Wednesday, 04 December 2019

National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery

Australian Parliament House, Canberra

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to formally welcome you to this Ministerial meeting of the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people , and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

I would also like to acknowledge the Aboriginal Elders of other communities who may be here today.

It is my pleasure to welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Honourable Marise Payne and the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force, Michael Outram.

On behalf of the Australian Government, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge your passion and commitment to combating human trafficking and modern slavery and to recognise the significant record of achievements the Roundtable has had over the past eleven years.

Since the National Roundtable was established in 2008, you and your predecessors have played a crucial role in shaping Australia’s response to modern slavery.

Your work has contributed to:

  • shaping legislative reform to criminalise forced marriage and develop a Forced Marriage Community Pack,
  • establishing the current National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery, and
  • convening multi-stakeholder working groups on labour exploitation and supply chains to better inform the Government’s response to these issues.

I am proud that Australia has passed world-leading legislation targeting modern slavery in supply chains, due in large part to your efforts. Our new Modern Slavery Act is a milestone in our response to modern slavery, which will improve transparency and reduce the risk in Australian business supply chains.

Over the past 12 months, my ministerial colleagues and I have worked hard to strengthen Australia’s response to human trafficking and slavery.

For the first time, we have produced a national estimate of the number of victims of human trafficking and slavery in Australia. This has given us a credible evidence base to assess the nature and prevalence of modern slavery in Australia, to enable us to effectively identify and combat these crimes.  

We also introduced Australia’s Modern Slavery Act and established the Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit within the Australian Border Force.

To support effective implementation of the Modern Slavery Act, in June we hosted an international conference with over 400 business and civil society representatives from more than 18 different countries. Thank you to those of you who attended the Conference. In September, I also launched a detailed Modern Slavery Guidance for Reporting Entities.

We have strengthened our response to forced marriage by amending the Criminal Code to explicitly criminalise all marriages involving children under the age of 16 years. 

The Australian Border Force has continued work closely with the Australian Federal Police to identify and prevent modern slavery in Australia.

In recent months, ABF officers identified a potential victim of exit trafficking who was being forced to leave Australia against their will. The ABF officers referred the case to the Australian Federal Police who have now placed the suspected victim on the Government’s Support for Trafficked People Program.

This is a prime example of our agencies working closely to identify and support victims.

We continue to promote regional cooperation to combat modern slavery, including hosting a Regional Symposium on Supply Chain Transparency in Jakarta in June, in our capacity as Co-Chair of the Bali Process Working Group on Trafficking in Persons. Minister Payne will speak in more detail about Australia’s broader international work to combat human trafficking and slavery in our region shortly.

I am committed to building on these important achievements and am pleased to announce today further initiatives to enhance our response to modern slavery.

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Today, I am pleased to announce that the Government will establish a Modern Slavery Act Expert Advisory Group in 2020.

The Advisory Group will comprise representatives from business, peak industry bodies, civil society and academia. It will provide advice to Government on implementing the Modern Slavery Act and help shape our engagement with reporting entities. This will include supporting the delivery of awareness-raising materials and events, and supporting the development of targeted guidance materials for reporting entities and small businesses.

The Advisory Group will also provide advice to support the development of the Commonwealth Government’s Modern Slavery Statement, including key actions to assess and address potential modern slavery risks in government procurement and investments.

I will establish the Advisory Group in early 2020.

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I am also pleased to announce that the Government will establish a Recognition Scheme for efforts to combat modern slavery.

The Recognition Scheme will acknowledge individuals, businesses, and peak bodies that demonstrate excellence in innovation or collaboration to improve supply chains transparency to combat modern slavery.

This will help to incentivise and highlight best-practice compliance with Australia’s Modern Slavery Act.

The Government will consult the new Expert Advisory Group as it develops the scope and operation of the Recognition Scheme.

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The Government remains committed to supporting victims of modern slavery through the Support for Trafficked People Program.

I am therefore pleased to announce, on behalf of Senator the Honourable Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services, that the Government will be integrating the trial of extended support for victims of forced marriage into an ongoing stream of the Support Program.

These changes recognise the need to provide comprehensive, effective and tailored support without requiring forced marriage victims to participate in the criminal justice process.  

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Another key priority for the Government is developing the next five-year National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery (2020-24). This will succeed the current National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery, which is drawing to a close.

The Government is committed to ensuring the new Plan reflects emerging issues and trends, key priorities, and a whole-of-community perspective.

Therefore, I am pleased to release a public Consultation Paper for the development of Australia’s next five-year Plan.

The Consultation Paper seeks written submissions on twelve proposed key goals for the Government to focus on over the next five years.

These goals have been developed following close consultation with the Roundtable and aim to build on the Government’s efforts under the existing National Action Plan.

The deadline for written submissions on the Consultation Paper is 31 January 2020.

We will continue to work closely with all of you all as we develop and refine the next Plan, including through a series of stakeholder consultation roundtables early next year.

As the current National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery draws to a close, we need to be looking ahead.  

Since my appointment as Assistant Minister with responsibility for Australia’s domestic response to modern slavery, I have had the opportunity to meet with many of you to discuss the challenges which lie ahead.

Today, you have an important opportunity to contribute to how we build on our existing collaboration and plan for the next five years. 

I wish you well in your discussions and look forward to continuing to work with all of you through this National Roundtable.

I would now like to invite Minister Payne to provide remarks.

Thank you.