Today is a significant day in the fight against human trafficking and labour exploitation.
This morning, Julia Gillard announced a new approach to ensure no firm providing goods or services to the Commonwealth will be tainted by slavery or trafficking anywhere in the supply chain.
This is a big win! The Government is the largest consumer in Australia – spending over $29 billion a year on goods and services. By only supporting suppliers who are implementing more ethical standards and are up front about their efforts to ensure no forced, child and trafficked labour was involved in producing their products, they are doing three things:
1. Putting much needed pressure on businesses to be more transparent about how their goods were produced and encouraging them to clean up their supply chains. If they don’t, they won’t win government contracts.
2. Listening to your voice – our supporters, the Australian public – who have been standing up and saying that they don’t want their tax money supporting forced, child and trafficked labour.
3. Echoing what the Don’t Trade Lives campaign has been saying since it started! Consumer pressure works! Of course, we are talking far larger purchases than the average Australian makes, but the principle is the same. When we say no to poor business practice – we can encourage change.
Now we recognise that this is not a simple process and change will not come overnight – but I hope that this announcement is the beginning of a long chain of events that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of people being exploited for their labour around the world.
Over the coming months I hope to see legislation and regulatory reforms that put this announcement into practice. I hope these will be rigorous and robust – ensuring that all companies publically demonstrate steps taken to avoid and eradicate forced, child and trafficked labour in the supply chain of their goods and services, before Government contracts are awarded. If a company fails to do so, then strict penalties should be implemented.
Eradicating trafficking was always going to be a long journey. We are not there yet – but if anyone is ever beginning to lose hope – remember today! It’s the day Australia took a small, but significant step towards our shared goal. A world free from forced, child and trafficked labour. And you can congratulate yourselves for helping to get us a step closer –
Your letters, emails, tweets, everything – they made a difference!
Why don’t we celebrate with a fairtrade cuppa or chocolate? I certainly will….
Ruth Dearnley is World Vision’s Campaign Leader for Child Protection and Trafficking in Persons. She also enjoys a chocolate fix every now and then!