Scott Morrison has declared war on the hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Australians who want to see action on climate change.
So far, Morrison’s Prime Ministership has been marked by a blunt refusal to meaningfully address carbon emissions, or to encourage clean energy.
After avoiding the United Nations Climate Summit, Morrison made a speech at the United Nations Climate Summit touting his Government’s record on climate change. Taking influence from Trump, the speech either willfully distorted facts, or simply ignored them in favour of outright lies.
But today, Morrison dramatically escalated his war, declaring his intention to crack down on ‘secondary boycotts’:
“Environmental groups are targeting businesses and firms who provide goods or services to firms they don’t like, especially in the resources sector… It is a potentially more insidious threat to the Queensland economy and jobs and living standards than a street protest.”
Morrison is a master of manipulating and hiding-behind language, so lets explore what he is really talking about.
What is a secondary boycott’?
With the Government refusing to act on the public’s calls for action on climate change, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australia have come together to ask the companies they give their money to, to stop funding new coal, oil and gas. If the businesses don’t respond, they risk losing business.
Known as the ‘fossil fuel divestment’, this tactic seeks to call out companies who are actively contributing to the climate change crisis. In the absence of Government action, it is a direct way that citizens can start to make a difference — with their wallets.
The movement has been wildly successful, having achieved more than $5.45 trillion in divestment to date.
One recent win came from the The University of New South Wales, who announced in July:
“a shift away from fossil fuel investments of over $13 million, joining more than 1000 institutions globally and 8 other Australian universities that have changed their investment policies to shift away from coal, oil and gas.”
The change came after a five-year student campaign — that is, by concerned individuals who have an ongoing relationship with the University.
From Morrison’s point of view, asking the businesses you give your money to to act more ethically is ‘bullying’. Somehow it “disrupts people’s lives and disrespects your fellow Australians”.
He paints a picture of small businesses being pushed around by activists — but is that the reality of the situation?
Is it wrong for people to ‘vote with their wallet’ and support organisations in line with their ethics and values?
Is it wrong for people to demand their bank, and their super fund stop funding fossil fuels?
Morrison has said today:
“Together with the Attorney-General, we are working to identify mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians, especially in rural and regional areas, and especially here in Queensland.”
Is asking for businesses to be more ethical in their investments selfish? Is acting out of concern for, well, the environment and the planet future generations will inhabit selfish? Somehow that claim doesn’t stack up.
With this move, Morrison has announced his intention to undermine democratic rights and work against both freedom of speech, and freedom of consumer choice. It’s a move of desperation. It’s a sign that the movement is working.
PS: After thinking about the things I value, and how I can be more involved in the issues I care about, I have decided to commit to donating 10% of my income to causes I care about — including environmental organisations supporting the divestment campaign. I’ll write more about this in future. Perhaps you could consider this, too?