Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's threat to ban climate boycotts labelled 'totalitarian'

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has threatened to outlaw boycotts aimed at hurting the country's lucrative fossil fuel industry.

Australia is one of the world's largest exporters of coal, and relies heavily on climate-damaging fuels to generate electricity. 

But Morrison says opposition to fossil fuels has gone too far, with protesters urging secondary boycotts - targeting businesses that have links to fossil fuels.

"They are targeting businesses of all sizes, including small businesses, like contracting businesses in regional Queensland," Morrison said in a speech to the Queensland Resources Council on Friday, the Guardian reports.

"Let me assure you this is not something my government intends to allow to go unchecked. Together with the attorney general, we are working to identify mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians."

Scientists say time is running out to curb emissions, with the world facing devastating levels of sea rises, heat waves and unpredictable outcomes later this century. But Morrison said such warnings are "apocalyptic in tone", and hit out at environmental activists who "brook no compromise".

"It's all or nothing. Alternative views are not permitted."

Morrison's comments outraged civil rights groups and other political parties. Greens acting leader Adam Bandt said it "reads like a move straight from the totalitarian's playbook".

"Instead of getting tough on the climate crisis, Scott Morrison is dismantling democracy."

Human Rights Law Centre director Hugh de Kretser said it was a "deeply concerning" thing for Morrison to say.

"To protect our democracy and help ensure a better future for all Australians, governments should be strengthening our rights to come together and protest, not weakening them."

Australian law already bans secondary boycotts under certain circumstances, but environmental protest is not one of them.