Thursday afternoon, 24 September 2020, NSW State Parliament: the NSW MP for Prospect Hugh McDermott MLA urged parliamentary colleagues in the Legislative Assembly to calculate the number of people their individual lifestyles keep in slavery. (You can do the same by scanning the QR code below.)Prompted by not-for-profit project War on Slavery to take the Slavery Footprint survey, Mr McDermott expressed abject horror at discovering his family’s lifestyle depends on 63 slaves.
”The phones in our pockets, tea and coffee we drink, clothes and jewellery we wear, tinned tuna and chocolate in our kids’ lunchboxes…. all these things and much more have known slavery in their supply chains,” he told AMUST.
“When the NSW Modern Slavery Act was passed two years ago, an estimated 42 million people – roughly five times the population of our state – the combined population of London, New York and Tokyo – were believed to be in slavery around the world. More people in slavery than ever before. It’s a number that shouldn’t exist and not one person in NSW can confidently say they have a slavery count of zero. We are all complicit.”
The impassioned speech was delivered against a backdrop of concern that the Government has abandoned its commitment to the NSW Modern Slavery Act, unanimously passed and assented in June 2018.
The legislation is regarded as ground-breaking but after the 2019 election, instead of bringing the Act into force the government referred it to an Inquiry.
The Inquiry received over 100 submissions overwhelmingly urging the implementation of the Act as world-leading legislation. The Inquiry Committee’s Report tabled on March 25 recommended the Act be enforced by 1 January 2021 with a few minor amendments to ensure legal comity with the Commonwealth. The six-month window in which the Government must table its response ends today, Friday September 25.
Concerned that the government will say the 12 remaining sitting days are not enough to get amendments through parliamentary process in 2020, anti-slavery campaigners, NGOs, survivor support groups and lawyers lobbied MLAs and MLCs yesterday.
The modern-day abolitionists – including a descendant of one of the great British abolitionists more than 200 years ago – told the parliamentarians that the people of NSW do not want to be funding this $150 billion a year crime and hope that enforcement of the Act without further delay will mean NSW can come out of COVID with real and lasting improvements to the way we do business and society in NSW.
War on Slavery’s Becky Honey said “The numbers of people in slavery have shot up in the two years since the parliament unanimously passed the Act and the effect of the COVID pandemic now increases the risks for the vulnerable exponentially – affecting the millions in supply chains overseas and the growing numbers of people who are socially and economically marginalised in our region and here including ‘ordinary’ workers in NSW – people doing it really tough – people we might previously have called Aussie battlers.”
Campaigners say that the NSW Modern Slavery Act is world-leading legislation which if enforced would provide a new benchmark for other governments and would provide NSW with a modern slavery equivalent of a carbon offset to begin reducing our slavery footprint.
“Business cannot afford not to comply,” Ms Honey continued. “The mood is changing amongst investors, shareholders and consumers and they’re making themselves heard. They want and are demanding human sustainability alongside climate sustainability.”
The first-ever NSW Parliament ePetition has been launched by Greg Donnelly MLC to support the NSW Modern Slavery Act being brought into force.
Anticipating the government does not accept the Inquiry recommendations and prioritise bringing the Act into force on January 1, 2021, the ePetition requires 20,000 e.Signatures by November 3, 2020 to trigger a debate in the NSW Parliament. The number of signatures is expected to exceed 10,000 by Friday. Previous paper petitions required 10,000 signatures.
Please sign and share the petition. You will find it here: https://bit.ly/3haI3el
The Hansard recording of Hugh McDermott’s Private Members Statement can be found here https://spaces.hightail.com/space/SqPBoRAdEt.
Scan the QR code above to do the Slavery Footprint Calculator as distributed in NSW Parliament