Category: News

December 11, 2020


Late June, an investigation into a poultry farm in Thailand owned by the company giant Betagro, one of the largest chicken exporters in the world, discovered 14 Myanmar migrants were being held for labour exploitation. Betagro supplies largescale poultry for pet food and ready-made meals throughout both Asia and the western world. Forced labour is an issue that is still all too common in the world today, and has a high rate in Thailand particularly in its agricultural and seafood sectors. Farms and rural factories are an opportune place for trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation, due to the isolated nature and the lack of scrutiny and public eye. The workers were discovered after one was arrested for stealing property from her employer. The item she stole was simply her timecard in a desperate attempt to prove the extreme hours they were being forced to work. Through this, the Myanmar Workers Rights Network (MWRN) were able to become involved to rescue these workers and advocate on their behalf for compensation for unpaid wages.


  • These individuals came to Thailand in hopes of gaining employment to be able to support their families back at home in Myanmar
  • Arriving, they each had a similar story of finding an agent who promised to find them a job on a farm in return for a debt they would pay back through the money they would earn
  • Upon arrival to the Betagro farm, they had their passports and documents confiscated, which would prevent them from being able to leave
  • They were forced to work from 7am until 5pm and then again from 7pm until 5am, an extreme total of 20 hours a day
  • They were paid at the equivalent of $260 AUD a
December 11, 2020



April 24 marks the three year anniversary of one of the worst industrial disasters in the world. In 2013, a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing 1100 people.  The factory was one of many in Bangladesh’s large apparel manufacturing industry, producing clothes exclusively for consumption in the west. I went there in January, as a supply chain consultant, I wanted to see for myself the truth about the worst of what can happen in sourcing our materials across a complex – and often exploitative – supply chain.

The event highlighted two key issues regarding treatment of workers – firstly the lack of safety procedures in the industry locally, and secondly the oppressive conditions that they work within.

By many accounts, the signs of building decay was clearly evident in the days  leading up to the collapse with sizeable cracks in the walls.  On the morning of the collapse, workers were reticent to enter the factory, however they were threatened with being fired or not being paid so they relented. Once they were in the building, they were locked in.

The world was horrified as new spread across the world. In response, The Bangladesh Accord  was signed by large manufacturers in the region. This was a legally binding document, with the intent to ensure that fire and safety procedures are implemented in Bangladesh to protect workers from this happening again.

As a consumer of Bangladeshi made clothes, it is sobering to stand at the site where the factory collapsed. Now there is just an empty space with a shallow pond where family members are cultivating fish in memory of their loved ones.


The Solidarity Project is an organisation formed in Bangladesh to support organised worker rights

December 11, 2020


Christmas time is a wonderful time of the year where Australians gather and celebrate with millions of extra dollars spent on food and presents. It’s easy to get distracted in the hustle and bustle, and find yourself not considering where all of your produce and gifts come from, and who is making them. Unfortunately, whenever there is an increase in demand for a product, such as Christmas time, it means there is a higher demand on sweatshops and farmers for toys and produce. However, we as consumers, have the power through our wallets to create the demand and make choices on products that are ethically and responsibly produced. In this article, I go through just a couple of areas where we can make easy guilt-free decisions that support local producers, and help us have an ethical Christmas!

The 3 Big Ones

1. Prawns!

Prawns are an essential staple to the traditional Aussie Christmas Lunch, yet the seafood sector is one of the largest industries plagued by forced labour and human trafficking. In Australia, Thailand is our largest seafood supplier with up to 20% of workers on Thai boats estimated to have been trafficked and forced to work in harsh conditions up to 20 hours a day, with inadequate food and abusive supervisors. So unfortunately, chances are that the prawns on our Christmas table would have been handled by those who have been trafficked.

When going to the shops, you’ll find that imported prawns and seafood are generally the cheaper ones on the shelves, but that’s a red flag for potential forced labour in our South-East Asian neighbours’ fisheries.

“40 per cent of fishers surveyed had experienced arbitrary wage deductions, 17 per cent were threatened with violence and roughly one in ten had attempted to escape, been severely beaten or both.”

December 11, 2020

Is Lindt OK?

These are the questions we keep getting asked? Our A Matter of Taste Report is researched and written to help you answer these questions. The reality is the scene has changed and in some cases the chocolate companies are actually doing more to end human trafficking and child labour than some of the certification schemes.

The best mix combines the programs of chocolate companies with certification, like Nestle with UTZ. This provides the robustness of independent audits and best practice on child labour monitoring and remediation, community development, improving agricultural methods and empowering women and youth. Mondelez (Cadbury and Toblerone) are doing a variation of this with their new partnership with FLOCERT (Fairtrade’s standard setting and auditing body)

What about Lindt?

Lindt & Sprüngli have opted for company control of their entire supply chain. Lindt & Sprüngli have devised their own verification framework which monitors child labour on farms and adherence to the company’s standards of best practice. It is externally verified by The Forest Trust, ( supply chain, social and environmental experts.)

Where they are excelling is in the following

·      They source from farmers rather than cooperatives and therefore have the deepest connection with their farmers of all schemes and companies. Every farm they source from is visited every year. Human trafficking happens in farms not co-ops, so they are likely to know what is happening on the ground.

·      They do a baseline assessment of every farm which includes knowing the number of school age children and the distance to the nearest school. This is important in addressing child labour – if a child is in school, they aren’t working.

·      They have trained more than 50,000 farmers in agricultural, social, environmental and business practices. This includes sensitisation on child labour and human trafficking. The model then …

December 11, 2020

‘When The Only Tool You Have Is A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail.’

‘When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ This is one of Antonie Fountain from the VOICE Network’s favourite sayings. For a long time we have said that certification systems such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ offer external verification against international standards that best practices are being upheld and they have been the best tools we have. Everyone acknowledges that they are not perfect and that they can’t do everything but they have been the best we have had. This is how it works. A third party (FLOCERTfor Fairtrade and SAN for Rainforest Alliance) audits the farmer co-operatives selling cocoa beans to the market to their internationally recognised standards. This offers assurance that the practices and principles set out by the certification systems are being adhered to. Once farmers pass this initial audit, the certifier awards co-operatives the certification logo. This enables the farmers to sell their cocoa beans as ‘certified’ to the cocoa market. Chocolate companies then buy this cocoa (often via a buyer/producer) and after paying a fee are permitted to put the certification scheme’s logo on the end-product that they sell to you. The amount of raw cocoa they buy determines the amount of end-product they are permitted to label through a formula called mass balance.

Certification has become the expected baseline within the chocolate industry. As consumers, we now expect to have someone verifying that, when companies promise to respect their workers’ human rights, they are keeping this promise.

Mars, Hershey and Ferrero have committed to 100% cocoa bean certification by 2020 and Nestlé has 100% certification of its UK, Australian and New Zealand produced chocolate bars and KitKat as well as Milo in Australia and New Zealand.

But there are other tools emerging as being important. Increasingly, chocolate …

December 11, 2020

A Modern Slavery Act In Australia?

On Wednesday, 15 February 2017, the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, asked the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade to inquire into and report on establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.  Both modern slavery on Australian shores and offshore slavery fall within the scope of the inquiry. This blog examines the need and purpose of an Australian Modern Slavery Act in relation to offshore modern slavery.


Human rights protection has traditionally been a matter for the State. However, the NGO Global Justice Now has shown that in the list of the world’s top 100 economic entities, 31 are nation states and 69 are corporations. It follows that due to globalisation and the immense economic growth of corporations, it is now well recognised that there is a significant link between the way in which businesses operate and human rights.

For the purpose of the inquiry, “Modern Slavery” refers to slavery, forced labour and wage exploitation, involuntary servitude, debt bondage, human trafficking, forced marriage and other slavery-like practices.  The International Labour Organisation estimates that of the 21 million people in situations of forced labour and slavery, 11.7 million are located in the Asia Pacific region, in countries that neighbour Australia. Further, it is estimated by the International Labour Office that slavery in these global supply chains generates about $US150 billion in revenue annually, with $US51 billion in profits generated from forced labour in this region.  Due to cheaper production costs, a great deal of labour in these countries is dedicated toward producing consumer goods sold in Western Nations, including Australia.

Given that the purpose of corporations is to pursue profits in the interests of shareholders, as it stands there is little incentive for businesses to ensure that their …

December 11, 2020

Establishing A Modern Slavery Act In Australia

On Wednesday, 15 February 2017 the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, asked the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade to inquire into and report on Establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.Submissions supporting such an Act were invited from the public. 185 individuals,  organisations and businesses made submissions including STOP THE TRAFFIK and other like-minded groups. A series of public hearings has commenced, offering an opportunity for any interested person to hear summaries of these submissions followed by a brief Q and A between the presenters of their submission summaries and the Senators on the committee.

Here is a true story told in the course of the second public hearing on Friday June 23: An Australian woman was on holiday on a ship in waters off Thailand last year. Not far away she saw a much smaller ship which she was told was a Thai fishing vessel. She said she would like an opportunity to learn about the Thai fishing industry and was given a lift over to this boat and helped to climb aboard. Almost the first person she saw when she boarded this boat was a man wearing a metal collar, padlocked to the deck. “What’s happening?” she asked. “Oh, it’s a slave.”  “Why is he padlocked to the deck?” “So it doesn’t run away. If it’s not careful it’ll become fish fodder. You can buy it if you like” “How much?” asked the woman. “$700”.  After a quick phone call she was joined by another person from her own ship, they paid over the $700, had the young man freed and delivered him safely to authorities in Thailand.

Interestingly and sadly this story is almost a replica of the story told with STOP THE TRAFFIK’s first petition in 2009 to the …

December 11, 2020

Calling For A Robust Modern Slavery Act

The United Nations defines trafficking in persons as

‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through the use of threats, force, coercion, abduction, fraud or deception, for the purpose of exploitation.’ (1) 

Slavery (2) is defined internationally as

the condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, including where such a condition results from a debt or contract made by the person.’ (3)

These definitions form the basis of the Australian crimes of human trafficking and slavery in the Commonwealth Criminal Code. (4)

Criminals traffic and enslave people in order to profit from the violation of basic human rights, such as the right to life; liberty and security; freedom of movement; and protections against violation or degrading treatment.

Australia has obligations under a number of international treaties to protect survivors of human tra cking and slavery. (5) It is essential that the rights and safety of survivors are at the heart of any legislation or policy to combat human trafficking and slavery.

Human rights obligations require the country in which a survivor is located to provide immediate protection and support. Prompt and proper identi cation of survivors of Human Trafficking will enable timely referral to support services, and appropriate protections.

Survivors of human tra cking and slavery in Australia are often hidden, or hidden in plain sight. Survivors may be unable to seek help from authorities or police. Survivors may be prevented from coming forward due to fear of authorities, fear of identi cation by perpetrators and subsequent reprisals against themselves or family members, or the stigma association with being a ‘victim’ of human trafficking or slavery (6).

Many survivors are traumatised and intimidated by their traffickers and have no other means of supporting themselves or …

December 11, 2020

As We Begin To Taste That Spring/Summer Freedom Thousands Of People Are Enslaved To Harvest Cotton


Summer is on its way and all I can think about is whipping out a cute summer dress and heading for the beach with my gal pals. In summer, we tend to wear a lot of natural fibres because they are breathable, absorbent and keep us cool. The majority of these items are likely to be made with either part or 100% cotton fibres as cotton accounts for 90% of all natural fibres used in clothing. We all know everything has to come from somewhere, so where does the cotton come from that make up our wardrobe? It is extremely hard to trace the origin of cotton and without having eyes across every part of a garment’s supply chain, how do we know if we are buying (therefore supporting with our dollar) garments made from forced labour? The answer is that we simply don’t – therefore, I have put together a little guide to help you next time you’re shopping for your slavery-free summer wardrobe. But first I want to touch on the current situation in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan involving forced labour during the harvesting of cotton.


Right now, approximately 12,000km away, a community of around 1 million Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan citizens are filled with fear in the lead up to the September/October cotton harvest season. This region located in Central Asia is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of cotton and remains one of the biggest violators of human rights with their state-led, forced labour cotton scheme. In order to supply a world full of cotton lovers (let’s face it, we all love cotton!), the government is forcing children, students and professionals out of their daily routines and into the cotton …

December 11, 2020

Human Organ Trafficking And Organ Transplant Tourism

The Australian Parliament is undertaking an Inquiry into Human Organ Trafficking and Organ Transplant Tourism. The questions for the Inquiry are whether current Australian Organ Trafficking should have extraterritorial application, that is whether laws should apply to Australian’s when they are overseas. It is also looking at whether Australia should accede to a Council of Europe Convention.

You might not be aware that there has actually been an instance of this crime in Australia. With a growing aging population the possibility of increasing numbers of Australian’s going overseas for organ transplants is very real.…

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