Unusual suspects

I have seen two very unusual groups of people become fellow travellers of the IPA this weekend:

The Australia Institute and the Labor Party.

The risk to free speech from a clampdown on secondary boycotts was clearly articulated by the then-director of policy at the Institute of Public Affairs, Simon Breheny, who said: “Freedom of speech is vitally important for a properly functioning economy. Liberal democracies should never be in the game of clamping down on an individual’s freedom to express their values in the choices they make through the market. Advocating for or against a particular company’s practices is an important part of that equation.”

and

Mr O’Connor noted Tony Abbott attempted to bring in secondary boycott provisions when he was prime minister, but the laws went nowhere and were opposed by the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs.

I hope the membership team at the IPA get some membership packs to the Australia Institute and Labor Party.

But – as always when dealing with the left – you need to check the original source yourself.  What else did Simon say (emphasis added):

The federal government’s proposal to further limit secondary boycotts would be a restriction on freedom of speech, but environmental activists are also wrong to ask for special treatment.

Secondary boycotts in Australia are already illegal. In the first instance all the Morrison government should do is create equality before the law. Remove the exemptions for environmental groups.

Then we can, if we really want to, have a debate about the merits of all secondary boycott laws. There are two points I would like to make about Simon Breheny’s argument:

  1. I think he confused himself in his argument. In his free speech argument he is describing a primary boycott. If you don’t like company X and want to organise a consumer boycott of that company that is a free speech issue. This occurs on the demand side of the economy. Secondary boycotts occur when individuals attempt to organise a boycott of company Y who is a supplier to company X in order to influence company X. This occurs on the supply side of the economy.  This is a producer boycott. (If you don’t like my argument below about free speech and violence, then reflect that supply side conspiracies tend to be illegal under competition law).
  2. Secondary boycotts are not free speech issues at all. If I say to a politician, “If you don’t support policy X, I will not vote for you at the next election” that is a free speech issue.  If I say to a politician, “If you don’t support policy X, I will punch you on the nose” that is a threat of violence. Nobody intelligent confuses those two situations.

Suppressing violence is a legitimate function of government in a liberal society.  If you don’t believe me read the words of Ludwig von Mises:

One must be in a position to compel the person who will not respect the lives, health, personal freedom, or private property of others to acquiesce in the rules of life in society. This is the function that the liberal doctrine assigns to the state: the protection of property, liberty, and peace.

Brendan O’Connor makes the same mistake as does Simon:

“I have no tolerance for groups that destroy property or use any form of violence. That is unconscionable conduct. But consumers have the right to choose. And if they don’t like the behaviour of a particular company, it is not for the government to deny the right of a consumer the choice as to whether they want to buy their product,” Mr O’Connor said.

He is talking about a primary boycott, a consumer boycott, not a secondary boycott, a producer boycott.

This entry was posted in Economics and economy, Freedom of speech, Hypocrisy of progressives. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Unusual suspects

  1. 2dogs

    The solution to this problem is a disclosure scheme for paid political protesters.

  2. C.L.

    I was wondering how long it would take for FWEE speech to be suddenly important to the left – then bowdlerised with illogical “buts” – after Morrison’s policy announcement.

  3. Sinclair Davidson

    CL – I think you’ll enjoy this.

    We had a free speech debate in Australia in 2010 – 2013. Freedom lost. The victors don't seem to be enjoying their victory. https://t.co/o3C07blPjy— Sinclair Davidson (@SincDavidson) November 2, 2019

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  4. C.L.

    OMG. Sourpossumass brings the brazen like nobody else.

  5. Tel

    Secondary boycotts are not free speech issues at all. If I say to a politician, “If you don’t support policy X, I will not vote for you at the next election” that is a free speech issue. If I say to a politician, “If you don’t support policy X, I will punch you on the nose” that is a threat of violence. Nobody intelligent confuses those two situations.

    That’s nothing to do with a secondary boycott, that’s simple standover and intimidation.

    You need to consult an expert:

    https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/cfmeu-to-pay-1m-in-penalties-for-secondary-boycott

    Secondary boycott conduct, which is prohibited under section 45D of the CCA, involves at least two people acting in concert to hinder or prevent third parties from acquiring goods or services from, or supplying goods or services to, a fourth person, with the purpose and effect, or likely effect, of causing substantial loss or damage to the business of the fourth person.

    No punching in the nose, no threats of violence in this case. What happened was that Grocon had a dispute with the CFMEU and then the CFMEU attempted to enlist the help of Boral to create leverage against Grocon, but Boral refused to get involved. Then the CFMEU started imposing outrageous “safety” inspections on Boral trucks in order to create delays and impose additional cost, in order to penalize them for continuing to do business with Grocon.

  6. RobK

    In some respects “deplatforming” is like a secondary boycott in the sense that it is not merely choosing not to attend/consume the product on offer, rather it is intent on removing it from the market, thereby denying the market a choice.

  7. Tel

    https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00264

    You can find Section 45D for yourself … there is indeed very special treatment for environmentalists.

    45DD (3) A person does not contravene, and is not involved in a contravention of, subsection 45D(1), 45DA(1) or 45DB(1) by engaging in conduct if:

    (a) the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to environmental protection or consumer protection; and

    (b) engaging in the conduct is not industrial action.

    I think this also would give any consumer group an escape if … for example … some people demanded a boycott on Nike because they didn’t much like the political opinions of Colin Kaepernick.

  8. Crossie

    RobK
    #3200647, posted on November 3, 2019 at 2:32 pm
    In some respects “deplatforming” is like a secondary boycott in the sense that it is not merely choosing not to attend/consume the product on offer, rather it is intent on removing it from the market, thereby denying the market a choice.

    Almost everything the Left does is illegal yet acceptable and everything the Right does is legal but unacceptable. It simply shows who’s in charge.

  9. Bunyip Bill

    What about that company which said “get rid of Falou or we won’t sponsor you any longer”

  10. John A

    Well said, that man, er Doomlord!

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