Scott Morrison threatens crackdown on secondary boycotts of mining companies

Scott Morrison has branded environmental protesters “anarchists” and threatened a radical crackdown on the right to protest by applying penalties to those targeting businesses who provide services to the resources industry. In a speech to the Queensland Resources Council on Friday, the prime minister will tell Australian corporations to listen to the “quiet shareholders” and…

Scott Morrison threatens crackdown on secondary boycotts of mining companies

Scott Morrison has branded environmental protesters “anarchists” and threatened a radical crackdown on the right to protest by applying penalties to those targeting businesses who provide services to the resources industry.

In a speech to the Queensland Resources Council on Friday, the prime minister will tell Australian corporations to listen to the “quiet shareholders” and not environmental protesters.

He will say a threat to the future of mining is coming from a “new breed of radical activism”.

“Apocalyptic in tone, it brooks no compromise,” Morrison will say. “It’s all or nothing. Alternative views are not permitted.”

He will point to the “worrying development” of environmental groups targeting businesses or firms involved in the mining sector with “secondary boycotts”, such as businesses refusing to provide banking, insurance or consultancy services.

“They are targeting businesses of all sizes, including small businesses, like contracting businesses in regional Queensland.”

“Let me assure you this is not something my government intends to allow to go unchecked.

“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.”

But Morrison will admit the government “can’t force one Australian company to provide a service to another”.

The Competition and Consumer Act already contains civil penalties for secondary boycotts, which target one business in order to prevent provision of goods or services to another, in circumstances including if they cause “substantial loss or damage” or substantially lessen competition.

However, secondary boycotts for the “dominant purpose” of environmental protection or consumer protection are permitted.

In 2014 the Abbott government considered applying penalties to environmental boycotts. In 2015 the Harper competition review said in the absence of “compelling evidence” on the point it saw no need for change although the exception should be reassessed “if such evidence arises from future boycott activity”.

On Friday Morrison told 3AW Radio that there is “of course the right to protest in this country” but claimed recent environmental protests in Melbourne were “well beyond the pale” because protesters had allegedly spat at people in business shirts.

“If it’s not OK to have secondary boycotts being run by unions … it’s not OK for environmental, well, they’re anarchist groups … to be able to disrupt people’s jobs, their livelihoods, to harass people as we saw down in Melbourne,” he said.

Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said that community campaigning is a “legitimate response” voicing the concerns about worsening global heating shared by millions of Australians.

“People protesting in the streets are not the only ones expressing alarm about climate change – the head of the Defence Force, the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have all recently raised serious concerns,” she said.

“To paint this broad community concern as being about fringe-dwelling extremists is an insult to all Australians who want a better future for themselves and their children.

“Politicians have a responsibility to defend our democracy, not degrade it.”

Morrison will also announce a new tertiary education partnership with the mining industry, through which the industry will work with the government to develop vocational education courses so it can recruit straight into the sector.

Morrison will say this is about ensuring employers are in the “driver’s seat of the national training system”.

The government already has two of these pilot Skills Organisations in human services care and digital technologies.

“We know that mining is a high-skill, high-wage industry and this is a further statement of confidence in the industry’s future,” Morrison will say.

“We want to be the world’s number one investment destination. And that’s about much more than what we’ve got in the ground. It’s about our whole business ecosystem.”

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