Summary of Developments
  • The Australian Modern Slavery Act came into effect in January 2019, with companies due to publish statements for the first time in 2020. Companies are required to report on what due diligence is being undertaken in relation to modern slavery matters (among other things). There are no penalties for non-compliance. Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).
  • Australia is also in the preliminary stages of considering amendments to its criminal code, including significant changes to the manner in which criminal liability is attributed to a company. See Australian Law Reform Commission report.
  • Changes have been made to strengthen the OECD National Contact Point during 2019, which is expected to improve corporate awareness of mHRDD and increase the ability to access remedy for people affected by Australian companies operating abroad. See AusNCP website for further details.
  • Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade of the Australian Parliament released the results of its inquiry into the establishment of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia entitled "Hidden in Plain Sight: An inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia", which recommends reporting on due diligence as a first step and to consider further due diligence measures in a review in three years time (2017).
  • Human Rights Law Center's "Nowhere to Turn" report includes a summary of the current Australian legal framework with regard to BHR issues (2019). 

Legislative Developments

Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012


In a nutshell

In more detail

Name of Legislation

Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 and Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012

Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 No. 166, 2012
An Act to combat illegal logging, and for related purposes

Area of Law

Criminal, civil





Current Stage

In force



This Act requires importers of regulated timber products and processors of raw logs to conduct due diligence



The Act requires the competent regulator to prescribe due diligence requirements for importers of timber products, which may include:

• Gathering information for the purposes of assessng the risk of importing illegally logged timber (checking the kind and origin of timber; the details and address of supplier; as well as evidence of compliance with laws of the country where the timber was harvested);

• Assessing and identifying the risk of importing illegally harvested timber as well as providing statements of compliance; auditing; taking remedial action in prescribed circumstances; providing reports and other information to the relevant Minister; publishing information.

Material Scope

Illegal commodities (timber)


Personal Scope

Importers into Australia of regulated timber products and processors of domestically grown raw logs


Reach of the requirements

Throughout supply chain



If an importer or processor intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly imports or processes illegally logged timber it could face civil and criminal liability. A court may also order all or any part of the illegally imported good to be forfeited.

The Act provides for an inspector to monitor compliance and exercise investigation powers.

In May 2016, the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources announced an extension of the initial “soft-start” compliance period. A notice will be released to advise when this compliance period will end.


Does not cover human rights issues related to timber harvesting, even those specifically related to indigenous and local communities, who are very often harmed by logging practices.

Definition of “legality”: appears to be according to the applicable legislation in the country of harvest. But what happens if the environmental or rights (applicable to the TR) standards are lower than Australian or international relevant standards?

Policy Development

Statements from Investors and Business

Concerning the proposed "Modern Slavery and Global Supply Chains Act", various business enterprises, including Responsible Investment Association Australasia and online retail giant, ASOS, urge the Australian government to go beyond simple transparency and reporting requirements concerning slavery in supply chains to create an effective, mandatory human rights due diligence scheme similar to the French duty of vigilance law more closely in line with the UNGPs.

“The management of human rights is a critical investment risk. Trustees need, and investors want to better understand their exposure in the companies within which they invest. Companies that can identify and manage human rights risks make better long-term investments...Responsible Investment Association Australia supports the concept of enhancing the scope and remit of an Australian Modern Slavery Act beyond that of the UK to include aspects of the French legislation which require a broader scope of human rights management alongside transparency measures.”


♦ Full text of the submission.

Statement from Parliamentary Committee

In February 2017, following a referral from the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade (the "Committee"), the Australian Government, through the Attorney-General, launched an inquiry to investigate measures to better combat modern slavery in Australia and around the world. The inquiry was focused on whether Australia should implement legislation similar to the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the "UK Act"). As part of the inquiry, the Committee reviewed 225 submissions and held ten public hearings with a range of individuals, businesses, and organisations committed to eradicating modern slavery, including from within global supply chains. While in the result, the Committee recommended the Australian government to adopt something fairly similar to the UK Act which does not provide for mandatory human rights due diligence, it did discuss human rights due diligence in its final report.
The recommendations provided in the report propose that as a first step, corporations should be required to report on due diligence processes and their effectiveness. Going forward, "any further due diligence measures should be considered as part of the first three year review of the legislation by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner."

♦ Full text of the final report.

  • Law
  • Legal Case
  • Policy development