Australia ratifies International Forced Labour Protocol

  • Joint media release with:
  • Senator The Hon Michaelia Cash, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator for Western Australia
05 April 2022

The Australian Government has now ratified the most contemporary international labour standard to address forced labour, reflecting its longstanding commitment to combatting modern slavery in all of its insidious forms. 

The Federal Executive Council has approved the ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Protocol of 2014 to Forced Labour Convention 1930 (No. 29) (the Protocol) and Australia communicated its formal ratification to the Director-General of the ILO in Geneva for registration. This followed the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ recommendation that binding treaty action be taken with respect to the Protocol. 

Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Michaelia Cash said that Australia highly values our cooperation with other ILO members, and has long committed to ratifying the Protocol.

In December 2021, the Western Australian Government passed legislation which will bring its laws into line with Protocol, ensuring compliance across all state and territories by entry into force of the Protocol.  This allowed the Coalition Government to progress to ratify the Protocol.

“The Coalition Government’s prioritisation of ratifying the Protocol demonstrates our serious commitment to core ILO standards, the protection of workers, and the global eradication of forced labour,” Minister Cash said.

The Protocol adds new elements to the ILO Forced Labour Convention 1930 (No. 29), aimed at tackling the complexities of modern slavery and addressing the root causes of forced labour, with obligations to:

  • prevent and suppress forced labour,
  • protect victims and provide access to appropriate and effective remedies, and
  • penalise the perpetrators of forced labour and end their impunity.

Australia’s actions to combat modern slavery in all its forms extend beyond Australia’s borders. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Minister Payne said that close to 25 million people worldwide are subject to forced labour practices, and many victims are in our region, with an overwhelming majority being women or girls.

“The Coalition Government has zero tolerance for modern slavery wherever it is occurring,” Minister Payne said. 

Ratifying the Protocol builds on Australia’s comprehensive response, including through the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-25, the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth), and Australia’s international engagement to eradicate forced labour from societies around the world under Australia’s International Engagement Strategy on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, launched by Minister Payne last month.

“Australia’s leadership on combatting forced labour, and other forms of modern slavery, including as co-Chair with Indonesia of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, is a key priority within Australia’s foreign policy to uphold the international rules-based order, promote human rights, advance gender equality, counter security threats and strengthen economic growth and resilience, particularly to ensure a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region” Minister Payne said.

“We are committed to working with all stakeholders to shine a light on these insidious crimes. We want to ensure that states are not ignorant of, or ignoring, such activity occurring within their borders, and that Australian businesses are undertaking appropriate due diligence on the risks of modern slavery existing within their supply chains,” Minister Payne said.

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