Fairtrade supports Rex Patrick’s bill to ban imports made using forced labour

Fairtrade Australia New Zealand (ANZ) has declared its strong support for the bill by Independent Rex Patrick which today passed the Senate.

The bill calls for a ban on the importation of products into Australia if they were made using forced labour.

CEO of Fairtrade ANZ, Molly Harriss Olson, said that although Fairtrade was instrumental in the passing of the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018, it’s apparent that there is still more to be done.

“There is more slavery in the world today than there has ever been, with $150 billion USD per year in profits from slavery worldwide – and more than half of that is in the Asia Pacific,” she says.

“We have a chance now to make a difference to the lives of people in our region. This is the time for Australia to act.”

Senator Patrick initially proposed a bill focused exclusively on the banning of importation of goods made in China’s Xinjiang region due to concerns about the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims. However, he changed tack after recommendations from a bipartisan committee illustrated that it would be more beneficial to amend the law without mentioning a specific geographic region.

“Of course, we recognise the problems associated with goods from Xinjiang but Fairtrade applauds the widening of this bill to include other areas. We know that modern slavery is a global problem and a human rights travesty that needs to be addressed regardless of where it’s happening,” says Ms Harriss Olson.

“We also recognise that a bill like this means that business, particularly medium and small businesses, will be forced to look more critically at their supply chains. While this might initially seem like a big impost, it’s important to note that many already consider climate and sustainability measures. Checking that supply chains don’t include human rights abuses and slavery should be something that all businesses see as important as well.

Fairtrade ANZ works with its certified partners in both Australia and New Zealand to alleviate any form of indentured labour in supply chains. As well as employing heavily audited and rigorous processes, the system seeks to empower producers by addressing the root causes of slavery.

“Once companies start looking, they will find instances of slavery, particularly child labour, in their supply chains,” explains Ms Harriss Olson.

“That’s when you need a partner like Fairtrade who has been transparently and robustly auditing all of our licensee’s supply chains for decades to ensure that producers are supported and the companies buying Fairtrade products don’t get caught out.”

“It’s about finding solutions and helping those to be implemented in a positive way,” she says.


For more information, or to arrange an interview with Molly Harris Olson, Fairtrade ANZ CEO, contact Virginia Jones, Ph 61 0439 430 033 or virginia@fairtrade.com.au

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