Civil society organisations representing hundreds of thousands of Australians have called on the Government to rule out any changes to secondary boycott laws and other moves to criminalise legitimate protest.
We, a diverse group of civil society organisations representing hundreds of thousands of Australians, calls on the Government to rule out any changes to secondary boycott laws and other plans to criminalise legitimate protest.
We affirm the constitutional right of civil society groups to conduct advocacy campaigns so citizens can pressure business — whether to take stronger action on climate, to improve a company’s position on human rights, or to raise its standards on environment, social, or governance (ESG) grounds.
Business’ wish to operate without any impediments does not trump citizens’ right to political expression and advocacy. In a democracy, individuals must be able to choose to support — or withdraw support for — particular businesses on the basis of their impact on climate change or other grounds.
We call on the Government to heed the voices of Australians calling for action on climate change, not try to silence them.
“Community campaigning to stop the handful of corporate renegades that are making global warming worse is a legitimate response to the climate crisis and must not be criminalised,” said Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“Consumer freedom is critical for Australia’s market economy to function efficiently —attempts to outlaw consumer choice amount to a clamp down on freedom of expression and personal liberty in Australia,” said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.
“Campaigns of this kind have contributed to important social changes on issues like slavery, apartheid, sweatshops and animal testing — it’s only right that Australians should maintain the ability to call on businesses to do better on the issues that matter to us,” said Rachel Ball, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns, OXFAM.
“The public has a right to be informed about how big corporations are driving the climate crisis, and these campaigns will continue until the Government implements an ambitious policy in line with the climate science,” said Lucy Manne, CEO, 350.org Australia.
“Protest actions can be an essential part of getting companies to take ethical behaviour seriously and understand when they are out of step with community expectations,” said Mark Zirnsak, Senior Social Justice Advocate, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia.
“If this government is prepared to throw civil liberties like freedom of speech out the window just to clamp down on environmental advocacy, that’s something every Australian should be worried about,” said Julien Vincent, Executive Director, Market Forces.