Public Hearing: Ethical Clothing Extended Responsibilities Scheme 2005 (NSW)

Associate Professor Chris F Wright and myself gave evidence to the Modern Slavery Committee, which is inquiring  into the Ethical Clothing Extended Responsibilities Scheme 2005 (NSW). The inquiry aims to evaluate the Scheme’s effectiveness in mitigating modern slavery risks in the New South Wales clothing manufacturing industry.

The terms of reference include examining the characteristics of the Textiles, Clothing, and Footwear (TCF) industry, such as industry size, employment numbers, worker demographics, lived experiences, supply chain complexities, modern slavery risks, participation in voluntary codes, and reporting patterns of exploitation. It also involves assessing the current application of the Scheme in New South Wales, its alignment with international standards like the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and OECD Due Diligence Guidance, and identifying necessary changes to better mitigate modern slavery risks in the TCF industry.

The inquiry will consider methods to promote compliance and enforce the Scheme, including utilizing the Anti-slavery Commissioner’s powers, and will investigate other industries, such as primary industries and construction, that have similar modern slavery risks due to their supply chains. Additionally, it will evaluate the potential benefits of extending the Scheme to other vulnerable industries.


  1. Promote Supply Chain Mapping
    The Scheme, with its focus on the supply chain from retailer to outworker, is unique in its ability to identify vulnerabilities and instances of modern slavery that existing legislation may miss. This kind of mapping is currently not mandated and thus presents a clear opportunity for state action.
  2. Create a Supply Chain Database
    A database should be developed that captures detailed supply chain information and makes this information readily accessible. This database could serve as a crucial resource for various stakeholders, including the NSW Office of Industrial Relations, the Fair Work Ombudsman, and the (NSW) Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
  3. Articulate Collaboration between Government Agencies
    Enhanced collaboration between agencies at NSW and Commonwealth level can directly support existing policy goals. State-level legislation can effectively complement Commonwealth legislation, even when direct enforcement power is limited, with effective sharing of information and resources.
  4. Explore Extension of the Scheme
    It would be advisable to explore how other industries could benefit from increased transparency, in particular industries exhibiting similar supply chain characteristics, those that have a high risk of labour standards non-compliance and modern slavery, and industries with a high number of entities that currently do not meet the reporting threshold of the Modern Slavery Act (2018).

Our full submission to the Ethical Clothing Extended Responsibilities Scheme 2005 (NSW) can be found here.

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