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#################### Geoff Seidner
Monday, 23 September 2013
23/9 Companies to get protection from activists' boycotts
CONSERVATION groups seeking boycotts of products linked to alleged poor environmental practices may soon be liable for prosecution under consumer law.
The move, which could severely hamper market-based campaigns by groups such as Markets for Change and GetUp!, is to be pursued by the Abbott government.
Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian the move would prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom in their markets.
"We'll be looking at the way some of the environmental groups work because we are very concerned about some of the activities they conduct in the markets," Senator Colbeck said. "They have exemptions for secondary boycott activities under the Consumer and Competition Act. We are going to have a complete review of the act.
"And one of the things I'd be looking at would be to bring a level playing field back so that environment groups are required to comply with the same requirements as business and industry."
The move has strong backing within the Liberal and Nationals parties, as well as among sections of the ALP, concerned about groups targeting the customers of timber and agricultural products in campaigns against old-growth logging and live-animal exports.
Section 45D of the act prevents action to hinder or prevent a third person supplying goods to, or buying them from, another person. The law restrains business from unfair dealings and trade unions from dragging third parties into industrial disputes via sympathy strikes or trade boycotts. However, section 45DA exempts people from the secondary boycott provisions if their actions are "substantially related to environmental or consumer protection".
The timber industry has long complained about green groups organising boycotts and campaigns to pressure their customers not to accept products sourced from so-called high-conservation-value forests. The tactic has been used successfully in Australia and in Japan to pressure timber companies such as Gunns and Ta Ann to shift out of contentious forest areas and to adopt top-flight green certification. Senator Colbeck also told The Australian the Coalition would push ahead with its policy to ask UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to rescind the recent Gillard government listing of an additional 100,000ha of Tasmania's forests. "That was our commitment to the Tasmanian people and we intend to carry through with our commitments," he said.
"So we will sit down with our departments and work through processes, as far as that is concerned, and look to see how we go about doing it."
He was not swayed by calls from the timber industry - including the CFMEU forest union, Ta Ann and the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania - for the policy to be scrapped because it would jeopardise environmentalists' support for the sector.
The Tasmanian Forest Agreement - a landmark peace deal three years in the making - has seen the peak green groups join industry on joint trade missions to win back markets lost during the so-called forest wars. However, signatories to the deal fear seeking to unwind the World Heritage listing at the heart of the agreement would destroy it.
- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/companies-to-get-protection-from-activists-boycotts/story-fn59niix-1226724817535#sthash.O497WEUX.dpuf