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Alex is committed to government transparency and accountability; protecting the natural and urban environments, open space and Sydney’s unique heritage; retaining inner city social and affordable housing; the humane treatment of animals; improving transport options; and fairness and equality for the LGBTI communities.
 

Modern Slavery Bill

(Bills - Second Reading Debate, 6 June 2018, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

The Modern Slavery Bill 2018 creates an anti-slavery commissioner to look at risks and prevention methods for modern slavery, and requires commercial organisations and organisations that make $50 million or more to publish an annual modern slavery statement that deals with its supply chain.The bill introduces new tools and adds oversight that could help to reduce slavery operations. Given that, I will support it.

Slavery involves situations where people are treated as property. The bill expands on this notion to establish a definition for modern slavery in State law that covers sexual servitude, child abuse material, forced labour, forced marriage, child marriage, trafficking and debt bondage—all of which are serious criminal acts.A holistic approach is needed to prevent modern slavery that involves coordination between multiple levels of government and enforcement agencies across borders. A number of obvious risksof slavery include poverty, improper regulation of industries, opaque lines of production, unchecked powers to people in authority, a lack of support for vulnerable and disadvantaged people, and stigma and dehumanisation of certain groups of people.

One area of risk I will discuss is the vulnerability of refugees who move to foreign countries and face challenges in settling into a home and securing employment. The Commonwealth Government recently cut the Status Resolution Support Services program, which provides income and support to refugees in this country. The move excluded any transition plan and has now put many refugees at serious risk of homelessness, longterm entrenched disadvantage, exploitation and abuse. I have written to the Premier about these concerns, and I would appreciate it if in her reply she identified how the new commissioner will be able to investigate and to provide advice about these concerns.

The previous speaker and members in the other place raised concerns about the impact on the internationally respected sex work industry in this State.

I was a member of the Legislative Assembly Select Committee on the Regulation of Brothels. During my time on that committee there was no evidence that our existing system in any way encourages trafficking, servitude and slavery, but there was evidence that the health and welfare of sex workers would be at risk if we adopted a licensing system or heavier regulation. Unfortunately the report recommended a registration system, and I was a dissenting member of that committee. Fortunately the Government did not adopt this recommendation. The sex work industry is still concerned that sex workers will be targeted. I ask the Government to allay these concerns in reply. I also understand The Greens will move an amendment around this.

Importantly, there is a requirement in the bill that large organisations publish statements about their supply chain. It is important that we know what organisations are doing to prevent the purchase, use and sale of products made under modern slave conditions. We hope this transparency helps to reduce slavery. Sprawling supply chains that see multiple processes to source and assemble multiple parts across the production of a product can be difficult to trace but the businesses must do more to follow that chain of their products and certify claims made by producers in other countries.

I think of mines in the Congo where the metals for our electronics are sourced. They have appalling human rights records, with exposés of child labour and sexual servitude of workers. There are also links to slavery in the prawn trade in Thailand. While it is unlikely that this bill would have changed much about these situations, it does help to make supply chain statements a priority. These are items the new commissioner can advise on. Most oppressive labour conditions in poor and developing countries will not constitute the definition of slavery or modern slavery in the bill and therefore may not be addressed. We should be concerned that many of the products we buy are made in conditions that force people to work all day, every day, for very low wages, in hazardous conditions without protections like sick leave or workers compensation. If we would not accept these conditions for ourselves, our families and our colleagues, we should not accept them for others. I hope that this bill helps New South Wales contribute part of what should be a global effort to reduce modern slavery. I commend the bill.

 

To read the speeches of other Members on the subject, click HERE