Human rights advocates are calling for Australian laws to “catch up with the rest of the world” as cost of living pressures drive sales at ultra-cheap fashion retailers.

Chinese fast fashion retailer Shein and e-commerce giant Temu have grown in popularity, with 800,000 and 1.26 million shoppers in Australia respectively each month, according to Roy Morgan research.

But concerns have been raised about the practices of some fast fashion firms, leading the European Union and US to ban the import of goods made with poor human rights practices.

Director of the University of NSW’s Australian Human Rights Institute Professor Justine Nolan said while fast fashion is not new and there is a place for different types of fashion, there are ethical considerations to be made.

“What we’re seeing here is real undercutting of global brands and Australian brands, because of the way these goods are being produced,” Nolan told Nine radio station 6PR.

“They’ve got a really low manufacturing base, low wages and that way they can undercut other brands, and some of these goods are coming from the backs of slaves.”

Human rights advocates are calling for Australian laws to "catch up with the rest of the world" as cost of living pressures drive sales at ultra-cheap fashion retailers.
Human rights advocates are calling for Australian laws to “catch up with the rest of the world” as cost of living pressures drive sales at ultra-cheap fashion retailers. (Getty)

Australia has had a Modern Slavery Act since 2018, which requires companies to report on the risks of modern slavery in their supply chain.

Nolan said while the reporting obligation is a positive, the Act does not go far enough.

“Over the last few years it’s been teaching them they have to identify (poor practices), they have to be aware but it doesn’t actually require them to change their behaviour or do anything if they find them,” Nolan said.

“What it does is report on risks, so it’s a good step in that it’s raised awareness, but now Australia has to catch up with the rest of the world.

“These other regions have laws that bans the importation of these goods that have been made with forced labour.”

Shein has previously been accused of poor working conditions and environmentally unsustainable conditions in its supply chain.

Temu and Shein have been contacted for comment.

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