BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY IN aUSTRALIA
A great deal has occurred in the last year in relation to Business and Human Rights Policy in Australia. This page highlights some of these developments, and expresses views about the best way forward in relation to various policies including Modern Slavery, the regulation of precarious work in the supply chains of Australian business, the Australian National Contact Point, and more.
In November 2017, the Australian Corporate Accountability Network was launched at an event hosted by RMIT University.
The Australian Corporate Accountability Network (ACAN) is a network of civil society organisations, academics and individuals working to promote accountability and respect for human rights by Australian businesses wherever they operate.
Dr Shelley Marshall is on the Steering Committee of ACAN, and was one of its founders.
ACAN will helping to coordinate policy positions between organisations who care about the ethics of business behaviour in Australia in the years to come.
australian Modern slavery Act
The global momentum to eradicate modern slavery has reached Australian shores. It is increasingly common to hear activists, the media, and politicians describe and decry workers found to be entrapped in situations of egregious labour exploitation as modern-day slaves. Businesses, led and cajoled by mining magnate Andrew Forrest, have voiced their commitment to tackling slavery lurking in their own supply chains. There is wide support for enacting modern slavery legislation based on the UK model.
This is all heartening, though not surprising given, in the words of labour law scholar Judy Fudge, ‘no one is “for” modern slavery’. But what exactly is modern slavery? And what does the rise of the concept in Australia mean for how issues of worker exploitation and mistreatment are understood and addressed?
Research conducted by Drs Marshall and Landau highlights problems with the Modern Slavery approach. In a series of blogs they explore why the idea of Modern Slavery has gained so much traction in recent years. They also examine problems with the Modern Slavery approach.
Australian national contact POint
Like other OECD countries, Australia has a transnational human rights mechanism in the Department of Treasury charged with hearing cases under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises – non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct across the globe.
In 2017, Treasury undertook a review of the Australian National Contact Point after considerable pressure from Australian civil society. The final report from the independent reviewer is available here. Treasury was very clear that "Publication does not signal Government endorsement of the report. Treasury is considering the report's findings in consultation with other agencies".