A coalition of human rights organisations and academics, including an international law expert from The University of Western Australia, is calling on the Federal Government to overhaul Australia's modern slavery laws.
The call comes after a major investigation found companies were still failing to identify obvious slavery risks in their supply chains or take action to address them.
The report, Broken Promises: Two years of corporate reporting under Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, examines the second year of corporate statements submitted to the Government's Modern Slavery Register by 92 companies.
The statements were sourced from four sectors with known risks of slavery: garments from China, rubber gloves from Malaysia, seafood from Thailand and fresh produce from Australia.
The investigation found 66 per cent of companies reviewed were failing to comply with basic reporting requirements mandated by the legislation, with some not submitting reports at all. It also found 43 per cent were failing to identify obvious modern slavery risks in their supply chains.
Co-author Associate Professor Fiona McGaughey, from the UWA Law School and UWA Modern Slavery Research Cluster, said the Modern Slavery Act had been a useful first step in Australia but more robust regulation was needed.
“The current review of the Act provides an opportunity to move to a human rights due diligence model so businesses are required to take action, not simply produce a report,” Associate Professor McGaughey said.
Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer and co-author Freya Dinshaw said the group’s research indicated the Act was failing workers.
“While the Act has generated a lot of corporate reporting, when you drill down, many of the statements still lack basic required information or make vague commitments which are never fulfilled,” Ms Dinshaw said.
The Modern Slavery Act of 2018 is currently under a three-year statutory review. The coalition is calling on the Government to introduce penalties and strengthen the legislation by requiring companies to prevent and address slavery in their operations and supply chains.