Super funds say yes to nationwide modern slavery compensation

22 February 2024
| By Jessica Penny |
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The Investors Against Slavery and Trafficking Asia Pacific (IAST APAC) has expressed its support for the establishment of a national compensation scheme to support victim-survivors of modern slavery.

While a criminal offence at the federal level, there is no national compensation scheme that supports victim-survivors.

However, the parliamentary joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence, and trade first recommended the establishment of a national compensation scheme for victims of modern slavery in 2017.

IAST APAC, comprising 45 investors with $11.9 trillion in assets under management (AUM), has announced its support for such a scheme in a letter to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

Among the body’s 45 members are Australian Retirement Trust, AustralianSuper, Colonial First State, HESTA, Macquarie IM, and IFM Investors.

In a joint statement, IAST APAC affirmed that modern slavery, human trafficking, and labour exploitation “goes beyond ethics”.

“Business models and value chains that rely on underpaid workers, weak regulation or illegal activities such as forced labour and other forms of modern slavery drive unsustainable earnings,” the body said.  

According to the IAST APAC, the establishment of a comprehensive scheme will complement the Commonwealth modern slavery offences in divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code, reporting entity obligations in the Australian Modern Slavery Act, and potential new federal legislation such as forced labour import bans.

“A national approach reduces confusion and disparity in a system of state-based compensation, which currently appears fragmented,” it said.

Namely, the criteria for the award of compensation, assessing harm, time frames for reporting, and the amount of compensation differ by jurisdiction, according to the group, and could mean a potential barrier to victim-survivors.

It further highlighted that Australia is a signatory to a number of conventions and treaties that require victim-survivors of human trafficking, slavery, and slavery-like practices to have timely access to effective remedies, including article 1 and article 4.1 of the ILO Forced Labour Protocol 2014.

“A national approach aligns with Australia’s commitments under the ILO Forced Labor Protocol 2014, including obligations concerning remediation, which recently entered into force,” IAST APAC added.

Of IAST APAC’s two streams, policy advocacy and company engagement, the latter focuses on engagement with companies in the Asia Pacific to support them to ”find, fix and prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains”.

As such, it concluded that a national approach could also provide an example of remedy that investors, such as IAST APAC members, could use in company engagement activities.


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