The Law Council of Australia has welcomed new recommendations for the development of a Modern Slavery Act, calling it a “vital step forward”.
The legal body is backing recommendations included in an interim report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which urges the need for a Modern Slavery Act.
The committee has recommended that a Modern Slavery Act should include the creation of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, a move that LCA applauds.
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC has long played an integral role in advocating for a more robust Australian approach to anti-slavery. She noted that these recommendations are an extremely positive development.
“Today’s report is a vital step on the path to an Australian Modern Slavery Act,” Ms McLeod said.
“Slavery is not just a scourge of the past. It is a crushing present reality for thousands living in Australia, and millions across the globe.
“Nations like Australia have a responsibility to take a robust approach to fighting slavery and casting a light on this dark and terrible corner of our economy and society.”
Ms McLeod said the LCA has called on Australia to follow the UK’s lead and introduce an Anti-Slavery Commissioner as soon as possible to “independently oversee our national response”.
“It is satisfying to see that the committee shares our view and we look forward to working with the federal government to help make this a reality,” she said.
In addition, Ms McLeod noted that the committee had given its in-principle support to introduce penalties to companies that do not report in compliance with the Modern Slavery Act reporting requirements.
Ms McLeod’s comments come after the federal government announced last week that it would be moving to introduce a legal requirement for large Australian companies to report on measures they are taking to combat slavery.
However, Ms McLeod said it stopped short of specifying a penalty regime.
“The Law Council believes that for a reporting regime to be effective, there must be robust penalties for non-compliance to ensure rigour and accountability,” she explained.
“We are pleased the committee shares this view and we strongly urge the government to consider developing defined penalties along with its new reporting legislation.”
In June this year, Lawyers Weekly heard from Deakin Law School’s Dr Nicole Siller, who offered a somewhat different perspective on the proposed Modern Slavery Act.
The Lawyers Weekly Show also recently heard from Veronica Rios, who is the executive manager of Rule of Law, Asia-Pacific, at LexisNexis, on the matter. Click here to listen to further discussions on the proposed introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.