Report: Review of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018

NSWCCL made a submission to the Modern Slavery Review Team in November 2022 outlining four key recommendations to the legislative framework. 

On 25 May 2023, the government tabled the Review of the Modern Slavery Act in Parliament which considers the current legislation and the operation of the Act in the first three years of implementation. The Act and its administrative implementation were considered as part of this review.

Both the UK and NSW Modern Slavery Acts provide for the appointment of a Commissioner. Their role is to promote public awareness, advocate for remedial action and operate a hotline to assist victims and children. The Commissioner is unable to directly deal with complaints except to discharge other functions. The Review found the Commission may play a role in recommending the imposition of remedies, however lacks the ability to cohesively make recommendations and examine all findings, particularly in relation to future Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statements. It is recommended and remains NSWCCL’s position that the broader functions of the Commissioner would allow it to ensure compliance with the legislation and periodically review the Act to ensure it remains up to date. 

It has been recommended that government adopt a policy outlining that if entities fail to meet reporting obligation they are not eligible for government contract. This includes an option similar to recommendation 2 of NSWCCL’s Submission, that there must be an affirmation by companies that they have met their obligations. The Report outlines various subsidiary issues extending to unintended consequences for vulnerable workers. There are still many discrepancies pertaining to the conduct that would be penalised, who applies the penalties and the relevant procedures to follow, however, commonwealth corporate entities above the $100M threshold must submit an annual modern slavery statement. 

The constitutional limitations in creating this punitive framework also must be considered. Powers such as publishing a list of non-compliant entities could also be exercised at an executive level by a Minister or Commissioner. The Acts reporting requirements do not apply to state, territory and local governments in order to respect the self-governing of each state and territory. However, the onus remains on these groups to report voluntarily under the Commonwealth Act. 

The Australian Modern Slavery Act is still the only Act with a requirement for the creation of a government Register. The key to success for this Registry depends on its fulfilment of the Acts objective of establishing a transparency framework. 

For more information, read our full submission