Spotlight on modern slavery: Federal Government introduces legislation to establish Anti-Slavery Commissioner

7 December 2023
Louise Rumble, Partner, Sydney

As foreshadowed in our previous article on modern slavery reporting, available here, the Federal Government has introduced the Modern Slavery Amendment (Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Bill 2023 (Bill) (which amends the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (Act)) to establish a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The Commissioner will have a range of functions including:

  • promoting compliance with the Act;
  • supporting businesses to address the risks of modern slavery practices in their operations and supply chains including in other entities they own or control;
  • supporting collaboration and engagement within and across sectors to address modern slavery;
  • supporting victims of modern slavery by providing information on government and non-government resources, programs and services;
  • engaging and promoting victims of modern slavery to inform measures;
  • as well as a number of other functions relating to aware initiatives, research, consultation and advocacy in respect of modern slavery.

Importantly, the Commissioner will not have the power to investigate or resolve complaints concerning instances of modern slavery.

The appointment of a Commissioner aligns with the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020 – 25 issued by the Department of Home Affairs which set out key objectives in this area following a number of instances of modern slavery being reported in Australia.

In introducing the Bill, the Federal Government also highlighted its commitment to strengthening the Act including future implementation of review recommendations. Therefore, it is likely that we will see more robust reform in this area in future. While the Commissioner does not have enforcement powers at this stage, we consider this to be an area to watch.

What employers need to be doing now to prepare

Given the introduction of this legislation, employers should be mindful of compliance with the Act including reporting requirements and deadlines (more information is available here).

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Authored by:

Louise Rumble, Partner
Nakita Rose, Associate

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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