We recently sat down with Gregory Ross, Partner at Eakin McCaffery Cox to provide some insight into the implementation of the Modern Slavery Legislation regarding what is to be expected in compliance and its effects. He will be delving further into this issue at the upcoming 6th Annual Government Law Conference 2020 on Wednesday 11 March.
What are some of the key issues for Government following the introduction of the Federal Modern Slavery Legislation and forthcoming enactment of the NSW Modern Slavery legislation?
The economic situation has changed not inconsiderably since the introduction of Modern Slavery Legislation. “Compliance cost” is necessarily an issue and one which, from what I have seen, has not been much addressed, at least not in a practical sense and, particularly, not in respect of small commercial operations.
Small commercial operations are, of course, not caught by the legislation, State or Federal, itself. However, whilst we are still in the early days of operation of the legislation in Australia, authorities will have to be cautious in respect of both the prescriptive and proscriptive aspects of the implementation of the legislation, particularly in respect of its impact on small commercial operations.
Where should the Federal and NSW State and Local Government be focusing their attention to ensure compliance?
This I would have thought, at this stage, the primary concern of authorities should be to ensure that compliance the legislation, in operation, is reasonably practical and does not involve too unreasonable a compliance cost impact, particularly in respect of small business operations which form part of the chain of supply of larger operators.
Whilst things will properly vary industry to industry and product to product, I would have thought that, when calling tenders, government authorities would have to be very careful in respect of: –
- weightings given to any information requests in approaches to market seeking Modern Slavery compliance acknowledgement from tenderers/suppliers; and
- the extent to which, to the extent large suppliers caught expressly by the legislation,, in their own procurement processes do not impose so significant an obligation on prospective suppliers as to exclude, intentionally or otherwise, many small business operations.
What are the expected compliance costs in complying with this Legislation? Who will ask what, when and how deeply with Government departments be impacted?
That is exactly the problem, one can’t be precise. I have seen various estimated compliance costs mentioned in various articles and discussions. However, but smaller commercial organisations to which I have spoken are alarmed at the cost, partly because they are unable to measure what that cost will be to them.
I should note those discussions were before the impact on general Australian economy of the recent massive bushfire damage and, more recently the potential commercial impact of the current coronavirus epidemic.
Which areas in particular have and will be impacted by this legislation?
This infrastructure provision and building industries other ones I perceived to be most impacted by the legislation, primarily because of their size and the involvement in their chain of supply of so many small business operators, but there will be others.
I have been somewhat surprised by comments from people in the agriculture industry to whom I have spoken suggesting that, in some small sections of their industries, some labour hire arrangements are such that they may well be argued to involve “slavery”.
Gregory Ross has been a partner at Eakin McCaffery Cox Lawyers since 2010 and was Special Counsel at the firm between 2001 and 2008. Prior to his return as Partner he was Special Counsel at Shaw Reynolds Bowen & Gerathy and has had a part-time appointment with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Connect with Gregory via email [email protected] or LinkedIn