Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Labour needs to act on modern slavery

A group of New Zealand's largest companies are pushing for modern slavery legislation in New Zealand:

A coalition of 85 businesses and organisations has asked the government to launch a promised inquiry into whether a modern slavery act is needed in New Zealand.

The campaign is aimed at finding any instances of "modern slavery" in New Zealand, but also testing the integrity and transparency of supply chains used by local businesses.

A joint letter from the group said other countries have already enacted laws against modern slavery and New Zealand needs to act on a draft action plan it has already drawn up.

(That "draft" action plan was suddenly released today, very obviously in response to this media coverage. Of course, it promises no real action, instead saying they are "palnning" a review. Which I think tells you exactly how little the "Labour" Party cares about eliminating this scourge...)

A modern slavery act on the Australian model would require major businesses to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks. But that's only part of the solution. The other half, as highlighted in Stuff's version of the story, is prohibiting goods made by slave or forced labour from being imported. And that's actually the easiest bit, because the 2017 Customs and Excise Act handles most import prohibitions by Order-in-Council rather than primary legislation, so the government can literally do it with the flick of a pen. And they did exactly that in 2019, when they banned imports of goods made by prison labour. So why haven't they done this for goods made by slave and forced labour? Too afraid of offending China?