University students across Sydney rallied at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) today for stronger climate action from the Albanese government, including 100 per cent publicly funded renewable energy by 2030.
The rally was organised by multiple Sydney-based student unions, including the environment collectives from USyd, UTS and UNSW, as well as the National Union of Students (NUS).
Wiradjuri and Torres Strait Islander woman and activist Lynda June Coe began with an Acknowledgement Of Country, highlighting the need to centre First Nations people and knowledge practices in fighting for climate justice.
“Our plants, they are nations unto their own. Our animals, they are nations unto their own. You need to wake up and understand that First Nations knowledge and sovereignty is the key to dismantling this capitalist regime,” Coe said.
NUS Education Officer Luc Velez co-chaired the rally with USyd SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin.
He outlined a list of demands for climate action, which includes: 100 per cent publicly funded renewable energy by 2030, government funding for an immediate just transition for workers, land rights for First Nations communities instead of mines, and scrapping NSW’s anti-protest laws passed earlier this year.
“The new NSW Police Unit Strike Force Guard and the passing of the Legislation Amendment Bill (2022) by the state Liberal government has now criminalised behaviour that causes damage or disruption to major roads or facilities,” said USyd Education Officer Lia Perkins (Grassroots).
“That’s what going on strike is. That’s what protesting is, and they’ve criminalised it,” she said.
Perkins also called out energy corporations and Albanese’s Labor government for “talking green and walking dirty”.
“The utterly inadequate emissions reduction target of the Labor government is also greenwashing, plain and simple. Won’t 43 per cent emissions reductions leave at least 57 per cent of emissions in the atmosphere?” she said.
Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi joined Perkins in criticising Labor’s “pathetic” emissions target, comparing it to “bringing a bucket of water to extinguish a house on fire”.
However, the climate bill containing Labor’s 43 per cent emissions reduction target passed through the lower house yesterday morning with the support of the Greens.
“The Greens have pushed really hard to improve this weak bill, and the Labor party has rewritten some of it to get our support,” Faruqi said.
“But let’s be very clear. We are thoroughly disappointed that Labor will continue to back coal and gas,” she said.
USyd Welfare Officer Yasmine Johnson (SAlt) criticised both the Labor party and the Greens for agreeing to a 43 per cent emission reduction target, calling for “real climate action”.
“I think it’s disappointing that the Greens have gone along with this target, making Labor’s attempt to greenwash themselves more legitimate,” Johnson said.
“It’s not the rhetoric around the climate that needs to be changed, it’s what’s actually fucking happening that needs to be changed,” she said.
Despite the criticism, National Labor Students (NLS) member Jack Scanlan spoke in defence of Labor, citing Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s intention to block a new coal mine project in central Queensland.
“There is a fight within the Labor party, to take it over from the right so that the left and the unions control the Labor party again,” Scanlan said.
“We are demanding from them what they should be doing, which is caring for the workers, giving them support and transitioning their jobs,” he said.
Protesters marched from UTS to the Labor party’s Sydney headquarters on Sussex street.