Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal.
Governments are increasingly casting environmental activism as a new kind of extremism, punishing and marginalizing protesters.
By J. Lester Feder
Just weeks before unprecedented wildfires broke out across Australia, killing an estimated 1 billion animals, the prime minister declared that the country faced a terrible threat: environmental protesters.
“A new breed of radical activism is on the march,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a November speech. He added that there was a “place for peaceful protests,” but he wasn’t going to stand for environmentalists obstructing and delaying mining projects or calling for boycotts of banks that finance the country’s coal industry.
He promised to find a way to “successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians.”
The wildfire crisis began — and Morrison went on vacation in Hawaii — before the prime minister could advance any anti-protest measures, but he wasn’t making an idle threat. State lawmakers had already passed a new law targeting environmental protesters, which allows officers to search activists without a warrant and criminalizes the use of locking devices that make it hard for police to remove protesters during a sit-in. This fell short of what some state lawmakers from Morrison’s ruling coalition had hoped; they had also proposed prison sentences for people arrested more than once during protests
I am very concerned about how this new form of progressivism – a Newspeak type term – intended – intended – to get in under the radar, but at its heart would deny the liberties of Australians and particularly in this state of pursuing the life they want to live, the town they want to have, the jobs they want to pursue, and the futures that they have decided for themselves.
Never mind that PM Scott Morrison ‘would deny the liberties of Australians’ to protest despoiling their country for the sake of the coal export greed-heads.
There are new threats to the future of the resources sector that have emerged. A new breed of radical activism is on the march. Apocalyptic in tone, brooks no compromise, all or nothing. Alternative views not permitted. A dogma that pits cities against regional Australia.
Never mind that Climate Science ‘brooks no compromise’
But despite the election result, we must be vigilant in responding to these new extreme versions, in all of its manifestations of environmentalism.
Never mind about being ‘vigilant in responding to these new’ warmer climatic conditions fueling the giant wildfires.
There is also a related and coordinated campaign to disrupt the commercial operations of resource companies by trespassing on their property, by vandalising property or by seeking to delay construction of essential infrastructure. There is no place for economic sabotage dressed up as activism.
Never mind that the ‘right’ to mine coal for export ‘does not mean there is an unlimited licence to disrupt people’s lives and disrespect your fellow Australians.’
It is a potentially more insidious threat to the Queensland economy and jobs and living standards than a street protest. Some of Australia’s largest businesses are now refusing to provide banking, insurance and consulting services to an increasing number of firms who just support through contracted services to the mining sector and the coal sector in particular, which is the nation’s second-largest export sector. I think some of our largest corporations should listen and engage with their quiet shareholders, not just the noisy ones.
Never mind that coal mining is exacerbating the “more insidious threat to the Queensland economy and jobs and living standards” that global warming repersents.
Is that the sort of economy that they see in the future? And we’re prepared to allow to occur? Is that the sort of country we want? Of course not. Let me assure you, this is not something my government intends to allow to go unchecked. Together with the Attorney-General Christian Porter, we are working to identify a series of mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians, especially in our rural and regional areas and especially here in Queensland. Now, we will take our time to get this right. We will do the homework and we’re doing that right now. But we must protect our economy from this great threat.
Never mind that the coal industry’s ‘indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians,’
But Australia is a country where we respect each other and we seek to do no harm to others in our community and undermine their livelihoods and their choices. We’re a tolerant, engaging, inclusive country. And we’re not one that has truck with others seeking to enforce and dictate and impose their choices on others by seeking to undermine the industries upon which those other Australians depend on for their livelihoods.
Never mind that massive wildfires, a result of Global Warming do a immense amount of ‘harm to others in our community and undermine their livelihoods and their choices’. Australia’s politically powerful coal industry is ‘seeking to enforce and dictate and impose their choices on others by seeking to undermine the industries upon which those other Australians depend on for their livelihoods.’
Morrison was elected by Liberal lawmakers in a backroom coup, and quickly declared that Turnbull’s energy plan was dead. His commitment to fossil fuels was already well known. As recently as 2017, when he was Australia’s treasurer—and when, according to the International Energy Agency, Australia exported more coal than any other country in the world—he brought a lump of coal to Parliament and presented it to his fellow-members as if they were primary-school students. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be scared! Won’t hurt you,” he said. He did not mention that the coal had been shellacked to prevent his hands from getting dirty.
Morrison’s tenure as Prime Minister has since been marked by his refusal to acknowledge the scientifically confirmed link between the fossil-fuel industry and climate change. Through the remainder of 2018, a severe drought and record-setting heat waves led tens of thousands of flying foxes to fall dead from the sky. That year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found, among many other terrifying climate impacts, that the Great Barrier Reef will die entirely if warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius. (Already it has seen extensive coral bleaching and death.) The spring of 2019 was Australia’s driest on record. But, instead of changing his stance, Morrison championed a pro-fossil-fuel policy that included plans for a new coal-fired power plant, and the allocation of ten million dollars toward a study assessing whether to revive a decommissioned coal plant in Queensland.
A NewsCorp employee attacked the “misinformation campaign” of Rupert Murdoch’s empire over Australia’s fires
Led by The Australian broadsheet, publications in his News Corp empire have:
- Falsely claimed the fires are “nothing new.” (A record 4.9 million hectares of New South Wales have been burned, eclipsing the previous highest of 3.5 million in 1974-5.)
- Falsely peddled the argument that arson is a major contributor to the crisis, including publishing misleading information about the number of arson-related bushfire arrests, and downplayed the role of climate change.
- Pushed the story off the front pages in favor of picnic races, despite it dominating international news.
- Claimed environmentalists have deterred authorities from preemptively burning areas in cool periods to stop the fire spreading. (The Australian Greens Party supports the policy.)
- Defended prime minister Scott Morrison—who shows little concern over climate change—for vacationing in Hawaii as fires blazed, and attacked his critics as “ferals.”
Scott Morrison is a loyal corporate tool of the coal mining industry.
But he’s not much of a National Leader.