NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018 – New South Wales (Australia)

The NSW Parliament, the main legislative body in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), passed the Modern Slavery Act 2018 on 21 June 2018. The NSW Act defines ‘modern slavery’ as ‘any conduct involving the use of any form of slavery, servitude or forced labour to exploit children or other persons taking place in the supply chains of government agencies or non-government agencies’. The Bill was originally introduced by Hon. Paul Green MLC, Member for the Christian Democratic Party.

The NSW Act requires commercial organisations (companies, partnerships and associations) with an annual turnover of $50 million or more to produce a Modern Slavery Statement outlining modern slavery risks in their good and services including their supply chains.

These commercial organisations required to submit a Modern Slavery Statement would include organisations that:

  • have employees in NSW;
  • supply goods and services for profit or gain;
  • have a total turnover in a financial year of not less than A$50 million; and
  • are not a NSW government agency.

The Modern Slavery Statements of these commercial organisations need to include information on their:

  • structure, business and supply chains;
  • due diligence processes in relation to modern slavery in the organisation’s business and its supply chains;
  • the parts of the organisation’s business and supply chains where there is a risk of modern slavery taking place, and the steps taken to assess and manage that risk; and
  • training available to employees regarding modern slavery.

The NSW Modern Slavery Act details a penalty of up to 10,000 penalty units or the equivalent of A$1.1 million which applies for:

  • failing to prepare a Modern Slavery Statement;
  • failing to publish that Statement publicly in accordance with the regulations; or
  • knowingly providing false or misleading information in connection with a Modern Slavery Statement.

In addition to the above penalties, the NSW Act provides power for a court to make modern slavery risk orders. A breach of the order will constitute an offence carrying a maximum penalty of 500 penalty units, imprisonment for two years, or both.

The NSW Act enables the appointment of a state-level independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s role will focus on public awareness and advocacy. The role does not include investigating or dealing directly with the complaints or concerns of individual cases. Any disclosure concerning the incidence, or possible incidence, of modern slavery in a commercial organisation’s supply chains will be recorded in a public register maintained by the Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s key purpose will be to:

(a)  advocate for and promote action to combat modern slavery,

(b)  identify and provide assistance and support for victims of modern slavery,

(c)  make recommendations and provide information, advice, education and training about action to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute offences involving modern slavery,

(d)  co-operate with or work jointly with government and non-government agencies and other bodies and persons to combat modern slavery and provide assistance and support to victims of modern slavery,

(e)  monitor reporting concerning risks of modern slavery occurring in supply chains of government agencies and commercial organisations,

(f)  monitor the effectiveness of legislation and governmental policies and action in combating modern slavery,

(g)  raise community awareness of modern slavery,

(h)  exercise such other functions as are conferred or imposed on the Commissioner by or under this or any other Act.

The NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner will be responsible for preparing a strategic plan to combat human trafficking and slavery-like practices in NSW. The Commissioner will also be required to publish an annual report. Announced on 21 December 2018, Professor Jennifer Burn, the Director of Anti-Slavery Australia, will take on the role of Interim Anti-Slavery Commissioner and spend the next six months driving the implementation of the NSW Modern Slavery Act.

Furthermore, the NSW Act establishes a Modern Slavery Committee as a joint standing committee of the NSW Parliament with powers to inquire and report on matters relating to modern slavery.

Post written by Marianne Rozario