LNP Plans to Assault Free Speech By Banning Boycotts

Pirate Party Australia is outraged by a Liberal-National Coalition (LNP) plan to ban environmental boycotts[1]. While specifics of the plan are yet to be announced, it appears to be a serious assault on both free speech and the free market.

The freedom to disseminate information regarding the activities of companies for purposes of increasing consumer awareness and to encourage environmentally sound practices through boycotts is vital for those wishing to act beyond the limited environmental controls legislated by Parliament.

“This proposal is a serious assault on the very fabric of democracy,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “The Government can enforce minimum standards, but activist organisations have the right to pressure industries to adopt higher standards. A free society depends on the free exchange of ideas, and this move by the LNP puts serious limitations on that exchange occurring around issues that millions of people may view as important.”

“By limiting the ability of consumers to leverage their collective buying power to encourage ethical business practices, the Government plans to limit consumers’ ability to decide what ethics they expect companies to uphold,” Mr Frew continued. “Such a plan could eventually be extended to ending the labelling of ethical and environmentally friendly products. The free market includes the right to spend money according to your values, and the Government appears to be trying to impose their own morality — or amorality — on Australian citizens.”

Pirate Party Australia finds it worrying that a Government can espouse the supremacy of free market choice as a counterbalance to regulation while effectively neutering the ability to exercise that choice and make informed decisions. The Party urges the Government to abandon plans to ban boycotts and believes that the right to boycott products and services on the basis of consumers’ values needs to be both defended and extended.

“Questions are raised about the extent of the plan. Would animal welfare organisations be prevented from informing consumers about companies that treat animals poorly? Would health warnings on cigarettes be seen as unfairly affecting the rights of tobacco growers?” Mr Frew concluded.

The Pirate Party will be watching the situation closely, and commenting further when the Government provides more information about the possible reforms. The Government also intends to review the Consumer and Competition Act (which includes the Australian Consumer Law) in its entirety.

[1] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/companies-to-get-protection-from-activists-boycotts/story-fn59niix-1226724817535