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Australian National Contact Point Peer Review 2021

The submission to the 2021 Peer Review Stakeholder Survey issued by the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP) for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (the Guidelines)1 was prepared by the Law Council of Australia. 

The Law Council of Australia is grateful for the assistance of its Business and Human Rights Committee, and the Law Society of New South Wales, in the preparation of this submission.

The Guidelines are recommendations addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They represent a global framework for responsible business conduct covering all areas of business responsibility including disclosure, human rights, employment and industrial relations, environment, anticorruption, competition and taxation.

As a member of the OECD, Australia is committed to implementing the Guidelines, recognising that companies operating in Australia and Australian companies operating overseas are expected to act in accordance with the principles set out in the Guidelines and to perform to the standards they endorse. Australia has established a national contact point to receive complaints in this context.

The Law Council recognises that having an effective AusNCP is critical as it represents the only non-judicial, low-cost mechanism that allows individuals and communities to seek redress for harm caused by Australian companies operating abroad.

A key function of the AusNCP is to enhance the effectiveness of the Guidelines by undertaking promotional activities. While the Law Council welcomes recent efforts by the AusNCP to undertake outreach activities, 2 it highlights for consideration the limited understanding of the Guidelines and the role of the AusNCP amongst key stakeholders. This includes the legal profession and government (other than officials directly involved in the AusNCP’s work). Opportunities to enhance the visibility of the Guidelines, and their implementation by the AusNCP, are explored further below.

At the same time, the Law Council recognises growing interest in the role of the AusNCP to deal with emerging challenges leading to disputes, such as climate change. For example, one recent complaint of note was filed by bushfire survivors alleging that the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd had not adhered to the Guidelines regarding due diligence, disclosure, environment, and consumer interests. 3 Looking ahead, this issue may be likely to increase the number and visibility of complaints, as well as the AusNCP’s ability to contribute to the resolution of issues.

The Law Council confines its comments to select survey questions on which it considers it can most usefully respond.

You can read the full submission below.
 


1 OECD, Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises 2011 Edition (2011).

2 See eg, Australian National Contact Point, National Contact Point Reporting Questionnaire 2020 Annex 1 (Annual report, March 2021) .

3 Friends of the Earth Australia & Ors v Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (Complaint to the Australian National Contact Point, 30 January 2020). This complaint alleges breach of provisions of the OECD Guidelines with respect to Ch II (General policies); Chapter III (Disclosure); Chapter VI (Environment); and Chapter VIII (Consumer Interests).

 

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