Reports & Essays

As part of her Master of Laws at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia, our Director Sonja Duncan, has written a number of essays and research reports on business and human rights. We thought we’d share some of them here for your interest.

Feedback or comments are welcome.


collaborative University procurment: best-practice opportunities for adressing modern slavery risks in university supply chains (september 2019)

The introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) has brought businesses into the efforts to address modern slavery.

For the first time, Australian businesses are required to not only understand their supply chains, but identify, manage and mitigate potential modern slavery risks. The Act requires organisations operating in Australia with annual consolidated revenue of $100 million or more, including businesses, charitable institutions, universities, Australian government and corporate entities to publish a Modern Slavery Statement.

For universities driven by integrity and corporate social responsibility, the Act provides an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in reducing and over time, eliminating, modern slavery. However, individual universities cannot achieve this alone.

A collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach will be needed to ensure that university operational procedures as well as procurement systems and processes can effectively assess and address the risks of modern slavery across the Australian university sector and throughout its complex global supply chains.


IS COMMERCIAL SURROGACY A NEW FORM OF LABOUR EXPLOITATION? (April 2019)

Commercial surrogacy is one of the fastest growing assisted reproductive techniques (‘ART’) in recent times. As a global industry, it is estimated to be worth $6 billion annually. The regulation of this industry raises complex socio-legal and ethical concerns.

This essay argues that commercial surrogacy is a new form of labour exploitation which targets poor and vulnerable women who often do not have access to education, labour and job markets. However, a global prohibition of commercial surrogacy would not reduce the incidence of exploitation, but rather push it underground.

It is argued that banning commercial surrogacy and criminalising extra-territorial paid surrogacy in Australia and other western jurisdictions will not stop exploitation of surrogates globally. Rather, it provides ‘a blunt and useless instrument if the goal is to protect the rights and interests of all parties involved in the surrogacy arrangements.’


WE DO NOT NEED MORE HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS AND MECHANISMS; RATHER ALL WE NEED IS A CONSOLIDATION OF THE EXISTING CACOPHONy. (april 2019)

While the vast majority of countries have ratified nearly all of the major human rights treaties, globally rights violations remain common. The question of whether we need more human rights instruments and mechanisms to strengthen international human rights law, or whether we need a consolidation of ‘the existing cacophony’, does not in itself address the issue of continued human rights violations.

A broader discussion on the effectiveness of management frameworks for human rights treaties and their application and enforcement at the domestic level is required.



THEY CALLED FOR LABOUR BUT PEOPLE CAME: ARE AUSTRALIA’S INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITMENTS SUFFICIENT TO PROTECT TEMPORARY MIGRANT WORKERS?(May2019)

While there is no doubt that Australia’s domestic laws protect the rights of workers as stipulated in international human rights and labour rights conventions, this essay argues that Australia’s legal framework does not effectively consider the inherent vulnerabilities of temporary migrant workers.

Simply granting temporary migrant workers the same rights as local workers does not protect them from discrimination and exploitation.

This essay analyses two of Australia’s migrant labour schemes through the lens of worker exploitation. It argues that these schemes do not adequately address the requirements of international labour laws and human rights conventions. Rather, they provide low cost labour to Australian employers unable to recruit locals to jobs filled by temporary migrant workers.


IS INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW A NEW FORM OF CULTURAL IMPERIALISM? (november 2018)

This essay argues that international human rights law is not a new form of cultural imperialism on the basis of three points: the doctrine of national sovereignty; the lack of obligation on states to abide by and enforce human rights laws; and the power of cultural and religious customs to override the rights of the individual on the grounds of cultural relativism.