed new laws to help end modern slavery. On 16 August 2017 the Minister for Justice Michael Keenan announced the Government proposes to introduce legislation establishing a Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement. This will require large businesses and other entities operating in Australia to publish annual Modern Slavery Statements (Statements) outlining their actions to address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.

The Australian Government has released a Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement discussion paper outlining the proposed model and reporting requirements. The regime will be established through new legislation which will, among other things:

  • include a definition of the term ‘modern slavery’. The proposed definition incorporates conduct that would constitute a relevant offence under the existing human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences provided for in Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), and will capture slavery, servitude, forced labour, debt bondage and deceptive recruiting for labour or services. However, forced marriage and similar practices will not be included in the definition as the Government deems these unlikely to be present in business operations and supply chains
  • require entities operating in Australia with an annual revenue of $100 million or more to report annually on their efforts to combat modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. Under these rules, approximately 2,000 businesses operating in Australia will be required to publish annual Statements. Businesses who do not meet the financial threshold can ‘opt in’ to publish annual statements if they wish
  • require entities to publish Statements within five months after the end of the Australian financial year
  • apply to all entities headquartered in Australia or entities that have part of their operations in Australia
  • require Statements to be signed by a director, approved by the board and published on the entity’s website.

The definition of ‘business operations’ and ‘supply chains’ has not yet been finalised. The Government intends to develop this definition through consultation with the business community and key stakeholders, and will provide detailed guidance for businesses on these definitions once they have been decided on. At a minimum, it is proposed that entities must include the following information in their Statements:

  • the entity’s structure, its operations and supply chains
  • an outline of the modern slavery risks present in the entity’s operations and supply chains
  • an outline of the policies and processes (e.g. codes of conduct, supplier contract terms and training for staff) in place to address modern slavery in the entity’s operations and supply chains, as well as their effectiveness
  • an outline of the due diligence processes in place relating to modern slavery in the entity’s operations and supply chains, as well as their effectiveness.

Submissions for consultation are open until 20 October 2017 and should be submitted via email to slavery.consultations@ag.gov.au. More information is available at the Attorney-General’s website.