Australia appoints first-ever independent examiner to investigate corporate human rights abuses overseas

Australia appoints first-ever independent examiner to investigate corporate human rights abuses overseas

Today, the Human Rights Law Centre welcomes the Federal Government’s appointment of Mr John Southalan as the first-ever Australian independent examiner charged with investigating reported instances of corporate misconduct by Australian multinationals.

Keren Adams, a Legal Director at the HRLC, says that the appointment of an independent examiner is a positive first step towards holding Australian businesses accountable for their human rights impacts abroad.

“We expect Australian businesses to treat people fairly and with dignity, no matter where they operate. However, report after report exposes examples of communities in some of the world’s poorest countries having their rights trampled on by Australian multinationals.” 

“From our big banks financing companies involved in land grabs, to the environmental devastation left by some of our mining companies and abuses by contractors in our offshore detention centres, it is vital that there is independent scrutiny over what Australian companies are doing abroad.”

The independent examiner has been appointed by the Department of Treasury in a series of reforms designed to improve the effectiveness of the Australian OECD National Contact Point (AusNCP). The AusNCP is the key complaints body for individuals or communities affected by corporate activities in Australia and abroad. It has the power to mediate disputes, make findings against companies and recommend reforms.

In 2017, an independent review of the AusNCP revealed that it was under-staffed, under-funded, was failing to properly carry out its functions. Several organisations, including the Human Rights Law Centre, have previously made submissions highlighting serious flaws with regard to the AusNCP’s effectiveness and recommending major changes to its complaints handling procedures.

“Australian businesses need to know that they are responsible and accountable for harms linked to their corporate activities abroad. Today’s commitment to improving the independence of the ANCP is a welcome step in the right direction” said Ms Adams.

Media contact:

Michelle Bennett, Communications Director: 0419 100 519