The New South Wales Government could abandon laws mandating penalties for Australian companies that fail to address slave labour in their supply chains, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. Source: The Guardian.
In submissions and evidence last week, anti-slavery groups have argued the NSW Modern Slavery Act – already through parliament – should be brought into force immediately, saying they fear it could be weakened, delayed or discarded altogether through the inquiry, while business groups and some within government are pushing for the NSW regime to be discarded in favour of a weaker federal scheme.
Legislation passed both the lower and upper houses of the NSW parliament in June 2018, and received royal assent.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, who co-sponsored the bill, argued “there is an undeniable moral imperative to take action in relation to all forms of modern slavery”. It was scheduled to come into force on July 1 this year.
However, rather than proclaim the legislation into force, the NSW Government took the highly unusual step of deferring it indefinitely, instead opening a further parliamentary inquiry.
Special minister of state Don Harwin said the bill had “defects requiring urgent attention” and may be inoperable because of inconsistencies with the federal Modern Slavery Act.
The law would have appointed an anti-slavery commissioner as well as obliged companies with a turnover of $50 million or more to publicly report modern slavery statements, detailing the steps taken to eliminate slavery from their supply chains. It would also have introduced new NSW offences of slavery, servitude and child forced labour, and child forced marriage.
In its submission to the inquiry, the NSW Government argued that the law was not properly drafted.
The Commonwealth’s Modern Slavery Act came into force on January 1. The NSW Government told the inquiry that, given similar federal legislation, “the question arises as to whether the NSW act is, in whole or in part, still necessary”.