The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Branch within the Australian Border Force (ABF) led the government’s domestic response to trafficking; the ABF was the chair of the Australian Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery (IDC), which coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking policy framework and led the 2020- 2025 NAP implementation efforts. In addition, the Operational Working Group (OWG), a subcommittee of the IDC, focused on operational issues and information-sharing in relation to the support program; the OWG reported meeting more frequently about pandemic-related impacts on trafficking victims. The government, in consultation with NGOs, developed a monitoring and evaluation plan to measure NAP progress. The IDC drafted and delivered to Parliament a report on government anti-trafficking efforts completed in 2017 to 2020.
The government funded multiple research projects conducted by an academic institution and NGO, and it awarded 1.67 million Australian dollars ($1.2 million) to seven NGOs to implement community prevention programs in Australia, compared with 393,380 Australian dollars ($286,090) for the 2020-2021 period. NGOs implementing these programs focused on forced labor, survivor engagement to inform national policy, migrant worker rights, trafficking indicators, Modern Slavery Act reporting, and increased trafficking awareness and community collaboration of anti-trafficking activities. The government conducted awareness campaigns targeting visa holders and the public. Observers in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) reported concern that many migrant workers did not fully understand their offers or conditions of employment prior to arriving in Australia, despite receiving and reading their letter of offer and employment before arrival. Observers also noted many migrant workers did not know their workplace rights. The government conducted a campaign targeting seasonal workers, who are vulnerable to trafficking, on the consequences of absconding; the campaign warned visa holders against leaving their designated employer to find other work.
The Modern Slavery Act 2018 required businesses and entities with annual revenue of 100 million Australian dollars ($72.73 million) or greater to publish an annual modern slavery statement detailing their efforts to combat modern slavery in their supply chains and operations, among other provisions. The government published its second Modern Slavery statement, in compliance with the act, and updated the publicly available online registry of all submitted statements. The government posted more than 2,500 statements from businesses, covering nearly 6,000 entities operating in more than 23 different industries on the registry, which was the second submission period under the act. The government developed and disseminated guidance documents, including on how the pandemic may have increased forced labor risks in supply chains, to assist businesses with the implementation of the act’s requirements. In addition, the government conducted 34 educational engagements with businesses to support the understanding and completion of the act’s requirements. However, observers noted the act provided no financial penalty to companies for non-compliance and a majority of companies that did report failed to fully address the mandatory reporting requirements of forced labor risks in their supply chains; an NGO analyzed 102 company statements published in the first reporting cycle of the Modern Slavery Act and found that less than a third of companies took action to address modern slavery risks in their supply chains. Several NGOs urged the government to strengthen its enforcement framework of the act and require companies to take steps to prevent forced labor.
In 2021, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre created and distributed its first written guide of financial indicators of trafficking to businesses. The government established an intergovernmental network to address labor exploitation in public procurement across state, territory, and commonwealth jurisdictions. The Fair Work Ombudsman continued to prioritize prevention of potential labor exploitation—including human trafficking—amongst migrant workers, focusing on awareness in domestic workers and among international students. In November 2021, the Fair Work Commission established a minimum wage for horticulture workers.
The government did not implement a recommendation (from the February 2019 Migrant Workers Taskforce Report) to create a national Labour Hire Registration Scheme requiring recruitment agencies in designated high-risk industries to register with the government and employers to use only these registered agencies. Similar registration schemes had been implemented in Queensland and South Australia in 2018, Victoria in 2019, and the Australian Capital Territory in 2021. In November 2021, Parliament introduced the “Protecting Migrant Workers” Bill 2021. The legislation aimed to increase protections for non-Australian workers and introduced new criminal offenses related to coercing migrant workers to accept work arrangements to fulfill visa requirements; the bill was pending at the end of the reporting period.
An NGO reported concern the government did not effectively monitor and enforce labor laws in rural parts of Australia, heightening risks of forced labor. Domestic workers within Australia—especially in the state of Western Australia, those lacking a contract, or residing within diplomatic households—remained extremely vulnerable to exploitation due to the lack of clear protective oversight mechanisms relevant to these populations. However, in December 2021, the Western Australian government changed the definition of “employee” to include domestic work as part of its industrial relations framework to bring such work under state regulation. In September 2021, the Select Committee on Temporary Migration in Parliament released a report with 40 recommendations to improve Australia’s temporary visa system; one of the recommendations included the removal of the 88-day requirement with respect to farm work to be eligible for a second or third Working Holiday Visa. In June 2021, the government had removed the 88-day requirement for British citizens under the Working Holiday Visa as part of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement; however, the requirement remained for all other nationalities. Under the SWP, workers’ employment and immigration status were tied to a specific employer; observers noted this increased migrant workers’ vulnerability to forced labor.
In March 2022, the government released its second installment of its International Engagement Strategy on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery; the update focused on increasing cooperation with international partners to address trafficking in the region. The government continued to work with other governments by engaging in anti-trafficking dialogue, sharing information, conducting trainings, and providing technical assistance. Australia maintained policy and legislative frameworks to prevent, detect, disrupt, investigate, and prosecute child sexual abuse and exploitation, including crimes that occurred online, within Australia and overseas. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for participation in international sex tourism by its citizens by publishing materials for passport applicants outlining the application of Australian child sex trafficking laws to Australians overseas and by conducting law enforcement efforts with international law enforcement partners. The government cancelled 67 passports and denied seven to child sex offenders, which was the third year the government implemented these legal authorities. In addition, authorities provided 132 notifications to foreign law enforcement regarding traveling Australian and foreign national child sex offenders. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts within Australia.