A Budget Week Like No Other
By Extinction Rebellion Australia, on 20 May 2021
The national budget should have addressed the emergency transition we so desperately need - instead it included more of the ‘business-as-usual’ measures that are taking us to the brink of collapse. XR rebels went to Canberra to demand action.
Last week, Extinction Rebellion rebels from the eastern states converged on the national capital as the federal budget was handed down. It was the final budget before our political representatives attend the United Nations climate negotiations in November.
The budget should have included the funding for the emergency transition we so desperately need, but instead it included more of the ‘business-as-usual’ measures that are taking us to the brink of collapse. We were there to draw attention to the criminal inaction of the government and let them know that the eyes of the world are upon them.
The week started with a smoking ceremony at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, hearing stories of their 50 year campaign, and we were honoured to participate in Women’s Business and Men’s Business workshops.
On budget day, Tuesday 11 May, Australia’s Federal politicians readied themselves for another ordinary day presiding over the slow destruction of life on earth. But as they awaited their luxury chauffeured 'ComCars' to ferry them across to Parliament House, it soon emerged their morning would not go to plan.
In the hours before dawn XR Rebels had blockaded the ComCar depot, chaining and gluing themselves onto gates, and even vehicles. We were sounding the alarm and drawing attention to the need to declare a climate and ecological emergency. We had expected a massive police presence after news of our action was prematurely announced on the ABC, but were delighted to find no major obstacle as we moved into position.
The disruption lasted for nearly three hours, forcing Australia's political leaders to opt for regular taxis. One rebel was arrested and taken to the watch house. About a dozen others had their details recorded and may be charged on summons.
As expected, our broken political system failed us and the budget that was handed down on Tuesday afternoon confirmed our worst fears. Next day, Wednesday 12 May, we again rose before dawn, this time aiming to block all major road routes to parliament house.
Two of our three rented trucks successfully moved into position, with three rebels on top of each, ready to lock onto each other in ways that would make them hard to remove. One truck with rebels, Jess, Ross and John on top had a giant orange banner calling on the government to declare a climate emergency, and the other, with Violet, Anthea and nineteen year-old, Mary, featured a burning earth and the Greta Thunberg quote: “I want you to act like the house is on fire - because it is”. A third truck was intercepted by police and moved to the side of the road. Two rebels, Lesley and Mark, then attempted to glue themselves to the road in the unsecured entry, but were removed by police and arrested.
“I want you to act like the house is on fire - because it is”.
Meanwhile, two exceedingly heavy cement-filled barrels had been moved into place with intrepid rebels Karlo, Nick and Wesley locking their arms inside the barrels. First Nations activists from the Tent Embassy joined us at the barrel blockade before moving on, carrying a climate emergency placard, to the lawns where multiple press conferences were underway.
Outside Parliament House, blind rebel Sam Noonan was in place, glued to a rock, disrupting the media scrum with a mournful rendition of the Extinction Rebellion hymn. The Sybils were also present, displaying a heart-felt plea, “Don’t cook our kids”.
Jane Morton chained to a fence as part of the budget protests
The Red Rebels were able to photobomb a news broadcast and a giant Macedon Ranges banner was hauled into place by Rob. Senator Malcolm Roberts was spotted attempting to impose his climate denial views on a protester wearing a giant Scott Morrison head. He was engaged in debate by rebel Jane, in an effort to draw the attention of cameras to her “business as usual equals death” placard.\ \ It seems that the presence of Extinction Rebellion kept Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg from full media attention on the lawns.
The truck blockades held for more than six hours with rebels committing to remain through the freezing Canberra night if possible. However, eventually, all rebels were cut loose by police search and rescue teams. By the end of the day, 10 Rebels had been were arrested and were held in custody for these actions, with all refusing bail.
Several rebels were successful in contesting bail conditions that would have limited their right to protest in Canberra and, by Thursday, all arrestees were out on bail except one. Violet CoCo took a principled stand for climate justice, refusing to acknowledge the criminality of her actions and asking the court to recognise the criminality of the Australian Government's ongoing investment in fossil fuels. Refusing bail once again, Violet was held at Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) in Canberra for one week.
With the rest of the rebels out on bail or pleading guilty to the charges, it seemed the frenzied week of action was at an end. However, Rebel grandmother Lesley Mosbey decided she had no choice but to continue, gluing herself to the front door of Parliament House in a lone stand against this murderous government. Remaining there for an hour and a half, she was finally re-arrested, and again refused bail, joining Violet in prison at AMC for the last six days.
Both Violet and Lesley have now been released, with court appearances scheduled for 10 June 2021. Watch a statement from Violet and Lesley following their release.
With their release, we can now all turn our eyes towards the next steps for us as a movement.
What To Do Now?
These budget week actions are just the start of escalating disruptions focusing on the federal government and the fossil fuel industry in the lead-up to the international climate talks in Glasgow, November this year. This is a great time to reach out to new rebels and get organised for a series of highly disruptive actions targeting the fossil fuel industry in June.
We have legal support in place for arrested rebels, but be sure to welcome and support them when they return home. Please give to the crowdfund to cover the costs of these dramatic actions. You can also set up recurring donations to Extinction Rebellion Australia here!
If you want to find your place in the rebellion and hear first hand from those who took part in these courageous acts, there are lots of talks and events all around the country as well as online. Check out the Events page for more details.
On Wednesday 2nd June from 6pm (AEST), there will be National Action Circle Open Meetings where you can get involved or learn more about XR actions. Click here for more info and to attend.
You can also help by sharing this story, and by reaching out to your friends and family to encourage them to join Extinction Rebellion.