The NSW Parliament has led the way in passing the first-ever bill in Australia to combat the scourge of modern-day slavery.
The Sydney Archdiocese’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce has welcomed the passage of the Bill, while also pointing out aspects of the legislation that need to be strengthened.
Leading the charge to have the Modern Day Slavery Bill passed was Member for the Christian Democratic Party, the Hon. Paul Green MLC.
Mr Green said the passage of the Bill on 21 June was “incredibly significant” especially since 30 million victims of modern slavery are from the Asia Pacific region, mostly women and girls forced into the sex trade. He said a total of 45.8 million people have been enslaved around the globe according to the Slavery Index.
“This Bill is incredibly significant for the leadership role that Australia needs to play to in the Asia Pacific region to ensure we’re part of the global application of eradicating modern slavery,” Mr Green told The Catholic Weekly.
“The fact we’ve been able to put a bill through NSW Parliament and lead by example, is quite humbling.”
The Bill addresses slavery and slavery-like practices including human trafficking, servitude, forced labour, sex slavery, debt bondage, organ trafficking, deceptive recruiting, forced marriages, child brides and child cyber-sex trafficking.
It also paves the way for the appointment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner who will oversee putting in place processes to make supply-chains slavery-proof in government and commercial organisations.
Executive Officer of the Sydney Archdiocese’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce, Katherine Moloney, said the effort of Paul Green and his team in driving the process to have the bill passed was commendable, saying it was “a formidable task for a crossbencher.”
“The resultant NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018 is a testament to Paul’s tireless advocacy and careful negotiation,” Ms Moloney said.
She said the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney had been a prominent stakeholder throughout the process.
“In his evidence to the Inquiry, Archbishop Anthony Fisher called upon the state government to ‘slavery-proof’ its supply chains and took the bold step of committing to lead by example within the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.”
“In so doing he recognised that for most Australians the greatest risk of exposure to modern slavery relates to the goods and services we buy. This is true both of institutions and individuals.”
Ms Moloney said her main concerns with the Bill are the “lack of independence” that the new Anti-Slavery Commissioner will have as a public servant, and its “weakness” in seeking to slavery-proof supply chains. She said the requirements that will be demanded from commercial organisations to prove they have taken measures to slavery-proof their supply chains would not apply to the public sector.
In response to such concerns that the Bill does not go far enough in its provisions, Mr Green said the Bill is a significant and important step forward in combating slavery, and provides opportunity for further development in the future.
“I think first time round to get it up is a really good start in terms of what’s in the Bill. Could we have done more? Yes. Would we have got that far politically? Probably not at this point in time.”
“I think what will happen now is this will set the pace and other states and federal MP’s will learn from what we’re doing then I think it will cultivate the opportunity to revisit the Bill… and build on it where the opportunity exists.”