Sunday, November 3, 2019

Australian Prime Minister Threatens Climate Activists

Climate activists in Melbourne. Click for photo credit.
The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, gave a speech last week in which he threatened climate activists. According to an article in The Guardian, he specifically targeted those involved with secondary boycotts associated with the coal industry.

If you are not familiar with a secondary boycott, it is a boycott of an organization that has some type of relationship (usually a business relationship) with an organization that a group considers a bad actor in some way. A good example of a successful secondary boycott occurred back in the 1980's and 1990's when many boycotted organizations that had relationships with the apartheid government of South Africa. The boycott led to widespread economic challenges for the country as well as worldwide attention on the immoral practice of apartheid.

Australia has rapidly expanded their coal operations and recently opened up new coal mines. For many, these decisions are deeply immoral in a time of increasing evidence for climate change. If you recall from an earlier On the Brink post, Australia was largely responsible for the lack of a serious climate change agreement at a recent meeting of Pacific Island states largely due to their strong support for coal. As a result of the government's continued support for fossil fuels, activists in Australia have organized a range of boycotts that seem to have rattled Morrison and his supporters.

Of course, boycotts are entirely legal in Australia's democracy. The question that many have is how will Morrison try to go after the activists. It is clear that those who support the coal industry are trying to paint the activists with a radical paintbrush. However, as evidence of climate change continues to mount, climate activism is going mainstream and politicians in the pockets of polluting actors are having a harder time making their case--and keeping their jobs.

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