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The Australian National University

Should Australia be Embracing the Modern Slavery Model of Regulation?

10.22145/flr.46.2.6
Ingrid Landau and Shelley Marshall (2018) 46 (2)

Australia is following in the footsteps of the UK and US and embracing the discourse and regulatory technologies associated with modern slavery regulation. This paper offers a critical perspective on this development. It begins with a brief account of the concept’s rise to prominence, and discusses the political economy in which it is embedded. It then explores some of the advantages, as well as the pitfalls, associated with the frame, and its associated regulatory approaches, techniques and discourse. The authors raise three broad sets of concerns. The first goes to the danger of exclusively focusing on criminal justice responses to penalise and deter those who practice modern slavery while neglecting other approaches that may help address the causes of the phenomenon. The second set of concerns goes to the tendency to exaggerate the transformative potential of one of the dominant regulatory responses in this area: the mandatory corporate supply chain reporting provision. The third set of concerns relate to the implications of addressing issues of worker exploitation and mistreatment through a modern slavery and human trafficking approach rather than through other well established and newer regulatory means. To support the third argument, the authors compare the modern slavery approach with two alternate approaches: labour regulation and human rights due diligence. The authors emphasise the need for vigilance to ensure that the embracement of a modern slavery frame does not shift attention (and resources) away from more thorough and effective means of securing greater corporate accountability for labour standards in supply chains.

Vol 46, Issue 2, 2018

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