Australian Government must step up its leadership on business and human rights ahead of the G20 Osaka Summit

June 14, 2019

As the G20 countries prepare to meet in Osaka, Japan from 28-29 June, the Morrison Government should fulfil its commitment, and demonstrate action to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is calling on the Federal Government to do more to demonstrate leadership on business and human rights.

Natalia Szablewska, Co-Chair of ALHR’s Business and Human Rights Subcommittee said, “The Australian Government’s has taken some welcome and concrete steps towards improving Australia’s approach in dealing with business and human rights abuses, including the introduction of a landmark Modern Slavery Act. However, it has not done enough to implement Australia’s declaration and commitment, made at the 2017 G20 Hamburg Summit, to advance the implementation of the UNGPs through a National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights, and to ensure access to remedy for victims of human rights abuses in supply chains.”

In October 2017, despite this commitment and a unanimous recommendation from its own expert ​Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on the Implementation of the UNGPs that Australia should develop a NAP, the Australian Government announced it would not pursue one.  This decision attracted widespread criticism, not only from civil society, but also from the United Nations who wrote to the Government expressing disappointment.”

Ms Szablewska said, “Modern slavery legislation should not be seen as a substitute for developing a NAP and the Australian Government’s refusal to do so remains a major concern.”

“NAPs are an important, practical, and powerful vehicle for the Government to articulate how it intends to implement the UNGPs. NAPs are also important in strengthening efforts in guiding business in fulfilling their obligation to respect human rights. Currently twenty-one countries have a NAP, including the United Kingdom and the United States. Many other countries are in the process of developing a NAP, or have committed to doing so.”

“Business also wants this guidance with the Australian Dialogue on Business and Human Rights showing general support for a NAP and the International Chamber of Commerce calling on governments in all its regions to develop them.”

“It is paramount for the Australian Government to step up its leadership with respect to the emerging critical issues in relation to corporate human rights due diligence, including incorporating the much needed gender perspective in implementing the UNGPs in order to achieve equality in the business sectors,Forced labour and human trafficking are real issues currently facing Australia, especially the human rights impacts on women and children. Developing a NAP is an important part of the process in addressing business and human rights abuses,” said Ms Szablewska.

“With the G20 Osaka Summit around the corner, ALHR calls on the Morrison Government to act on its commitment to implement an Australian NAP on business and human rights, and to uphold its obligation under the UNGPs to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.