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Morrison's boycott plan sparks free-speech furore

2 November 2019.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sparked a furore over free speech…vowing to draft new laws to ban protesters from boycotting companies, prompting...[c]ivil liberties groups [to warn] of "wanton infringement[s]" of individual rights under the plan to stop environmental groups targeting companies…

Nicholas Cowdery [(NSW Council for Civil Liberties)] said Mr Morrison's plan was "totally contrary" to the right to freedom of expression and that existing laws could deal with unruly conduct or assault….“Citizens should not be criminalised for taking such action”. [J]essie Taylor [(Liberty Victoria)] warned of an "extraordinary incursion into free speech"…“[this] is legally questionable and morally dubious”. The Human Rights Law Centre said the…announcement was another sign of an “undemocratic trend” to undermine the right to protest…“at the behest of big companies”.  

Mr Morrison declared he was working…to outlaw the "indulgent and selfish practices" of protest groups who tried to stop major resources projects…“we will take our time to get this right…[but] we must protect our economy from this great threat”. [E]nvironmental campaigners have put pressure on banks to halt lending to the Adani coal mine in Queensland, while [suppliers] to the project…have also been subject to consumer activism. Mr Morrision…[made] it clear his new law would punish the protesters rather than the companies that [give] into their pressure. Business leaders backed the proposal and voiced frustration with groups including Extinction Rebellion,…Jennifer Westacott [(Business Council of Australia)]…[saying] that creating jobs and protecting the environment were not mutually exclusive. But Altassian co founder, Mike Cannon-Brookes, said… “protests are because [the government] is doing nothing meaningful”. Labour[‘s] Mark Dreyfus said Mr Morrison was trying to "distract attention" from the government's failures…

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