The Uniting Church has joined more than 30 faith-based organisations and businesses in support of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the signatories welcomed the Bill as a significant step in the fight against modern slavery, labelling it “a watershed moment for Australia”.
The International Labour Organisation estimates about 21 million people worldwide are trapped in forced labour. More than half of those cases occur in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Modern Slavery Bill will require local and foreign companies operating in Australia to publish an annual statement detailing the steps they have taken to address slavery in their supply chains.
The reporting requirements apply to businesses with an annual turnover of more than $100 million. All reports must be available to the public.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to assume global leadership in the fight against slavery in supply chains,” the letter says.
“We hope to see the Bill relisted for debate in September and we encourage all Parliamentarians to work collaboratively and in good faith to see this Bill through to enactment before the end of 2018.”
The federal government introduced the Modern Slavery Bill into Parliament in June before referring it to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.
In its submission to the Senate inquiry, Synod senior social justice advocate Dr Mark Zirnsak said the Bill addressed some of the shortcomings of the UK Modern Slavery Act.
“The Bill, combined with the establishment of a new Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit, is a vastly superior system for the reporting of entities on what they are doing to address modern slavery in their supply chains,” he said.
“It keeps the number of reporting entities to a workable number, making it hard for companies that give the least consideration to the risks of modern slavery from being able to hide in a pack of thousands.
“Ideally, the Bill would have additional sections addressing other issues, but as it stands the Bill is a valuable step forward even without amendment.”