Climate protests have made headlines in Australia for months now, resulting in some of the largest protests many Australian cities have ever seen. Here, Greens Leader Richard Di Natale gives his take on the reasons behind such a rapid uprising.
Every year the Lowy Institute, Australia’s premier foreign policy think tank, releases a poll about the big security challenges facing our country. This year for the very first time since they started asking the question in 2006, a majority of Australians ranked climate change as the single greatest threat to our vital interests – more than foreign cyber attacks, terrorism or the North Korean nuclear program.
This result wasn’t a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention; the number of Australians who see climate change as a “critical threat” has been rising steadily in the poll each year, up six points to 64 percent in 2019 and a whopping 18 points since 2014. The Lowy Poll isn’t alone, of course. There are countless polls and endless research that makes it very clear that people fear for their and their children’s future, and that they desperately want their Government to take action.
But the Coalition is not listening to them. From Tony Abbott wrecking the world’s best climate legislation enacted in 2012 by the Gillard Government and the Greens, to Scott Morrison waving a lump of coal in Parliament, to Water Resource Minister David Littleproud’s recent denial of the basic science of climate change, the Government is standing in arrogant defiance of what is clearly the public will.
With the Liberal Party in thrall to the millions of dollars in donations that it gets from the big fossil fuel companies and the Labor Party lacking the courage to take a stand because it might cost a vote or two in the short term, people are saying enough is enough and they are taking matters into their own hands.
I stand with them.
Earlier this month, just after another frustrating fortnight in parliament, I was overwhelmed with optimism as I marched with 150,000 climate strikers in the Melbourne CBD. Days later I was incredibly proud of the thousands of people, including my former colleague in the Senate, Scott Ludlam, who put their freedom on the line in an effort to force our leaders to pay attention to our climate and environment crisis.
What we are witnessing is a genuine, grassroots movement that is now building an unstoppable momentum. It will take many forms – street protests, marches and rallies, divestment, sanctions, civil disobedience – and it will not go away until our political leaders have no choice but to take the action this generation demands of them.
They are part of a long and proud tradition of peaceful protest and civil disobedience. It has always taken direct, community-led action from outside the political process – together with sustained pressure from within – to force change on the most critical and divisive issues of our time.
From African American civil rights marchers facing down a hail of tear gas and billy club blows in Selma, Alabama to environmentalists like Bob Brown blockading the site of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania. From the individual consumers and investors who used their chequebooks to help bring down Apartheid to the millions who marched against the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, a new generation of people is now drawing on this legacy to force action on our climate emergency.
They are sick and tired of waiting for our major parties to do the right thing. They are fed up with the interests of big, polluting corporate donors being put ahead of their children’s future. They have had a gutful of being ignored and lied to by feckless politicians and they are making their voices heard.
As the father of two beautiful, healthy boys there is nothing I would not do to keep them safe. That’s why I entered politics and that’s why I’ll be joining the thousands of Australians who are marching on the streets.