Australia

Senate asked to consider ban on goods made with forced labour

The Senate will be asked on Monday to send a blunt message to China over its widespread use of Uighur forced labour.

Independent senator Rex Patrick will seek cross-party support for his bill to ban the import of goods produced in whole or part by forced labour.

“Under this bill, the importation into Australia of any goods found to have been produced by forced labour, will be subject to the penalties under the Customs Act,” Senator Patrick said.

“The bill is, I acknowledge, something of a blunt instrument.

“But that’s what’s needed to thwart modern slavery, especially China’s resort to massive use of forced labour. Action cannot be further delayed.”

It is estimated there are up to 46 million people subject to slavery across global production chains, not just in China.

Senator Patrick said there was undeniable evidence hundreds of thousands of Uighur people in China’s Xinjiang province have been subjected to forced labour.

While there is strong support from Labor, the Greens and some crossbench members, it is unclear whether any coalition senators will support it.

In July the United States Senate passed legislation with a similar intent.

The Uighur Forced Labour Prevention Act created a “rebuttable presumption” assuming goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labour and therefore banned under the 1930 Tariff Act, unless otherwise certified by US authorities.

The bipartisan measure shifted the burden of proof to importers.

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