Joint press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Andrew Forrest and Eddy Sariaatmadja

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: This morning we held a world first, a regional meeting bringing government ministers and business leaders together to discuss practical ways to combat slavery, and I want to thank my co-chairs Retno Marsudi, Andrew Forrest and Eddy Sariaatmadja for their powerful participation in today's event.

It is an intolerable fact that slavery exists in the 21st century through bonded labour, through labour market exploitation, through slavery like conditions, human trafficking and modern slavery have no place in our world today and global leaders have committed to eradicating slavery.

We have used the Bali Process mechanism that was established back in 2002 to bring this issue to the forefront of our deliberations and at our meeting today, Ministers from the 45 member countries and representatives from the 3 UN agencies were present to make powerful statements about their will, their commitment to eradicating, eliminating modern slavery in all its forms.

We were also honoured to have present significant business leaders from significant corporations from throughout our region. Leaders from Wesfarmers, from, from China, from Icebreaker in New Zealand, from Walmart in the United States, from Mitsui in Japan; across our region business leaders committed to focus their efforts on ending slavery. Issues like how to ensure ethical engagement of employees, how to protect the rights of particularly migrant workers, to shine a spotlight on supply chains to ensure transparency in global business supply chains – we know how vital they are for global economic growth and job opportunities. We must ensure that they are also ethical, and respect the human rights of all those who are part of the global supply chains.

We were particularly pleased that the business leaders committed to a work plan that Andrew and Eddy will speak about, and I see that as a key outcome of the Bali Process Government and Business Forum.

The Australian Federal Government is committed globally, regionally, domestically to eradicating slavery in all its forms. Indeed, we have had two parliamentary inquiries and the Government announced last week that we are committed in consultation with stakeholders, to introduce legislation akin to the United Kingdom's Modern Slavery Act.

So I am delighted with the outcomes of this meeting, and I thank all who took part in what is a world first. This is a major while stone in the campaign against human trafficking and modern slavery. I will ask my co-chair Retno Marsudi to say a few words.

RETNO MARSUDI: Well, thank you very much, Julie. Thank you very much for Australia for holding this inaugural Bali Process Government and Business Forum. This forum reflects the significant step taken by the Bali Process to more intensively engage the private sector in addressing the core issue of Bali Process, especially related to people smuggling, human trafficking, forced labour and other transnational organised crime.

This engagement, this kind of engagement was discussed during the sixth meeting of Bali Process last year in Bali; and next year the seventh Bali Process Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Organised Crime will be held again in Bali, co-chaired by Julie and I. Our colleagues, during the plenary, I offered some views on how we can enhance the engagement or the collaboration between businesses and the Government.

First, it's about the setting standard for good labour practices throughout the supply chain. Julie already mentioned a bit about the supply chain and about the good practices. The second one is to raise industry-wide awareness on ethical businesses through workshop training programs. The third is addressing the root causes. Economic empowerment is key, and collaboration among country of origin, country of transit and country of destination is very critical. The fourth is establishment of spatial mechanism to ensure immediate identification, processing, assistance for victims of human trafficking, and I do hope that we will bring the result of the forum to the next Bali meeting next year in Bali, Indonesia. And also, during my closing remarks, I proposed that during the next Bali meeting, the industries, the private sector, will be able to showcase the best practices that have been taken by industries on initiatives resulted from this forum. I thank you very much again.

EDDY SARIAATMADJA: Thank you. Bali Process has gone for six years as an inter-government process, but this is the first time that businesses are on board, and become part of the action in a concerted way. So the collaboration between business and government certainly will have a lot of impact on ending the human trafficking or modern slavery in the Indo-Pacific region. Modern slavery is not a term commonly heard by Indonesians, but there is no denying that the problem does exist, be that in the form of human trafficking, child labour, forced labour, or other form of exploitation. As we all have been briefed by our two foreign ministers, that 45 million people around the world are actually affected by this type of slavery, and it's a staggering and unacceptable figure. So I think today is a historic milestone where businesses and government act hand in hand together to fight or at least reduce slavery in a big time. Thank you.

ANDREW FORREST: Thank you, Your Excellencies. It has been an honour for Eddy and I to serve with you government leaders and to also corral the business community in the Indo Pacific region. Ladies and gentlemen, it is true that some 32 million people in the Indo Pacific region suffer the servitude, the incarceration of slavery, but it is also true that business and government, if we come together for the first time, have the power to end it. This has never been done before. There has never certainly been an intergovernmental initiative which is focused on modern slavery, and there certainly has never been any precedent to an intergovernmental agency which focuses on modern slavery, and then partners, and I mean really partners, with businesses we've seen in the last 48 hours.

The testimony from business leaders and government leaders from across the Indo Pacific has been unique and powerful. There is no doubt the conviction in that room to end modern slavery was absolute. Can I share with you that from across governments and from across businesses, that unique conviction echoed into a four-stage work plan. And there was authority there. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars of supply chains annually were represented in that room. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars assembled where we can identify and where we are asking government to lead us to identify and to eliminate modern slavery in all of our supply chains in all of our countries all over the Indo-Pacific region and therefore so lead the world.

To share with you that while the philosophy and integrity and morality was expressed, the mechanics, the hard measurable outcomes were stipulated by the government and business leaders, and to take you through this, supply chains are critical. Businesses called for governments to lead us as we can never front-run, governments make the rules. We can encourage governments and we can meet their rules and meet their standards, and we are asking the governments across the Indo-Pacific region adopt similar, if not the same Modern Slavery Acts which causes on a completely non voluntary basis. Businesses like ours, to be transparent, to report to the public, to our governments, to our civil societies, what we are doing once a year to ensure that we have checked properly and we have eliminated slavery in our supply chains.

A simple Modern Slavery Act where the playing field so to the central to the prosperity of business and central to prosperity of nations is level. That's what government is asking for, a level playing field where we are all treated the same. We've ask that government expect of us in business and of course in government procurement, which is also massive, that recruitment agencies are not ever paid for again by the workers. It is in that pocket of discretion where the worst transgressions of human rights occur, where recruitment agencies might charge one, two, or even longer years of an entire person's salary, and if they're unable to pay it, load them up with debts of 60-70% of compounding interest to which they can never pay, but as business reject that model and say that we will pay the fees and we will demand that only our fees get accepted by recruitment agencies, then we can eliminate as business, that hideous and unethical conduct which so plagues manufacturing and construction industries around the world.

We've ask that consumers power is fully released, that the public power is fully understood, and that the public can see those firms, those organisations and those governments which are taking modern slavery seriously, and we've asked for a slavery certification and seal upon goods and services which are produced without slave labour, where we have had independent authentication because we have been able to announce annually through simple modern slavery acts what we have done as business to ensure our supply chains are slave-free.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, just to make it abundantly clear, the binary, crystalline nature of what business and government is discussing, we have asked government in their Modern Slavery Acts across our huge region where some 60% of the world's people live and some 72% of the world's slaves suffer, that in each Modern Slavery Act there is an independent commissioner, that we as businesses can go to identify problems in our supply chains where we suspect illegalities may have occurred and where commercial in confidence can be respected.

We'd need independence from governments so that we can come whole- and openheartedly with our problems and challenges and get the best advice. But then know that this independent network of commissioners across the world is can share that information on a commercial-in-confidence basis, not identify the companies, but certainly identify the human traffickers - certainly identify the illegal and organised crimes which cross nations and cross continents. And these independent commissioners can share all that information and still protect the business community so that we are rewarded for what we do well - and that is the ethos of good business. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Minister, could you provide a timeframe of when Australia will adopt a modern day slavery act and could you also just outline what you see as the key elements of that legislation?

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you. The Australian Government has instigated two parliamentary inquiries into the adoption of a Modern Slavery Act. The terms of reference were to consider an Act along the lines of that introduced in the United Kingdom in 2015.

The parliamentary committees are yet to provide their final reports but, in the meantime, based on the submissions that we have seen and interim views of the committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee in particular, we announced that we would, in consultation with stakeholders, prepare legislation that would be ready for introduction once we were satisfied that the parliamentary committees had done their work, and that we had received sufficient feedback from the stakeholders.

So, the time frame is "as soon as possible" but given that we will have to undertake further consultation, I won't put a specific date on it. However, the work that has been undertaken in preparation for this meeting and the discussions we have had at this meeting will inform our deliberations. This is invaluable work that we have seen over the last couple of days and in the lead-up to this meeting. The government will be well-informed.

Our Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, spoke to the gathering last night. Our Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, also spoke at the meeting today. The Government is committed to a Modern Slavery Act, but the details will, of course, be in consultation with business and the private sector more broadly.

As far as the elements are concerned, the Modern Slavery Act in the United Kingdom focused on ensuring that large business - over a particular level - were required to report on a mandatory basis what they were doing in relation to ensuring transparency in supply chains and the steps they were taking against modern slavery. The specific details of the size of the company, the turnover of the company or the other criteria will be part of our discussions. But it will be about supplementing and complementing our Criminal Code -which of course outlaws slavery-like labour practices - but supplement it, and really see it from a victim's perspective.

So we hope - as Andrew says - that we'll be able to have other jurisdictions across our region enact similar laws, and we'll of course be working in coordination with other countries, and through the Bali process that Australia and Indonesia co-host.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RETNO MASUDI: Thank you very much. Many Indonesians become victims of human trafficking. So therefore, it is in the interests of the government of Indonesia to combat this crime and other exploitation.

One other key element in combating human trafficking is the empowering of the community. Because on top of the collaboration that we do - I mean, the government do, with the business, the private sectors - then we also have to empower the community.

With the proposal, first we identify the modus operandi of trafficking – such as debt, bondage and deception. The second is informing safe, orderly, and regular migrants. And third is the economic empowerment in the village. Again, the economic empowerment is very important. That's why, during this current administration of President Jokowi, the government says the development starting from the villages to the city, from the east to the west. I would also like to, still on the community empowerment, several programs that have been taken by the government to empower our community - for example, the Ministry of Manpower of Indonesia has launched Productive Migrant Village, in cooperation with the Civil Society Organisation.

Again, the government also launched the Community of Migrant Workers' Families. The Foreign Ministry, for example, also conducted the public awareness through the campaign publication e-protection, safe travel - so we use all the IT to make awareness for the migrant workers to have an orderly and safe migrants. That is what I can add.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

JULIE BISHOP: I referred to this video in parliament during the last sitting week. We take it seriously. I believe it's the video that has a voiceover of an Australian, and it made threats against Australia, Australians and others.

We take the conflict in southern Philippines very seriously. Some years ago, the leaders of ISIS, the terrorist organisation, declared that they wanted to establish a caliphate - a kind of headquarters - in the southern Philippines. So we have been working with the Philippines for some time to prevent such an occurrence. But it seems that foreign terrorist fighters, inspired or directed by ISIS, are now fighting with militia, rebels, militants and other criminal networks in southern Philippines. That's why Australia and other nations have committed to supporting the Philippines and the Armed Forces Philippines to stamp out terrorism in what has been a conflict-ridden area in any event, and to use our deep levels of cooperation across the region - including with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and others - to support the Philippines in identifying and defeating ISIS in Philippines.

As we are more successful in the coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, then we will see foreign terrorist fighters who survive that conflict making their way back home. And in the case of South-East Asia, they'll be coming back to Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, and other places. So it's going to take a very close and deep level of cooperation to continue to support each other in the fight against terrorism.

We have had many meetings at leadership level, at our law enforcement, police, intelligence agencies and the like, to ensure that we're sharing as much information as we can, we're providing the resources that are needed, and cooperating and collaborating to stamp out terrorism in our part of the world. Of course, we're also making a contribution to stamp out terrorism in the Middle East. But we are concerned about the situation in the Philippines - that's why we are supporting the Philippines' Government in its efforts to rid southern Philippines of the scourge of terrorism.

JOURNALIST: My question's also for the Australia Foreign Minister. Minister, did Tony Abbott fail to meet a basic standard of being a Member of Parliament by passing out and not voting on the floor of the House of Representatives several times?

JULIE BISHOP: I think we're referring to an incident that Tony Abbott himself spoke about years ago when we were in Opposition. I don't think I have anything to add to what is now a footnote in political history.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says it's inappropriate though?

JULIE BISHOP: The Prime Minister has summed up the situation - if members miss votes, then it's not a good outcome. But it's a matter that occurred, so I understand, years ago when we were in Opposition. I think we should move on.

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