Federal Labor wants to force companies to ensure their products are not the result of slavery.
- Bill Shorten wants Anti-Slavery Commissioner, law to forcing businesses to check on practices in supply chain
- Push backed by the Business Council, the union movement and the Salvation Army
- More than 45 million people around the world are reportedly held in slavery, 4,300 in Australia
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has argued for an Anti-Slavery Commissioner and legislation to force businesses to check on practices in their entire supply chain.
Labor’s Justice spokeswoman Clare O’Neil said many of the goods and services that Australians use every day are produced by people in slavery.
She said in Australia there are 4,300 people trapped by criminal syndicates who force them into prostitution or other work.
And more than 45 million people around the world are reportedly held in slavery — many in the Asian region.
Labor’s proposal was backed by the Business Council, the union movement and the Salvation Army.
The law it calls for would force big companies to make sure that no business either directly, or indirectly, engaged in slavery.
A similar law exists in the United Kingdom, but Mr Shorten says his plan goes further because it would force both companies to report on their supply chain and apply penalties if they failed to do it.
Adam Carrel from the Business Council said no business knowingly engaged in slavery, but he described it as likely for some types of businesses.
“It is broadly acknowledged that [slavery is more likely] if you are engaged in certain industries, particularly if you are supplying from overseas, if you have many tiers to your supply chain, if that supply chain includes migrant workers, vulnerable workers and certain forms of manual labour,” he said.
“The evidence has shown it is something of an inevitability that there is going to be some form of human rights abuse or modern slavery in your supply chain.”
He said modern slavery was often thought of as “sweat-shop labour” but he said the most common form was the exploitation of migrant workers by brokers.
Labor called on the Government to implement the anti-slavery plan but the Opposition Leader said if the Coalition failed to act then a Shorten government would.