Modern slavery

On 24 September 2020, the NSW Government tabled its response to the report of the NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues on the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW).

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What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is a serious violation of an individual’s dignity and human rights. Exploitative practices including human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage are all considered modern slavery and are serious crimes under Australian law.

The International Labour Organization estimates there are more than 40 million people in modern slavery conditions worldwide.

Modern slavery may be a worker on a farm who is unable to leave or stop working because of threats from his employer. Modern slavery could be a teenager who is overseas on a family holiday and forced or coerced into marriage. Modern slavery may be a woman in a brothel who believes she has a large debt to repay and is forced to work to pay off the debt.

Modern slavery is not confined to far-off places. Sadly, it occurs in Australia, with the Australian Institute of Criminology estimating that up to 1900 people were living in conditions of modern slavery in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The NSW Modern Slavery Act

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) was passed by NSW Parliament in June 2018. The Act recognises that modern slavery is prevalent around the world and in NSW, and sets out steps to ensure NSW is not contributing to these crimes.

The Act has not commenced and so its directions are not in force.

In 2019, the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues undertook an inquiry into the Act and handed down its report on 25 March 2020.

Read the Government’s response, tabled on 24 September 2020.

Steps to implementation

As set out in the response, the NSW Government is committed to implementing a modern slavery regime in NSW. In the first instance, it will seek greater harmonisation with the Commonwealth’s Modern Slavery Act 2018. In particular, greater harmonisation of the supply chain reporting threshold, ideally at $50 million consolidated revenue, as a key reform for a standardised national approach to modern slavery.

Following the conclusion of discussions with the Commonwealth Government, the NSW Government will introduce necessary amendments to the Act with a view to commencing components of the NSW Act that complement the Commonwealth Act and which are not inconsistent with it.

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