KPMG Australia welcomed the opportunity to provide a submission in response to the Issues Paper released as part of the statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (Modern Slavery Act) being conducted by Professor John McMillan AO.
Since Australia’s modern slavery regime came into force there has been a promising trajectory in the business response to modern slavery risk in Australia. While there are gaps in compliance, many reporting entities have responded constructively to the requirements in the Act by making quality disclosures and showing growth and leadership in successive statements.
The global business and human rights landscape is fast-changing, with a growing number of jurisdictions adopting or considering legislative requirements for companies to undertake human rights due diligence. The current review provides an important opportunity to harmonise the Modern Slavery Act with reporting requirements in other jurisdictions and provide a level playing field for Australian reporting entities that wish to operate internationally.
Our experience tells us that clarity and support is required for businesses to effectively engage with the complex and endemic issues that arise when seeking to address and mitigate the risk of human rights abuses such as modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. We recommend that clarity in the Modern Slavery Act be improved through clearer due diligence steps and suggest that any amendments to the Act be subject to a transitional period of 12-18 months to enable reporting entities to build necessary capabilities to meet their new obligations.
Business responses to human rights risk can be further supported through an adequately resourced Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit and/or an independent Commonwealth Anti-Slavery Commissioner with a remit that includes supporting reporting entities by developing good practice guidelines and promoting cross-sector collaboration.
If you would like to discuss the contents of this submission further, please do not hesitate to reach out.