Government looks at using building industry law to crack down on environment activists

By Joe Montero

The Coalition is readying to use its construction industry industrial law, as a weapon against climate activists. Critics of this selective law have always pointed out that it was designed as a test case, designed be used elsewhere when required.

The new revelation bears out the truth of this. The expectation was that this would be used against other unions. But it may soon be applied even more broadly.

Last November, at a speech before the Queensland Resources Council, Scott Morrison announced the targeting of environmentalists. The vehicle to be used was the secondary boycott provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act, which provides affected entities, the ability to sue for losses.

Photo by Darren England/ AAP: Scott Morrison speaking at the Queensland Resources Council last November

But experts warned that this may be in violation of the Australian constitution.

Consequently, there has been a shift to using the so called ‘industry code’, where businesses are mandated to abide by a set of rules, ensure these are followed in all operations, including in the private sector, and enforced on sub-contractors. This is backed by other law, which seriously restricts what unions and their members can do.

These laws have been used, for instance, to prevent on building sited Eureka flag and other symbols deemed to represent unions. Meetings on the job can also be and often are banned.

Under the code, businesses must report all actual and possible future breeches to the government Authority.

These industrial laws provide the means, by which businesses can be penalised, for making agreements that go beyond the immediate work contract, which are deemed a secondary boycott effecting a third party.

The change now being considered, is to apply this specifically to agreements of an environmental nature. For instance, businesses could be punished for agreeing not to do business with the Adani mine due of concerns over carbon pollution.

To push this forward, the attorney general, Christian Porter, has sought views on this. It is revealed in a discussion paper released just days ago.

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