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representatives vote 2018-09-17#3

Edited by Micaela

on 2018-10-12 19:00:24

Title

  • Bills — Modern Slavery Bill 2018; Consideration in Detail
  • Modern Slavery Bill 2018 - Consideration in Detail - Forced marriage

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Clare O&#39;Neil</p>
  • <p>by leave&#8212;I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(1) Clause 4, page 4 (line 15), after "Criminal Code", insert ", other than an offence against section 270.7B of the Criminal Code (forced marriage offences)".</p>
  • The majority voted against [amendments](https://www.openaustralia.org.au/debate/?id=2018-09-17.114.2) introduced by Labor MP [Clare O'Neil](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/hotham/clare_o'neil), which means they failed.
  • O'Neil MP explained her amendments:
  • > *Amendments (1) and (2) circulated in my name relate to forced marriage, which, as it currently stands, is a definition of slavery to which this modern slavery act would eventually be subject. Whether we should include forced marriage in the legislation before us is a complicated question. Under Australia's Criminal Code, forced marriage is considered one of the types of slavery that is outlawed under Australian law, but that doesn't really help us to answer the question as to whether it should in fact be subject to a modern slavery bill.*
  • > *[...]*
  • > *The question, though, is how broadly we define slavery under this act, and, specifically, whether we want to put an obligation on big companies in this country that they investigate forced marriage, as a form of slavery, which would then subject to the reporting requirements that we are discussing? It may come to pass in the future that we will consider that this is an important part of the act, but Labor believes that under this first go at the Australian Parliament legislating on this matter it is not appropriate to include forced marriage.*
  • ### What is this bill all about?
  • According to the [bills digest](https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1819a/19bd012):
  • > *The Bill will require around 3,000 entities based or operating in Australia to prepare annual statements on potential modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains, and the steps they have taken to address those risks.*
  • <p class="italic">(2) Clause 4, page 4 (line 17), after "Divisions", insert "(other than an offence against section 270.7B)".</p>
  • <p>Thank you for the opportunity to move these amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill 2018. We're delighted to be making some proposed changes that we think will strengthen this bill and make sure it is effective as it can be. Amendments (1) and (2) circulated in my name relate to forced marriage, which, as it currently stands, is a definition of slavery to which this modern slavery act would eventually be subject. Whether we should include forced marriage in the legislation before us is a complicated question. Under Australia's Criminal Code, forced marriage is considered one of the types of slavery that is outlawed under Australian law, but that doesn't really help us to answer the question as to whether it should in fact be subject to a modern slavery bill.</p>
  • <p>Labor has spoken to stakeholders quite extensively about this issue and we're concerned that the inclusion of forced marriage in this bill will have unintended consequences, including driving forced marriage further underground. Good Shepherd in its submission to the Senate inquiry said, 'There is a likelihood that the reporting requirement may function as a barrier to prevention.' The Salvation Army said in its submission, 'There is a risk that requiring entities to assess risk of this practise may lead to unintended negative consequences, including racial or religious profiling of some of their staff.'</p>
  • <p>It might assist the House and those in the gallery for me to step back a little and contextualise what we're talking about here. The bill that's before the parliament is to introduce a requirement on big companies that are operating into Australia. What we're saying to these big companies is that for the first time under Australian law they will be required to make a statement about what it is that they've done to make sure that slavery is not a part of their supply chain. It's a very important reform because for a long time we've had big business in Australia tell us that what happens in their supply chain is none of their business. That has to change. It's a really exciting moment for this parliament to stand together on this question of obligation, because we are saying that we do expect companies to look. To not know is no excuse.</p>
  • <p>The question, though, is how broadly we define slavery under this act, and, specifically, whether we want to put an obligation on big companies in this country that they investigate forced marriage, as a form of slavery, which would then subject to the reporting requirements that we are discussing? It may come to pass in the future that we will consider that this is an important part of the act, but Labor believes that under this first go at the Australian Parliament legislating on this matter it is not appropriate to include forced marriage. The reason for this is that we don't want to give big companies effectively a social licence, and in fact a legal licence, to inquire into the personal lives of their employees. We don't want, for example, big companies to see that under this bill the parliament is telling them that they should be talking to their employees about their marriage and how their marriage came to pass. There may be instances where a forced marriage becomes part of some type of human trafficking that brings slavery into the supply chain of companies, but our view, in listening to the experts, is that at this stage we would prefer to err on the side of caution and not include forced marriage in the definition under this law. What that means is that big Australian companies will have to comply with this law&#8212;they will have to make sure they make statements about whether there is slavery in the supply chain, but we won't be asking them to tell us about what they've done to prevent forced marriage, because we believe that in doing so we may actually drive this very significant social problem further underground.</p>
  • <p>We on this side of the House are very concerned about forced marriage. Earlier this year I was very lucky to stand with the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and member for Sydney as we announced a very fresh, new and different approach to tackling forced marriage that a future Shorten Labor government would put in place. That would include establishing a Forced Marriage Unit to provide a one-stop shop to connect victims to the support they need. It would include increasing funding for civil society to support victims and, crucially, it would involve the full removal of the cooperation requirement. Today the cooperation requirement is a mechanism under Australian law that effectively requires victims of forced marriage, literally some of the most vulnerable people in our whole country, to get government support to escape from that marriage. We effectively require them to report against their own parents, and you can imagine that most are not willing to do that. It is a very complex issue, a very important one, and we don't believe that it belongs in this modern slavery act.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">David Coleman</p>
  • <p>The government does not support the proposed amendment and the removal of forced marriage from the definition of modern slavery. We've carefully considered this issue in consultation with over 100 experts in the business community and broader society. The broad feedback was strongly in favour of the inclusion of forced marriage within the definition of modern slavery. This is because some entities may directly contribute to forced marriage through their business activities. We believe that should be captured within the definition under the act. For example, a mining company may report on forced marriage risks because it runs remote overseas accommodation camps for workers who are forcibly marrying women. The bill will also apply to entities that may choose to include information in their statements about their actions to ensure that forced marriages don't occur as part of their services. The bill doesn't require entities to investigate or assess the private activities of their employees, which is important to note. Our approach to forced marriage is consistent with the way we will require entities to report on other modern slavery risks linked to their business activities. For example, members have highlighted the potential vulnerability of some private domestic workers to modern slavery. Under this act we will expect companies that provide domestic workers for their overseas employees to report on what they are doing to ensure these workers are not exploited. For these reasons the government does not support the proposed amendment.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Tony Smith</p>
  • <p>The question is that amendments (1) and (2) as moved by the member for Hotham be agreed to.</p>