Slave-made goods still sold in Australia

Photo: International Labor Rights Forum

A voluntary system of certifying whether goods are free from forced labour is about as far as things go in Australia when it comes to abolishing the slave trade throughout the world.

Though it is illegal to import slave made goods, there has never been a single prosecution for the crime in Australia.

STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia believes it should not be left to the ethics of consumers to decide whether to purchase products made by slaves. Rather, they simply shouldn’t be available in Australia.

As a result, 18 representatives from the coalition of NGOs that make up STOP THE TRAFFIK have spent two years compiling the report Unshackling Laws Against Slavery, which explores effective legislation to put an end to the importation of these products.

The report says the US is leading the way with the US government actively encouraging companies to ensure their supply chains are free of these abuses. US law allows NGOs to mount cases against companies importing goods where slavery has been involved in their production, although no such case has yet been successful.

In September 2010, California signed into law the Supply Chain Transparency Act. The act requires retailers and manufacturers operating in California with annual worldwide gross receipts exceeding US$100 million in revenue to publicly report on voluntary efforts made to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains.

The report also discusses other flaws in current Australian laws, including the lack of legal avenues to mount a case against a corporation that recklessly imports or sells goods where slavery or human trafficking have been involved in their production.

Cotton clothes, cocoa, gems, seafood, bricks, pavers and rice are among the most common products imported that are likely to carry the risk of having been produced by forced labour — equalling about $600 million of imported goods to Australia between 2009 and 2010.

STOP THE TRAFFIK Coalition’s Mark Zirnsak said: “There is a need for government intervention, as voluntary measures by corporations have been shown to not be enough to ensure goods coming into Australia are slavery free.”

[The Unshackling Laws Against Slavery report was released at the campaign launch at Parliament House in Canberra on November 23. Read it here. To find out more about STOP THE TRAFFIK visit its website .]