A Case for Modern Slavery Legislation: World Vision’s submission to the Petitions Committee

09 Sep 2021 by Lydia Hollister Jones, Advocacy Communications Manager
A Case for Modern Slavery Legislation: World Vision’s submission to the Petitions Committee

Photograph: Calum Turner

World Vision’s submission to the Petitions Committee

In June, together with Trade Aid, we handed over a petition signed by more than 37,000 New Zealanders calling on our government to pass a Modern Slavery Act. Because people like you took action against modern slavery, we were invited to give evidence to the Petitions Committee about what kind of law is needed in New Zealand. 

Who is the Petitions Committee?
The Petitions Committee is a small group of MPs from different parties who work together to look at the issues raised in petitions in depth. It’s normal for the Petitions Committee to ask for evidence (called a submission) about a petition. When the committee has finished considering the issue, it will produce a report setting out its findings and position. 

What did World Vision’s submission say?  
First, we gave evidence about why legislation that addresses modern slavery in supply chains is so urgently needed in New Zealand. 

We shared the stories of Ima and Karan, two children who have suffered in supply chains. Children who should have been in school, playing with their friends and learning new things, but were instead working long hours in dangerous jobs. We also shared our research that found Kiwi households unknowingly spend an average of $34 per week on industries whose products are implicated in modern slavery. Finally, we shared how many other countries have, or are bringing in, this type of legislation, and that New Zealand needs to catch up.

We told the committee about your support. We shared that 37,000 of you care deeply about who cuts your coffee and who sews the seams of your shirts. We also shared with them that businesses are backing this call too – more than 100 of many different shapes and sizes signed an open letter asking for a Modern Slavery Act to be explored. 

From there, we made some strong recommendations around what should be included in a New Zealand law. Here are a few of the things we shared: 

Everyone has a part to play in making sure slavery isn’t in our supply chains 
We’re asking for legislation that applies to all organisations. That includes the government and not-for-profits like us.

We said that the legislation should apply to all businesses – big, small, and medium. 97% of our economy is made up of small and medium businesses, which means in order for the law to make a difference, it needs to capture all shapes and sizes. But we aren’t asking for all businesses to have the same responsibilities. We get that smaller businesses will need to have different requirements, so we’ve asked the government to scale what is needed and make sure it is a proportionate approach. 

We also said that legislation should apply to our supply chains both overseas and right here at home. All Kiwi supply chains should be safe and free from modern slavery. Whether you’re packaging up oysters in Bluff or doing the same thing in a shrimp factory in Bangladesh, all human beings should be able to work safely and be paid fairly.  

It’s about taking action, not just reporting action
We recommended that the law should require human rights due diligence, not just reporting about supply chains. A due diligence law means going beyond just filing a statement on what's happening in your supply chains (though this is important too!). It means having a requirement to identify risks and cases of modern slavery, and then take action to address what you find. All organisations need to be actually required to take steps. From there, they need to report on what those steps are and the impact that they’ve had.

The Government needs to make sure the law is followed
Like any law, for it to have impact, it needs to be followed. We wrote that the Government needs to have systems in place to make sure NGOs, Government, and businesses do what they are required to do. There needs to be a central database hosted by Government so they can keep track of reporting, and that there should be penalties for not complying. Not only will this set the law up to create positive change, but it will also help create a level playing field for businesses. Those who cut corners will be held accountable for their actions, and they won’t be able to undercut others who are doing the right thing.  

You can read the full submission here. 

So we’ve made our submission, what happens next? 
The Petitions Committee will look at the evidence and make a report. It may make recommendations to Government or the relevant Minister. If this happens, the Government or Minister has 60 working days to respond and say what they are going to do.  

We still need your help – the most powerful tool in pushing for change is people like you, sharing with your friends, calling for change from our government.

We want to ask you to stay on the journey with us as we continue to call for a Modern Slavery Act. Sign up here to join our community of advocates calling for change in Aotearoa. We’ll be in touch via email about what you can do to take action alongside us.