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Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Page: 8812


Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory) (12:16): I too would like to speak on the Modern Slavery Bill 2018. In terms of the Senate and in terms of the Australian parliament, it is a momentous occasion that we are debating this bill. As part of the committee inquiry looking into modern slavery, I had the experience, along with Senator Reynolds, of visiting the UK. From my own experiences in the North, and from the concerns around the businesses that we have, I know the questions that have been raised about the exploitation of workers. Going to the UK to examine the UK Modern Slavery Act provided enormous insights. But, even more than that, it is imperative for Australia to stand with the rest of the world in trying to combat slavery. Slavery is abhorrent and it should have been abolished a long time ago. Sadly, it hasn't been abolished. Sadly, there are way too many women, in particular, and children caught up in the vile norm of disempowerment of men, women and young children. In the UK, we heard Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne speak very strongly about why the UK act focused on having an antislavery commissioner. Senator Reynolds and the chair of the committee, Chris Crewther, were also able to see this. I know that it has been a bit of a journey to actually get this bill to this point, and I certainly commend you, Senator Reynolds, and the others who were on the committee with me that we are able to be here to discuss this.

In the UK, we heard of the profound importance of the role of that commissioner and the need for that commissioner. Yes, this is a first step, but Labor is very committed to ensuring that we go to the next step as well and have the commissioner role included in the bill. Strengthening the legislation around policing is necessary, and the ability of businesses to monitor themselves is critical, but it doesn't go far enough. I think we all accept that. I think we know that. Those are the areas that I will constantly focus on. The committee travelled as far away as the United Kingdom, and we were left with a really strong impression of what is important in legislation that comes before our parliament to ensure that slavery does not exist. We have to make sure that this bill has the teeth that it should have to send a very strong message right across this country and to any people across the seas who think that it is okay to enslave people in conditions that are abhorrent. We have to make sure that we're sending a very strong message. That is the next step and that is the place that I hope we will get to. Penalties and an independent commissioner are the steps that we have to aim for in this.

When we were in the UK, we had the opportunity of also speaking with some of the businesses. One that really stayed with me was our visit to Sky UK and the time that we had there. I was quite impressed with the diligence of Ms Fiona Ball, who was the responsible business manager at the time. She gave us a very clear briefing on Sky UK and what they were doing, and not only in terms of the UK legislation on modern slavery. They were talking about the practical steps in how they look at their supply chain, and, again, it gave us a great insight into what is very possible and what should be possible for businesses in Australia. Sky UK talked to us about the fact that everything they do is recorded and monitored, right down to where they get their television screens from and where they get the material for establishing their studios and the flow-on effect of monitoring even those businesses who provide them with just an earpiece for the presenter sitting at the table. They follow the supply chain and make sure that the monitoring of that supply chain is consistent with the recommendations of the UK legislation. That is where Australia needs to get to. We need to make sure that our legislation enforces that kind of diligence on companies, that they are following the supply chain to make sure that there is no-one, not a single person, enslaved in the production of that product. That's where we need to get to.

As you've heard from previous speakers on this side, Labor will be moving amendments in relation to the areas of the bill that we see as needing to be strengthened. But I do, once again, want to commend the members of the committee whom I travelled with on this report, Hidden in plain sight, and I would say to the Senate: it is well worth reading. Please, we've got to do more to stop slavery in this country.