Move to outlaw environmental protests ‘deeply concerning’
Boycott campaigns to stop human rights abuses or to protect the environment are a legitimate protest tactic that should be protected, argues the Human Rights Law Centre.
Protest rights in Australia need to be strengthened, not weakened, the Human Rights Law Centre has said in response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that he will look to outlaw environmental campaigns targeting businesses.
HRLC executive director Hugh de Kretser said boycott campaigns to stop human rights abuses or to protect the environment were a legitimate protest tactic that should be protected.
“From ending slavery to stopping apartheid, boycott campaigns have played a critical role in achieving many social advances that we now take for granted,” he said.
“The Morrison government’s announcement that it is looking to ban certain boycott campaigns is deeply concerning,” he continued.
“It’s vital that people can come together and campaign against not only the companies that are committing human rights abuses or harming our environment, but also the companies that profit from doing business with them.”
PM Morrison’s announcement is the latest move in “an undemocratic trend of governments across Australia trying to undermine people’s rights to protest”, Mr de Krester argued, often at the behest of big corporations, he said.
“The Queensland government has just passed laws criminalising peaceful forms of protest. The NSW government is seeking to impose harsher penalties for certain protest activities and the South Australian government is doing likewise. Harsh and excessive Tasmanian anti-protest laws were struck down by the High Court in 2017,” HRLC noted in a statement,” Mr de Krester said.
“Protest is an essential part of our democracy. To protect our democracy and help ensure a better future for all Australians, governments should be strengthening our rights to come together and protest, not weakening them.
“One key way to protect our rights to protest is through an Australian Charter of Human Rights. A charter of rights would guarantee the rights that enable protest – freedom of speech, association and peaceful assembly.”