Labor announces anti-slavery legislation for big businesses

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Bill Shorten
Australian Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten speaks at his election night party in Melbourne, July 2, 2016 on Australia's federal election day. Reuters/Jason Reed

Aussie companies may soon be required to report the measures they are implementing to lessen slavery in overseas supply chains. Non-compliance means risk of being fined under legislation proposed by the federal opposition.

On Monday, Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten discussed the Modern Slavery Act and the function of a new independent anti-slavery commissioner. The legislation proposed that top 1,000 companies in the country would be held accountable by the legislation. Monetary penalties await those who choose to not comply.

Shorten said Labor wanted to work alongside the Turnbull government for the introduction of the anti-slavery act. He told reporters in Sydney that if Aussie Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fails to act, then a “Shorten Labor government will,” arguing that the right to freedom is for everyone, not only for middle-class Australian values.

Adam Carrel, spokesperson for Business Council of Australia, said local companies are willing to accept the risk of being penalised in order to eradicate slavery. The spokesperson added that by supporting the proposed legislation, the biggest businesses in Australia have taken “a leadership role in promoting and supporting clean supply chains.”

Business Council of Australia acknowledged that living standards in the country have risen through greater international trade. But that also meant more risk that products and services here were tainted by the use of forced labour.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney believes the legislation can assist in solving issues with slavery. Meanwhile, Andrew Forrest, the founder of Walk Free Foundation, commended Labor for its dedication to support modern slavery legislation in the country.

Forrest is confident that the Turnbull administration would back up the legislation. In a statement, he said the positive feedback the Walk Free Foundation obtained from the government, opposition, Greens and independent MPs as well as Labor party’s commitment provide him with confidence that a bill introduced into parliament by the government would get overwhelming support, The Australian reports.

Based on the most recent Global Slavery Index, an estimated 45.8 million people across the world are trapped in modern slavery. Two-thirds of them are reported to be in the Asia-Pacific region.

Labor MP Clare O’Neil stressed the number of people currently trapped in slavery is greater than at any other time in human history. “For most Australians slavery probably feels very remote, but it’s not,” Probono Australia quotes O’Neil as saying, adding they were intertwined with the lives of these people.

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