By Christopher Knaus and Ben Doherty
The Australian government should introduce a modern slavery act, establish an anti-slavery commissioner, create a compensation scheme for victims and force big corporations to root out exploitation in their supply chains, an inquiry has found.
The inquiry into modern slavery in Australia delivered its final report on Thursday evening, providing a detailed blueprint for the creation of a modern slavery act in Australia.
Action on modern slavery has been spurred by a string of controversies, from the exploitation of migrant fruit pickers, Australian involvement in damaging orphanage tourism and the exploitation of cleaners.
The latest estimates suggest 40 million people around the world and 4,300 people in Australia are victims of modern slavery, including through human trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour and other slavery-like practices.
Crucially, the inquiry’s report, titled “Hidden in Plain Sight”, has called for the creation of an independent anti-slavery commissioner, mirroring a successful model in the UK.
The inquiry also wants to force big corporations with a revenue of $50m or more to prove they are not profiting or gaining a competitive advantage from slavery in their supply chains.
The recommended threshold is well below the $100m previously proposed by government, and would capture most large entities in Australia, the inquiry said.
It would force companies like Woolworths and Coles, for example, to show slavery is not occurring among its suppliers.
The inquiry also recommended vulnerable migrant workers should be better protected through changes to Australia’s visa system, while a community hotline should be created to report modern slavery and a national labour hire licensing scheme established.
The inquiry also called for measures to stamp out Australian support for orphanage tourism, which exploits fake orphans for profit from tourists, often putting them at significant risk of harm.
Orphanage tourism should be included in the definition of modern slavery and the Australian government has been urged to ensure foreign aid does not go to overseas orphanages.
The inquiry also called for aid funding to be diverted to keeping families together and caring for children through community-based care, rather than institutions.
The recommendations have been praised by leading orphanage tourism expert, Kate Van Doore, of Griffith University, who said it put Australia at the forefront of efforts tackle exploitation.
“These recommendations pave the way for Australia to continue to lead the world in combatting orphanage trafficking,” Van Doore told Guardian Australia. “They represent a huge step for child protection advocates who have worked tirelessly to have orphanage trafficking recognised in law.”
The inquiry also recommended a compensation scheme for victims of modern slavery in Australia should also be created, the inquiry said, which would be funded through proceeds of crime. The government should also give victims the right to sue for modern slavery.
The foreign affairs and aid sub-committee chair, Chris Crewther, described modern slavery as a “heinous” crime that must be stamped out.
“Modern slavery describes some of the greatest crimes of our time,” Crewther said. “The recommendations from this inquiry make a significant contribution to ensuring that, here in Australia, we are doing all we can to eradicate these crimes.”
The inquiry has also recommended further research on modern slavery be conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology and that defences be introduced to protect victims of modern slavery offences who are compelled to commit a crime.
The government released a plan in August to make large companies file annual reports on modern slavery.
Published on The Guardian on December 7, 2017
By Colin Packham and Tom Westbrook
Australians have voted overwhelmingly for same-sex marriage, paving the way for legislation by the end of 2017 and sparking rainbow celebrations on Wednesday, with people wearing wedding dresses and sequined suits and declaring "our love is real".
Australia will become the 26th nation to formalise the unions if the legislation is passed by parliament, which is expected despite some vocal opposition within the government's conservative right wing.
Thousands of people in a Sydney park broke into a loud cheer, hugged and cried as Australia's chief statistician revealed live over a big screen that 61.6 percent of voters surveyed favoured marriage equality, with 38.4 percent against.
Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, who came out as gay three years ago, said the result was a huge relief.
"It means that the way you feel for another person, whoever that may be, is equal," Thorpe told reporters at the Sydney celebrations.
The voluntary poll is non-binding but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately said he would fulfil a pledge to raise a bill in parliament with the aim of passing laws by Christmas.
Turnbull played down concern of a split in his coalition government over the policy as the conservative faction presses for amendments to protect religious freedoms that discriminate against same-sex couples.
"It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming. They have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra after the survey results were announced.
"They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love."
A marriage equality bill was introduced into parliament later on Wednesday.
The result marks a watershed moment for gay rights in Australia, where it was illegal in some states to engage in homosexual activity until 1997.
"It's a g'day. Way to go Australia," tweeted U.S. TV host Ellen DeGeneres, who is married to Australian actress Portia de Rossi in the United States.
Almost 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the survey - a higher turnout than Britain's Brexit vote and Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum.
Mark Barry, 59, wiped away tears as he took in the result with his partner of 35 years, Gerrard Boller.
"I know a celebrant who is going to be very happy about this," Barry told Reuters.
Irish-born Qantas Airways Chief Executive Alan Joyce, one of the few openly gay business leaders in Australia, told the Sydney crowd, many of whom sheltered from the sun under rainbow umbrellas, that the result was "an amazing outcome" and urged Turnbull to move quickly on legislation.
Turnbull has been under pressure amid a citizenship crisis that has cost him his deputy and the government's majority in parliament and political analysts said the resounding "yes" vote presented him with his first opportunity in months to exert decisive control.
Nick Economou, a political scientist at Monash University, said Turnbull "should feel emboldened by the result and this is the sort of thing he has been looking for to show some assertive leadership".
The 'no' campaign had sought to leverage powerful religious organisations in a survey campaign that was criticised by some in the 'yes' camp as divisive and aggressive.
Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said he was "deeply disappointed that the likely result will be legislation to further deconstruct marriage and family in Australia".
On the strength of the "yes" vote, conservatives dropped a plan for a competing bill that would have allowed private businesses to refuse services like wedding cakes for same-sex weddings by objecting on religious grounds.
Published on Reuters on November 15, 2017