Eliminating modern slavery in government supply chains

Through its procurement function, the Queensland Government plays a key role in responding to and eliminating modern slavery and promoting human rights.

Our supply chains are complex, and the global nature of trade means we are at increased risk of exposure to modern slavery in Queensland and Australia.

Each year government agencies do business directly with thousands of suppliers, and indirectly with their supply chains.

To support government buyers and suppliers to help eliminate modern slavery, we have introduced the Eliminating modern slavery in government supply chains: Framework and roadmap of priority actions 2022–2023.

This framework and roadmap builds on existing ethical procurement mechanisms to further engage our suppliers and influence their supply chain to demonstrate ethically, socially and environmentally responsible behaviours.

The Queensland Procurement Policy 2023 requires government agencies to identify, assess and take action to eliminate as far as possible, or mitigate modern slavery risks in relation to agency supply chains in accordance with the guidance provided in Eliminating modern slavery in government supply chains. This is separate to any obligation agencies may have under the Modern Slavery Act 2018(Cth). The Eliminating modern slavery in government supply chains guide can be accessed as part of the toolkit (referenced below) developed to support the framework and roadmap.

Framework and roadmap of priority actions 2022–2023

Our plan to eliminate modern slavery in supply chains is one that acknowledges a continuous learning and improvement process where collaboration across government, business and the community is essential.

A framework and roadmap of priority actions for 2022–2023 is the first step to making sure our policies, processes, people and suppliers lead by example in its procurement response, by motivating and facilitating collaborative actions to address modern slavery.

Each phase of the roadmap progressively ensures the Queensland Government’s significant investment is not used to support unethical suppliers benefiting from modern slavery.

The first phase focuses on establishment actions. These set the foundation of knowledge and provide guidance to start assessing existing systems, processes and capability.

An eliminating modern slavery toolkit is available. This primary suite of tools includes:

This will be added to as we progress each phase of implementation actions and respond to government buyer and supplier needs.

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Hello. My name is Peter Lacey – I am Executive Director, Procurement Policy for the Queensland Government.

Today I am here to talk to you about the elimination of modern slavery.

It’s easy to think that slavery is a thing of the past, however there are in fact, more slaves TODAY than ever before.

Modern slavery describes situations where offenders use coercion, threats or deception to exploit victims and undermine their freedom.

Because of the wide scope of our spend, Queensland Government procurement activity can play a role in eliminating modern slavery wherever it exists in our supply chains.

There are risks of forced labour in Queensland through worker exploitation in industries like hospitality, agriculture, and construction, especially where there is a reliance on young and migrant workers, international students, and backpackers. There have already been confirmed instances in Brisbane and across the state.

While there is still a long way to go, the Queensland Government has already laid the foundations for ethical procurement practice. We have done through a commitment to only doing business with suppliers that demonstrate ethically, socially and environmentally responsible behaviours. We have also done this by influencing its supply chains.

In our procurement activities, we lead by example. We’ve introduced a framework and roadmap of priority actions for the next two years. The framework and roadmap build on the strengths of our policy, processes, people and suppliers, this will create a future state for procurement that progressively eliminates the exploitation of vulnerable people here and in our supply chains.

A supporting Modern Slavery Guide and accompanying toolkit are now available. These are the first tools that will help you to understand what modern slavery is, identify high-risk factors, and provide information on how to mitigate and respond to identified risks.

This is a new area for all of industry, and the guide and toolkit aligns the Queensland public sector with the broader business community so that together we can proactively address this grave problem.

Every small action you take counts. You should familiarise yourself with the Framework, Guide and Toolkit. You can undertake free online courses, such as those offered by the Australian Government or the University of Technology, Sydney. You could even help by becoming a modern slavery change champion for your agency, or just within your team or workplace.

Together we can help make a difference. To stay up to date subscribe to our Buy Queensland buyer eNewsletters and register for our Communities of Practice as we together, over coming next year and beyond, take action against modern slavery.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is a term used to describe the most serious forms of exploitation. It describes situations where offenders use coercion, threats or deception to exploit victims and undermine their freedom.

Types of modern slavery include human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage and the worst forms of child labour.

Unethical practices like substandard working conditions, long hours, wage theft or underpayment experienced by workers do not represent modern slavery, however these types of unacceptable working conditions, if left unchecked, can escalate into situations that could become modern slavery.

Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (the Act) entered into force on 1 January 2019. The Act established a national Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement.

The introduction of the Act requires entities that conduct business in Australia with an annual revenue of at least AU $100 million to comply with the Act and publish annual Modern Slavery Statements in an online register.

While the Act does not extend to Queensland Government agencies (e.g. budget sector agencies), there may be some entities captured by the Act that are required to comply and prepare annual Modern Slavery Statements for the Australian Government, such as:

  • commercialised business units of agencies
  • government-owned corporations
  • large statutory bodies
  • suppliers to Queensland Government.

Each agency, or parts within the agency, is encouraged to seek independent legal advice to determine if it meets the criteria for reporting to the Australian Government.

Any queries about the obligations of the Act, reporting requirements, and preparing and submitting annual Modern Slavery Statements, should be directed to Attorney-General’s Department via email at support@modernslaveryregister.gov.au. For more information about reporting, visit the Attorney-General’s Department’s website.

Training on modern slavery

Government buyers are encouraged to learn more about modern slavery. The providers listed below deliver free and fee-based training to support this learning:

  • Anti-Slavery Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that has worked with the University of Technology Sydney to develop a range of training options and an advisory service about modern slavery. The general training is suitable for high school and university students, community and frontline workers, educators, and the public. For more information, contact Anti-Slavery Australia on (02) 9514 9660 or email antislavery@uts.edu.au.
  • Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) offers members free access to the Ethical Procurement and Supply eLearning and test(with a small fee for non-members), as well as a Modern Slavery Awareness training course.
  • Business and Government Engagement, within the Australian Border Force, offer a free eLearning module to support training of procurement officers in understanding modern slavery and ethical procurement practices.

Related information

For more information about ethical procurement and managing substandard workplace practices, refer to the following documents:

Contact us

For queries about the framework and roadmap, contact Queensland Government Procurement via email at betterprocurement@epw.qld.gov.au.