FairSupply’s submission sets out some observations for the Committee’s consideration on issues of legality and practicality, including possible complementary steps that might be taken to enhance the practical effectiveness of the provisions contained in the Bill.
5 February 2021
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600
Introduction and statement of support
Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission in relation to the above Bill.
As Australia’s first law firm dedicated exclusively to modern slavery issues, we support the passage of the Bill. It marks an important step in building upon Australia’s commitment to addressing the scourge of modern slavery, going beyond the foundation laid by the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).
After Australia joined only a small number of nations (including the USA and United Kingdom) in requiring in-depth modern slavery reporting for all corporate entities over a certain size, it is an important and logical next step to continue the fight against slavery through the passage of legislation that singles out known slavery hot spots that likely have a direct nexus with Australian trade and commerce. The Customs Amendment (Banning Goods Produced by Uyghur Forced Labour) Bill 2020 represents such a measure.
The Bill is also an important indication to the world that Australia will not leave its international human rights obligations, reflected in numerous treaties to which Australia is party, at the merely rhetorical level. Through accompanying capacity building, research, investigation and awareness raising, the Bill has real potential to achieve a practical reduction of the importation of products into Australia that have been produced using forced labour in the most unimaginably suppressive and rights-violating conditions.
Whilst ever our global economy is willing to tolerate, turn a blind eye, or even fail to enforce prohibitions on the use of forced labour in the production and manufacturing of goods, such products will continue to find their way into markets. So long as this occurs, everyday consumers will continue to (for the most part unknowingly) provide financial supporting to those individuals (whether under the guise of government officials or private citizens involved in organised crime) who willingly exploit their fellow humans in conditions of slavery. Express import prohibitions like those contained in the Bill form part of a multi-faceted, and necessarily ongoing legislative response to a worldwide phenomena that is estimated to enslave a total number of fellow humans that is not all that far short of Australia’s total population.
Without in any way intending to detract from our overall support for the Bill, this submission sets out some observations for the Committee’s consideration on issues of legality and practicality, including possible complementary steps that might be taken to enhance the practical effectiveness of the provisions contained in the Bill.