Despite the ongoing bushfire crisis, Scott Morrison didn’t see fit to cancel his official diplomatic tour of India until last Friday night. Scheduled to commence next Monday, the trade-related jaunt was expected to feature discussions related to Australia’s coal export industry.
One might question how the leader of a country that’s facing the current catastrophe might have taken so long to clue into the fact that setting off on such a trip mightn’t be appropriate right now. But, then again, this is the guy who took off to Hawaii for a family holiday as the crisis unfolded.
Indeed, during these unprecedented fires, our PM seems to have simply been hoping to ride them out – to make it to the other end, so as to get back to business as usual. However, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him as yet that there might be no way back, with all the bridges having been burnt.
Only a matter of time…
But, what the current bushfire/drought/climate crisis does seem to be building in this country is solidarity at the grassroots level. The people are increasingly aware that the threat is real, that there has to be substantial change, and the sacking the Pentecostal PM is just the tip of the iceberg.
This will be evidenced on Friday afternoon in urban centres across the nation, when people take to the streets, calling for support for those battling the fires, as well as help for the victims and the upholding of the rights of future generations.
Uni Students for Climate Change co-convenor Gavin Stanbrook points to the rallies his group is co-hosting with Extinction Rebellion as being about much more than political mismanagement. The socialist mobiliser makes clear that at essence they’re calling for system change.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Gumbaynggirr activist Gavin Stanbrook about those he deems climate criminals, what the lack of response from government means and why it’s time for the masses to join the movement.
Firstly, this Friday, the Sack Scomo protest is going to take place at 5.30 pm at Sydney’s Town Hall, as well as at other locations across the country. The demonstrations are in relation to the unprecedented bushfire crisis the nation is currently facing.
Gavin, how would you sum up what’s happening in this country? And what would you say the implications of these circumstances are?
We’re dealing with apocalyptic conditions, not only in NSW, but around the country. The climate crisis that we’re facing is very much something that’s putting the lives of countless people at risk.
We’ve already seen people dying from the fires. We’ve had about 16 in NSW alone. So, this is definitely a crisis.
The rally is focused upon calling out the climate criminals who are actually responsible for the crisis: people like Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian.
These are people who have actively undermined any meaningful action on climate change. And they’ve actually gone above and beyond this, to make sure that any response that does happen is haphazard, chaotic and ultimately inadequate.
That’s what we’re facing now. And that’s why we’re going to be on the streets on Friday.
We’re demanding that the blame be laid directly at the feet of climate criminals, like Scott Morrison and the CEOs of the mining companies that he backs and lines the pockets of.
We want to make sure that they’re not going to get away with the crimes that they’ve committed against ordinary people.
So, how would you describe the response from these leaders, such as Morrison and Berejiklian?
Criminal. That’s the simplest way to put it. It’s not just that they have been appalling preparations. It’s that they’ve actively gone above and beyond to undermine any kind of serious action on climate change.
The fact that they’re continuing to double down on coal – that they’re continuing to expand coal mines in NSW – tells you that these people don’t actually care that the country is on fire.
We know the links between fossil fuel consumption and production and the current climate crisis that we’re dealing with.
Yet, for the people in power – people like Scott Morrison, Gladys Berejiklian and Anthony Albanese – the profits of mining bosses come before the interests of the majority in this country.
And besides calling for a new prime minister, what are some of the other demands mobilisers on Friday will have?
The core demands that we’re pushing are about trying to address the current crisis that we’re dealing with now. But, also, about laying down the politics to what it is going to take to seriously curb the climate catastrophe going forward.
We’ve listed a bunch of demands around fully funded fire services, fully funded equipment for fireys, as well as serious national programs that are about supporting working people who have been affected by these fires.
But more than that, Uni Students for Climate Justice want system change. We recognise that profiteering under capitalism is one of the core reasons why we’re are dealing with the current crisis that we’re in.
We recognise that the system that we currently exist under consistently prioritises profit over the needs of the majority of ordinary people. And we can already see that they’re not listening to the science. And they’re clearly not listening to the climate scientists.
In the Northern Territory, the Labor government just announced that they’re going to be expanding fracking. So, Origin Energy are going to have two new fracking sites approved.
One fracking site alone is projected to use up to 60 million litres of water. The country is in drought. It’s absolutely criminal that these people would prioritise mining and fracking companies over ordinary people.
I’m from a regional NSW community on the mid-North Coast. We’re already on water restrictions up there. We are having to drink heavily chlorinated water, because the systems that we currently have in place aren’t working.
And yet, governments around the country think it’s a great idea to expand fossil fuel investments. It’s absolutely criminal.
And lastly, Gavin, the numbers at these sorts of rallies are on a steep incline of late. What can demonstrators who turn up on Friday afternoon expect?
Unity, community and resistance. It’s about coming together and expressing our anger. And it’s about getting on the streets to fight for the world that we want to see.
Everyone who is excited by that message, and wants to be a part of that, needs to join us on Friday 10 January at Town Hall at 5.30 pm. If you’re in another major city around the country, you can get to your local protest.
The reality is no one is coming to save us. The Labor Party have already made it clear that they’re going to commit to coal regardless of how this crisis turns out.
And we know that the Liberal government isn’t at all interested in dealing with and addressing the problems that will fix this issue.
So, it’s up to us. And I hope everyone who’s reading this article, gets out on the streets and joins us on Friday.
The Sydney Sack Scomo/Fund the Fireys Protest will be meeting at the Sydney Town Hall at 5.30 pm Friday 10 January.
The details of other bushfire/climate protests around the country can be found here.
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.