NSW Modern Slavery Bill – a moment in history

There we have it, yesterday, 21 June 2018, the NSW Parliament passed the Modern Slavery Bill 2018. The first in the nation. The passage of the Bill demonstrates the State’s strong commitment to ensuring that modern slavery does not play a part in NSW, and overseas.

While the Bill introduces new offences for cybersex trafficking, forced marriages of children and other slavery-like conduct, the Bill also seeks to achieve supply chain transparency by requiring commercial organisations with turnovers of more than $50 million to prepare an annual public modern slavery statement, with penalties for non-compliance.  As part of this Bill government agency procurement will be required to report on the effectiveness of due diligence processes in ensuring that the procurement of goods and services by government agencies are not the product of modern slavery.

Small medium enterprises are given an 18month grace period to comply with the Bill.

The Modern Slavery Bill provides for the appointment of an independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, with responsibilities that include supply chain risk monitoring and advice, the development of codes of practice, and broader community awareness-raising. One of the Commissioner’s roles will include maintaining a freely-available public register which records whether organisations have disclosed that their goods or services are potential products of supply chains involving modern slavery (including whether any remedial steps have been taken).

The Bill contains provisions for courts to make orders prohibiting certain conduct. Contravention of an order, without reasonable excuse, is an offence attracting pecuniary penalties and/or imprisonment.

The bottom line for companies and service providers in NSW – whether you are impacted by the threshold level or are a supplier to government (in this case, including local government) – you will be required to report on your modern slavery management activities. Failure to do so could result, in penalties or damage to brand and reputation.

The implication for companies will grow as the Government contemplates a Commonwealth Modern Slavery Bill, due to be presented to Parliament soon.

Zoic has been involved in the development of human rights management frameworks in Asia Pacific, and are currently providing advice in NSW in developing modern slavery management programmes. Contact ask@zoic.com.au for more details on our capabilities.