Calling for modern slavery law: Where to from here?

13 Jul 2022 by Lydia Hollister-Jones
Calling for modern slavery law: Where to from here?

Calum Turner

So, you made a submission on the proposal for modern slavery legislation and you’re wondering what’s next? We’re here to help. Let’s start by looking at where we’ve been, then where we’re going, and land with what you can do to continue advocating for this crucial change.

We’ve made so much progress in pushing for modern slavery law because you, and others like you, have been taking a stand for fairness and dignity for over a year now.

In March 2021, over 100 New Zealand companies signed an open letter asking the government to start looking into what modern slavery law could look like in New Zealand. At the same time, a petition launched calling for a modern slavery law to be passed in New Zealand.

In July 2021, we handed this petition to Minister of Workplace Safety and Relations, Michael Wood, at parliament. It was signed by more than 37,000 passionate New Zealanders like you who said that Kiwi supply chains should be free from slavery and exploitation.

The great news is that the government took action when they received that petition and the open letter. They set up a Modern Slavery Leadership Advisory Group to advise the Government regarding what a modern slavery law could look like, and that group included us and our friends at Trade Aid.

On the 8th of April 2022, the government opened public consultation on a proposal for modern slavery law. For eight weeks, Kiwis wrote submissions calling for strong legislation that prioritised the people who make our products. Which leads us to where we are now: public consultation has closed, and we now know that more than 5,000 Kiwis made submissions in support of modern slavery law. So, what’s next?

Where we’re going:

From here, the government will review the submissions that came through during the public consultation process and publish a summary of submissions, taking into account key points that have been made and resolving any issues raised by submitters.

Next up, a proposal for modern slavery legislation (bill) will go to Cabinet. This will include an outline of why this law is necessary for New Zealand, where the law should potentially sit (i.e – should it form part of another statute or be a standalone law) and what the law should say.

Once the proposed bill is approved by the Cabinet Legislation Committee, the bill will be formally introduced to the House of Representatives (the house). This is a big moment!

After the introduction of the bill, a first reading debate will take place. This is where members of parliament get to debate the benefits and the risks of law. At the end, the House will vote on whether the bill should be moved into the next stage, which is where it’ll be ‘read a first time’. It’s important that enough people vote in favour of this, because if they don’t, that’s the end of the legislation. The bill is then read for the first time to the House.

Next up, is the select committee stage. This is where people (including you and me!) give evidence in support of the kind of law they think would be fit for purpose. This is a crucial point in the development of the law. It’s important that voices for dignity and fairness are loud and clear during this phase, as this is where the legislation could possibly be weakened due to other voices making more noise.

After that takes place, we’ll be heading towards the second reading. This is where another debate takes place, where members will debate the core pieces of the bill, and any changes recommended by the select committee. It’s where once again, the bill faces a vote, and the majority have to be in favour for it to go to the next stage, otherwise it is set aside.

We’re almost there! After the second reading takes place, the bill goes to the Committee of the whole House. This is an important, but less formal debate. Members might make short speeches and debate the details of a bill, and it could take anywhere from a few hours to several days.

The next step is a third reading – it’s the last debate on the bill and leads to a final vote. Because at this stage so many votes have already taken place, it’s unlikely that the bill will lose the vote. Once it passes this final vote, we need the seal of the Governor-General to make it official – this is the Royal assent.

Once the Royal assent takes place, a bill is officially a law.

How you can help make sure legislation passes

Every step we just shared sounds technical, but for modern slavery law to make it through that process, it’s going to need support from people outside of parliament every step of the way. Here are some steps you can take to continue supporting modern slavery law:

Continue to raise your voice in support of this law. There are many issues (covid, impending recession, the 2022 election etc.) that could detract from this law going ahead. It is important we ensure the Government prioritises this law and makes sure it goes ahead.

Lobby your local MP. You can write to your local MP to make sure they support strong legislation that focuses on the dignity and safety of people in our supply chains.

Educate your friends and family. Want to know more about New Zealand’s connection to modern slavery? Check out our research on the advocacy page.

Participate in the legal process. Draft submissions in response to the bills that come out and ensure that you advocate for strong and targeted legislation that really makes a difference.

Stay in touch. Make sure you’re signed up to receive World Vision’s advocacy emails to stay tuned as to how you can continue to champion fairness and dignity for everyone, no matter where they live.