Australian Treasurer Peter Costello has proposed a change in legislation amending the powers of the ACCC to make it easier for corporations to sue citizens who boycott companies, and recover their lost revenue from such a boycott. This is a reaction to the current legal action of the Australian wool industry against PETA, however this legislation has wider implications for citizens, if anyone who boycotts a company, or encourages another person to boycott a company, could be facing legal action in the future. This has additional implications for tax payers, who will foot the bill for companies to defend themselves against bad PR. Could protesting asbestos victims of James Hardie be sued to recover lost revenue? Could vegetarians be sued for boycotting meat? Could athiests be sued for boycotting church? Where is the line going to be drawn, and who is going to police this?
A spokesman for the consumer advocacy group Choice, Gordon Renouf, said consumers had a right not to buy products on ethical grounds. “There is a fine line between letting people get on with their business and interfering with consumer choice.”
This legislation has failed to pass on five previous occasions, but the Liberals now have the numbers in the Senate to get it through.
Australian Wool Innovation supports the move and “would like to acknowledge Federal Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Peter McGauran, who has supported the need to strengthen these laws; and Federal Treasurer Peter Costello for making this important decision that will protect the interests of Australian woolgrowers.”