Solar issues in China link
Politicians are calling for efforts to ensure Australia’s solar industry is not exposed to China's human rights violations.
The United Nations and several major nations have accused China of persecuting the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region, based on evidence of mass surveillance, extra-judicial detention, restriction on religious freedom and forced labour.
Xinjiang province also produces around half of the world's polysilicon — a central component in manufacturing solar panels. Experts say the Uyghur people are forced to produce this mineral, exposing the global solar panel supply chain to slavery.
The vast majority of solar panels in Australia are built in China.
“Nearly everyone in the world who is buying solar panels is likely to be buying products made with forced labour,” says Professor of human rights at the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Laura Murphy.
Professor Murphy’s research team has analysed Chinese company documents, contracts and websites, and say that the evidence is strikingly clear.
“One of the reasons why it is so transparent that there is forced labour going on in this region and in this particular supply chain is that companies overtly celebrate their involvement in these labour programs,” Professor Murphy told the ABC.
“Anyone who refused to participate in a labour transfer or a poverty alleviation program sponsored by the state is subject to punishment — it's actually against the law to not participate.”
Independent senator Rex Patrick has put forth a bill to stop the importation of any products credibly linked to forced labour.
“If solar panels are being made using slave labour, then under the bill that has passed through the Senate, those products would not be permitted to be brought into Australia,” Senator Patrick said.
“They would be stopped at the border.
“There's a certain line you draw in the sand when it comes to international relations and genocide is one of those lines,” Senator Patrick said.
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has told reporters; “Australians need confidence that when they purchase rooftop solar systems, they will receive what they pay for”.
“The government is also supporting the expansion of Australia's domestic manufacturing capability in the solar sector through the Modern Manufacturing Strategy,” Mr Taylor said.