School Strike 4 Climate 2023

School Strike 4 Climate 2023

Extinction Rebellion Australia, 20 Nov 2023

Young people across Australia rally to bring the climate message to politicians. What’s it going to take for governments to break free from their fossil fuel masters and act for humanity and the planet?

Two days before the School Strike 4 Climate protest on 17th November, Joey, Myles and Diana disrupted Victorian Parliament Question Time, unfurling banners from the public gallery and singing "Which side are you on? History will remember you".

Myles urged Victorian students to attend the rally. “The government is supposed to protect its people,” he said, “but instead it’s allowing and funding the continued extraction, exportation and burning of fossil fuels driving the climate crisis which threatens every species on the planet, including us.

“We have come to parliament today to demand an end to all new coal and gas projects in Australia.” See The Guardian article ‘Politicians aren’t doing their jobs’: teens escorted from Victorian parliament after climate change protest'

Marchers sitting outside the office of Tanya Plibersek, federal environment minister
Marchers outside the office of Tanya Plibersek, federal environment minister

Protests were co-ordinated across Australia, with students actions in Sydney at Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s office, in Canberra at Labor senator Katy Gallagher’s office, at the Western Australian Energy Transition Conference at the Perth Convention Centre and in other urban and regional areas.

Students with placards

At School Strike 4 Climate rallies, speakers called on the government to meet three key demands:

  • Net zero by 2030 with no new coal, oil and gas projects
  • A transition to 100 per cent public renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
  • Funding for a transition and job creation for workers employed by the fossil-fuels industry and their communities.

Torres Strait Islander people joined the student protest and explained how they and their people are at the frontline of climate change. Torres Strait Islander elders Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai were also in Melbourne for hearings in the landmark court case they brought against the Australian government for climate inaction and spoke at the climate strike.

Torres Strait Islanders including elders Pabai Pabai and Paul Kaba
Torres Strait Islanders including elders Pabai Pabai and Paul Kaba. This photo and the top photo for this article are by Matt Hrkac

In 2018, the first students to strike did so in defiance of calls by then Prime Minister Scott Morrison for “less activism” and to stay in school.

Last year, Australia voted out the Morrison government, in what was widely seen as a climate election. Teal independents won Liberal heartland seats on climate platforms, while the Greens recorded high votes.

Labor came to office promising faster action on climate, but this turned out to be not just empty promises, but cynical deception. See Alan Kohler 'Australia’s deceptive and dangerous climate-change con game'

SS4C rally in Melbourne/Naarm
SS4C rally in Melbourne/Naarm

At the same time as School Strike 4 Climate rallies were taking place across Australia, climate change minister Chris Bowen was warping both language and morals to promote and greenwash the murderous profiteering of fossil fuel companies.

At a green energy conference stacked with oil and gas executives, Bowen said that taking action on climate change is a "moral imperative” but Australia can have "an even bigger impact" by helping other nations decarbonise.

The plain truth is that the Labor Government has been captured by and fully supports the fossil fuel giants. The government's climate change policy is focussed on expensive and useless carbon capture and offset strategies to give Labor a way to justify approval of new or extended coal, oil and gas projects.

SS4C strikers outside the Victorian Labor Office in Melbourne/Naarm
SS4C strikers outside the Victorian Labor Office in Melbourne/Naarm. Photo by Matt Hrkac

Significant legislation went through Parliament without much publicity in the week of the SS4C rallies - the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill.

As Stephen Long says in 'How Labor out-loved the Coalition in its embrace of big oil and gas', the bill is nominally about meeting Australia’s obligations under international law to protect the marine environment, but in practice, it’s about enabling a massive expansion of the gas industry.

Stephen Long also points out that the government's recent agreement to allow citizens of Tuvalu to resettle in Australia is another red herring. Mitigation of climate disaster is important, and will become more so in the future.

But it is the worst brand of cynicism and moral bankruptcy to offer phony offsets and climate mitigation as the main deal, while gaslighting the Australian population and continuing to subsidise fossil fuel expansion on a massive scale.

Politicians who preferred power over concern for human life and the planet will have nowhere to hide in the future. As the SS4C strikers sang to the Victorian Parliament "History will remember, remember YOU; Will you stand for us or the wealthy few?"

Joey, Myles and Diana disrupt Victorian Parliament Question Time
Joey, Myles and Diana disrupt Victorian Parliament Question Time

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