Australian companies would be required to report on measures they’re taking to reduce slavery in their overseas supply chains, or risk being fined, under legislation proposed by the federal opposition.
Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten on Monday outlined how a Modern Slavery Act could work, including the role of a new independent anti-slavery commissioner.
Australia’s top 1000 companies would be held to account by the legislation with monetary penalties for those that don’t comply. They could also be named and shamed in parliament.
Mr Shorten said Labor wanted to work with Malcolm Turnbull’s government to introduce the slavery act.
“(But) if Mr Turnbull fails to act a Shorten Labor government will,” the opposition leader told reporters in Sydney.
“The right to freedom belongs to everybody, it’s not some middle-class Australian value, it’s a universal value.”
Business Council of Australia spokesman Adam Carrel says local businesses are willing to accept the risk of being fined in order to stamp out slavery.
“When business invites legislation in such a way as they have in this instance, I think they might expect that at some point or another there might be some naming and shaming going,” the Ernst and Young partner said.
“They see the task of remedying modern slavery as so important that they’re willing to accept that risk.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney believes the act could help eradicate slavery.
“Trade unions see, only too sadly, first hand the results of modern slavery in Australia and particularly our region,” she said on Monday.
Walk Free Foundation founder and mining magnate Andrew Forrest praised Labor for its commitment to support modern slavery legislation in Australia.
Mr Forrest believed the Turnbull government would support the legislation.
“The commitment of the Labor party and the positive feedback the Walk Free Foundation has received from government, opposition, Greens and independent MPs gives me great confidence that a bill introduced into parliament by the government would be overwhelmingly supported,” Mr Forrest said in a statement.