Senate passes forced labour amendment

2 September 2021

By ATC Campaigns Officer Harvey Purse

In our July newsletter we updated you on progress of the inquiry into Senator Rex Patrick’s Bill to amend the Customs Act to address forced labour by Uyghurs. Our submission to the inquiry had argued for the inclusion of Tibet and Tibetan forced labour (some Tibetan forced labour occurs in China).

When we reported on the inquiry into Senator Patrick’s bill, we highlighted that the inquiry had made 14 recommendations. One of the most important of these was the recommendation to expand Senator Patrick’s bill to make it global rather than being restricted to just Uyghurs and Uyghur forced labour, and China. This change means that the bill will now include all forced labour regardless of geography or ethnic origin including that occurring in Tibet and Tibetan forced labour in China.

The other 13 recommendations will be introduced at another time to amend the Modern Slavery Act, which is due for review in 2022. We will need your help next year to make sure the rest of the recommendations are incorporated into the Modern Slavery Act.

We now have a further positive update to provide.

On 23rd August Senator Patrick introduced the amended Customs Amendment bill to stop the importation of goods made with forced labour. Senator Patrick’s amendment is aimed at providing Customs with the power and resources to stop products made in whole or part using forced labour from entering Australia.

In wonderful news the bill was passed by the Senate on that day. ATC and our supporters can claim part of the victory for getting this through the Senate, as ATC and Uyghur groups have been lobbying senators to support Senator Patrick’s bill.

All that needs to happen now for it to become law is for the bill to pass through the House of Representatives so it can be signed into law by the Governor General.

In further good news the bill had its first reading in the House of Representatives which had the effect of introducing the bill into the House of Representatives on 23rd August.

We expect that the bill will be debated by the House of Representatives in its next sitting session, mid to late October. 

When this bill becomes law if, for example, we were to establish and prove that Tibetan forced labour is used in lithium mining this recommendation would allow us request, but not guarantee, Customs to issue an order for lithium from Tibet making it illegal to import products containing Lithium mined in Tibet.

Our collective action is critical to get the bill passed through the House of Representatives and so we will be calling on supporters to email their MPs in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for campaign updates.