A word from an Extinction Rebellionist
I am an environmental activist. Why? On 5 November 2019 more than 11,000 scientists from more than 150 countries, including our own CSIRO declared a climate emergency in the face of which the Australian government continues to irresponsibly fail in their duty to enact policies that would enable Australia and Australians to join and perhaps lead the rest of the world to a sustainable future. Our government is riddled with members who continue to insist that the science is flawed, a position consistent with those who insist the earth is flat. As an environmental activist, the Prime Minister has labelled me an opinionated, selfish, self-indulgent, apocalyptic anarchist, indeed, an economic vandal who must be stopped from pressuring companies to change course from a 20th century, steam-engine, economic model. Ironically It is the government who are the economic (quite apart from environmental) vandals, for not incentivising businesses to adopt new, sustainable, and rapidly expanding technologies. This blindness will condemn Australia to a minor place in the future economies of the world.
The government has made me an activist through its dereliction of duty. I could not face my own conscience or the faces of my grandchildren if I were not. I recommend all members of parliament play the Prime Minister’s Queensland speech on shutting down environmental activism a few times in their parliamentary suites and ask if this is the kind of oratory one would reasonably expect from a leader of a party which espouses free speech and encourages full participation in the democratic process? It sounds more like a speech that one might expect from the President of Russia, China or Turkey. I will not be stopped from being an activist by governmental threat and legislation.
Environmental activists are not unemployed anarchists, bludging on the welfare system as Peter Dutton is wont to depict us. They are people like me. I am not a dole bludger. I was a fulltime participant in the work force from the age of 15 to the age of 68. Since retirement I have been, more or less, a fulltime volunteer in various community related activities. I am proud of the role I have played in securing a ‘climate emergency’ resolution through local government and for ensuring that environmental ethics are an integral part of the business plan of one of Australia’s largest companies through their shareholder meeting. I am thrilled to have played a small part in ensuring that my Church, in many countries of the world, has disinvested from any company involved with coal mining.
I am very glad to walk amongst members of extinction rebellion. I do not wish to cause others inconvenience, but I do wish to draw the urgency of our situation to as many as possible.
The Prime Minister has said more than once that all Australians must be subject to the law. How could one not agree ... except for the reality that this government continues to intimidate citizens by passing laws that restrict freedom and participation in the democratic process, if that participation does not suit the holders of power. Perhaps the Prime Minister was whistling in the wind in his Queensland speech, throwing a piece of red meat to locked on popularist supporters. Or does he really intend to pass laws to make my environmental activism an offence? If the latter, then he will have to cope with the consequences of civil disobedience from myself and thousands of others.
The speech of the Prime Minister is the most recent in a string of restrictions on transparency and freedom which has led the New York Times to label Australia ‘the world’s most secretive democracy’. What has brought us to this point? It is remarkable that all the major outlets of Australia’s ‘fourth estate’ have put aside their differences and combined in a campaign to make the public aware of legislation that is preventing transparency in the press and denying the people’s right to know.
Most major investigations into public scandals in recent times have occurred because of the courage of whistle blowers and the journalists whom whistle blowers have trusted to make their information known. There would not have been enquiries and Royal Commissions into institutional child sex abuse, the banking industry, aged care, disability care, the racing industry, and much more if it were not for whistle blowers and investigative journalists – especially in the ABC. Despite their protestation to the contrary, government has been bought kicking and screaming to authorising these enquiries.
But what is happening to whistle blowers? Rather than being protected and thanked for their courage, they are being vilified. The most outstanding example is the case of Witness K and lawyer Bernard Colleary. It is almost incomprehensible that Australia could have spied on the fledgling government of East Timor and equally incomprehensible that we could have stolen 5 billion dollars in oil and gas revenue from them. As if this is not enough, it is beyond comprehension and an indictment on all Australians that rather than being embarrassed, penitent and apologetic, we are pursuing the whistle-blowers with all the legal armament at government’s disposal. What on earth are we thinking? What kind of people have we become that we would punish those who lift the lid on reprehensible behaviour, rather than hold to account those responsible for the behaviour?
The treatment of scientists by the government is the same. In their own way they are whistle blowers, informing politicians, industry, and the public about behaviour that needs to change. They are not apocalyptic alarmists. People who call others pejorative names should be very careful, for how often is it true that name callers are describing themselves. Those who deny the track we are walking on is too close to the cliff, when there are clearly other choices, are the ones behaving apocalyptically
Prime Minister, I would love to know what you and people like Eric Abetz, Peter Dutton, and Craig Kelly read to give you comfort in your assumption that you know better than scientists. The reality is that you are the ones who are undermining Australia’s economy. New technologies will bring Australia its future prosperity. Farmers who can no longer reliably grow cops or graze cattle could house extensive solar farms, the energy from which could power hydrogen extraction sold to Japan China etc. This is but one small example. The insurance industry has told us that unrestrained climate change will make insurance unaffordable to many, to use another example.
I am nearly old enough to sit back, put on my slippers and read the paper. But while the political class utterly fails its responsibility to secure a future for generations to come, you will continue to push me out onto the streets in the company of other rebellionists, old and young, left and right. Prime Minister, please wake up to the reality that standing for justice is not a ‘leftie’ thing, it should be what we all do. Similarly, wanting to conserve the natural order is the duty of all, everyone on their watch must ensure that those who follow are not diminished.