Walk Free26 Jun 2020

Modern Slavery Act enforced by new WA government procurement debarment powers

Companies that fail to meet their obligations under the Australian Modern Slavery Act (MSA) will be barred from access to the WA government’s $27 billion procurement contracts on goods, services, and public works.

Modern Slavery Inquiry
Fiona David and Andrew Forrest at the inquiry for the Australian Modern Slavery Act. Photo Credit: Cahoots.

Companies that fail to meet their obligations under the Australian Modern Slavery Act (MSA) will be barred from access to the WA government’s $27 billion procurement contracts on goods, services, and public works.

Under the new WA government regime, companies will be debarred from government work for up to two years, if they have failed to comply with modern slavery reporting requirements in the last three years.

When the Australian MSA was enacted in 2018, controversially it did not include penalties for businesses that fail to report in compliance with their obligations.

The WA government procurement regime will authorise the first legally enforceable sanctions in Australia against MSA-non-compliant businesses.

Most current state and federal government procurement policies are well-intended, but don’t enforce ethical and sustainability objectives. The new WA legislation will be a powerful exemplar to other Australian governments.

Where a supplier has committed more serious offences (including conviction or imposed civil penalties) businesses can be debarred for up to five years. These offences include serious contraventions of the Fair Work Act and occupational health and safety laws.

Walk Free has approached the WA government to specifically include modern slavery provisions in this aspect of the debarment regime. Public comment is open until July 27th.

The WA Act will require all department decision makers to debar suppliers if their conduct is likely to have an adverse effect on the public interest or public confidence in the character and integrity of the state and its procurement system.

This “public interest test” will be a powerful tool for civil society to raise concerns about corporate behaviour of businesses seeking to tender for WA government work. Minderoo Foundation congratulates the WA government on its leadership in this area, and particularly for its commitment to enforce business compliance with measures designed to rid modern slavery from Australian supply chains.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation
Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with eight key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.
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