A new report from The Australia Institute has shown that potential Government plans to outlaw so called ‘secondary boycotts’ would require significant legislative reform, could threaten the implied freedom of political communication in the Australian Constitution and ignores a long history of consumer choice protests in Australia.
“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.
“Historically, secondary boycotts have been used in Australia in relation to important issues such as the sale of steel to Japan during World War II and in opposition to apartheid in South Africa.
“Today, consumer freedom is critical for Australia’s market economy to function efficiently. All Australians – whatever their political persuasion – should be able to advocate for and against products and companies of their choice.
“Matt Canavan’s previous call for Queenslanders to desert Westpac should be protected. David Littleproud should be free to continue to advocate for boycotts of Aldi and Coles over milk prices and George Christensen’s proposed ban on Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream should be allowed in a free country.
“The fact that Government MPs call for boycotts themselves shows us that they are an essential part of the political debate.
“Outlawing consumer protests in the way the Government has suggested will more than likely require the creation of entirely new offences and/or the removal of a range of consumer protections from the Competition and Consumer Act.
“Such wholesale redrafting of the rights to communication and protest in Australia would be an unfortunate overreaction and an affront to the free speech on which Australian democracy is built.”