Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged new federal anti-protest laws that target environmental activists and “anarchists” who campaign against businesses, particularly those supporting the mining industry.
In a speech to be given to the Queensland Resources Council, Mr Morrison will warn that such protest activity is bad for jobs and investment.
Previewing his speech, Mr Morrison told Melbourne radio station 3AW while he respected the right to protest, some activists had gone too far.
“I really think they are starting to push the envelope where there are reports of people being spat at just because they are wearing a business shirt on their way to work,” Mr Morrison said, referring to violent protests outside a mining conference in Melbourne this week.
However, he acknowledged he could not stop protests that brought cities to a standstill, such as protesters blocking intersections or gluing themselves to roads, saying they were a state law enforcement matter.
But the government was looking at laws to protect companies, particularly small businesses, from what he described as secondary boycotts designed to wilfully “injure” their businesses.
“They are being blackbanned and they’re being harassed and this is not something any Australian should have to put up with,” he said.
“We need to progress cautiously but if it is not OK to have secondary boycotts run by unions – and we got rid of them a long time ago – it is not OK for environmental – these are anarchist groups, that’s what they are – to be able to disrupt people’s jobs, their livelihoods and harass in the way we’ve seen in Melbourne.
“They are basically targeting people’s businesses and trying to drive them out of business simply because they are contracting to legitimate, lawful resources companies who create a lot of jobs in regional Australia.
“It’s ugly and I don’t think it is good for our country.”
Mr Morrison likened the proposed laws to those passed earlier this year that aimed to stop “vegan activists” invading farms and abattoirs. Those laws used the Commonwealth’s powers to regulate telecommunications to stop activists using the internet to encourage trespassing.
In his speech, Mr Morrison will complain some of Australia’s largest businesses are now refusing to provide banking, insurance and consulting services to the coal industry.
“I think some of our largest corporations should listen to, and engage, their ‘quiet shareholders’, not just their noisy ones,” he will say.
“When Australian corporations deny services to other Australian companies under pressure from environmental groups, there are two inevitable outcomes. One ‒ Australian business does less business. And the other ‒ Australian business is forced to acquire goods or services from an alternative or overseas supplier at a higher price.”
While Mr Morrison will say he accepts the government cannot force company to provide a service to another, he is concerned boycotts will extend to other sectors with a heavy carbon footprint such as gas projects, power generation, abattoirs, sugar cane industry and airlines.
“Let me assure you this is not something my Government intends to allow to go unchecked,” he will say.
“Together with the Attorney-General, we are working to identify mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians, especially in rural and regional areas, and especially here in Queensland.”
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