Laws cracking down on forced marriages and modern-day slavery have passed federal parliament.

The legislation, which cleared the Senate on Wednesday, gives police greater powers to investigate cases of forced labour, human trafficking and forced marriage, by making them criminal offences.

It also extends the law to cover all forms of deceptive recruitment and increases penalties for debt bondage.

Labor senator John Faulkner said slavery existed in sectors such as hospitality, construction and agriculture, as well as domestic situations.

He highlighted a case in the NSW Blue Mountains where a restaurateur was prosecuted after promising a better life to an Indian national following his arrival in Sydney.

"This individual's travel documents were seized and he was forced to work hours on end without pay as a kitchen hand, accommodated only in a backyard tin shed."

Britain abolished slavery 189 years ago, and the United States 147 years ago.

But Senator Faulkner said the anti-slavery bill recognised that slavery remained a reality in Australia today.

"This bill will ensure more investigations, simpler trials, and swifter convictions for those involved in such appalling exploitation and denial of liberty," he said.

While the coalition supported the legislation, it made a failed attempt to amend the government bill.

Shadow attorney-general George Brandis raised concerns that the presumption of innocence had been abolished for those accused of forced marriage.

"There is no doubt that forced marriage is akin to slavery," he said.

"I caution, however, that there are many practices against which we as a society set our faces without abolishing the fundamental rights of an accused person."

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the legislation should be expanded so that people who intentionally sought out sexual services from a trafficked woman faced criminal punishment.

"If it is a crime to put women into these circumstances, which it should be, it should also be a crime to knowingly use that service," she said.

"Otherwise we're simply turning a blind eye to why these services are even able to continue."

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-Like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012 passed the Senate without amendments and now awaits royal assent.


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