The Law Council of Australia (LCA) has backed calls for a national compensation scheme for victims of slavery and human trafficking.
The LCA recently announced its support for the introduction of a national compensation scheme for people who have been victims of slavery and human trafficking.
The idea has been discussed for some time, including in a report released last year by the LCA and Anti-Slavery Australia.
The bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement released a report last week following its inquiry into human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices. It recommended that a national compensation scheme be introduced to harmonise the varied amounts of compensation available in each state.
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC said the society strongly supports the recommendation, as well as the proposed appointment of a national anti-slavery and trafficking commissioner.
“Too often we think of slavery as a horror of the past, when it is actually very much alive in modern Australia,” Ms McLeod said.
“We have seen recent examples of human trafficking, slavery, forced labour, deceptive recruiting for labour services, forced marriage and debt bondage. And we know what comes to light is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Ms McLeod said a national compensation scheme would help address federal offences.
“Existing state and territory schemes are not designed to accommodate victims of federal offences against the person. They are technically complicated and vary considerably in their application,” she said.
“Australia has rightly recognised the need that victims of overseas terrorism have for a national compensation framework, yet there is no such harmonised program for human trafficking.
“A harmonised national scheme would send the clear message about Australia’s human rights priorities.
“We thank the committee for their hard work in producing this groundbreaking report and call on the government to move swiftly to implement its recommendations.”
The LCA’s announcement comes as the government considers the introduction of a modern slavery act, similar to that introduced in the UK in 2015.
Speaking on The Lawyers Weekly Show recently, Veronica Rios, executive manager of rule of law, Asia-Pacific, at LexisNexis, explained that the act would place greater responsibility on businesses to ensure there is no slavery anywhere in their supply chains.
“You could have an Australian corporation [which] is driving to deliver profits to their shareholders. They’re looking to lower the costs of operation and production, and by working with a lot of supply chains and vendors overseas they can minimise their costs. If we are not aware of the sort of business practices that these overseas vendors are implementing, then ultimately Australian businesses are supporting modern slavery and poor working conditions in many areas of the world,” she said.
“In the UK, they’ve now brought businesses into that space in a very real way. Businesses are now responsible under the act to submit a statement every year to talk about the policies and the steps that they’ve taken to ensure that they maintained a safe workplace and that their supply chains are slave-free, which I think is really important.”
You can hear more from Ms Rios on the proposed modern slavery act on The Lawyers Weekly Show.