The Modern Slavery Bill – an overview

Currently before NSW Parliament is the proposed introduction of a long awaited anti-slavery law in Australia, the Modern Slavery Bill 2018.

While we wait to hear whether this Bill is formally passed, we provide a brief overview of what the new laws are designed to do, what the current status is and who the new laws will apply to and its objectives.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is any form of slavery, servitude or forced labour to exploit children or persons. It covers all forms of exploitative practices including human trafficking, child labour, wage exploitation and debt bondage.

The UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates there are 40.3 million people in modern slavery worldwide with 24.9 million in forced labour situations and 15.4 million in forced marriage.

1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children.

Why do we need a new law?

In recent years, the UK and US have introduced anti-slavery laws to address the issue of modern slavery to hold large corporations more accountable for their supply chain operations. Australia is now following suit. We have previously written an article discussing the UK and US laws here.

The introduction of a new Modern Slavery Act (MSA) seeks to provide a comprehensive anti-slavery law and strengthen existing laws in Australia.

A new Anti-slavery Commissioner and Committee will be created to report and oversee the practical enforcement.

A major introduction is that the MSA will compel Australian organisations who have a turnover of $50 million or more, to closer inspect their supply chains and to prepare compulsory reporting or face severe penalties. This requirement will make it compulsory for these organisations to review their overall internal practices to address the problem of modern slavery.

The current legal framework to address modern slavery in Australia has been to add elements into various existing laws (see table below). The MSA will be the first stand along anti-slavery law in Australia.

The current Australian laws for addressing slavery includes (not exhaustive) is tabled below:

Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)


Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)


Confiscation of Proceeds of Crimes Act 1989

slavery, slave trading, servitude, sexual servitude, people and organ trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour of persons and forced marriage as offences in Australia[1].


Each offence for slavery carries a maximum 25 year imprisonment.


Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)


Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)

contains provisions which deal with forced marriage circumstances context of civil and family law proceedings.


Migration Act 1958 (Cth) Offence to provide misleading or forged documents for visa purposes or for employers to engage individuals without a visa or in breach of visa[2].
Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) Provides minimum wages and conditions for employees.


Victims Rights and Support Act 2013 (NSW) Provides for victim compensation in NSW.



 The new MSA if passed, will operate alongside the existing laws and focus on its objectives (below).

Its role appears to be similar to the US and UK anti-slavery law, focusing on organisations with reviewing their supply chains to tackle the global issue.

What are the objectives of the MSA?

The MSA are laws aim to:

  1. Combat modern slavery;
  2. Introduce a new Anti-slavery Commissioner;
  3. Create a Modern Slavery Committee to report back to Government;
  4. Raise community awareness and educate the community about modern slavery;
  5. Assess the effectiveness of existing laws and provide recommendations;
  6. Enforce mandatory reporting of modern slavery in supply chains for organisations which have a turnover of over $50 million;
  7. To make forced marriage of a child in NSW a slavery like offence in NSW; and
  8. Penalise persons for involvement in cybersex trafficking by making offences to use a digital platform for the purpose of child abuse material[3].

As a firm, Morrissey Law & Advisory are supportive of increasing measures to combat human trafficiking, labour exploitation and slavery.  We will continue to report on the progress and impact of the MSA.

If you have any questions, please contact Michael Morrissey or Ruby Lee.

[1] Division 270 and 271 of Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (Code); see s.270.3(1), s.270.5, 270.6, 270.7B of Code and the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-Like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2013 (Cth).

[2] Ss. 234, 245AB-AEB of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

[3] Modern Slavery Bill 2018 Explanatory Note

Disclaimer: This publication by Morrissey Law & Advisory is for general information and commentary only and should not be considered or relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in relation to any matters or transactions that may arise in relation with communication.

2018-07-18T15:03:10+10:00 June 4th, 2018|Commercial & Corporate Advisory|