Protesters from more than twenty contingents rallied at Town Hall yesterday against the Albanese government’s “inadequate” 2030 emissions reduction target of 43 per cent and the Labor’s support of coal and gas projects including Scarborough in WA and Narrabri Pilliga in NSW.
Organised by Workers for Climate Action and School Strike for Climate, and endorsed by a coalition of more than twenty contingents from activist collectives across the state, yesterday’s rally saw a lineup of speakers who addressed protesters from the steps of Town Hall.
Among the protesters’ list of demands is a call to end all new fossil fuel projects, mass public investment in renewable energy, First Nations rights to control developments on their lands, a just transition for workers in the fossil fuel industry and respect for the right to protest.
Wiradjuri, Yuin and Gadigal activist Nadeena Dixon, a multi-disciplinary artist and granddaughter of legendary Indigenous activist Charles “Chicka” Dixon, gave a Welcome to Country. Painted in ochre and wearing a traditional skin cloak, Dixon proudly asserted “we are strong, we are vigilant, and we are raising our voices for mother earth”.
“Ngalga nura – we see Country. Ngarala duba – we hear Country,” she said.
Kayla Hill, School Strike for Climate organiser and rally co-chair, criticised the Albanese government’s 43% emissions target and its “continued enabling of climate harm”.
“It’s time for the Albanese government to do more than 43 per cent and net zero,” Hill said.
Workers for Climate Action organiser and rally co-chair Caitlin Doyle lamented Labor’s stagnation on climate action following the federal election in May.
“Climate change was at the forefront of people’s minds going into the election. But the government has continued to wage war on the planet, supporting fossil fuel projects like the Whitehaven coal mine and Kurri Kurri gas plant,” Doyle said.
Unions in attendance spoke of the impact of the climate crisis on essential workers. Sarah Ellyard, a member of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association’s Climate Change Reference Group, outlined the climate-linked issues facing frontline workers.
“I am part of a union that recognises climate change as a global emergency. We have made submissions on the health impacts of coal-fired power stations,” Ellyard said.
“The geographical range of infectious diseases, population displacement, food and water insecurity, and adverse mental health impacts. Frontline workers are left to deal with the consequences of climate inaction,” she said.
Gomeroi and Ngunnawal man Barraay Bamba Gulbiir, also known as Joshur Bell, addressed the rally in relation to gas giant Santos’ efforts to override Gomeroi Native Title rights in order to construct 850 gas wells in the Pilliga forest in North-West NSW.
“In the last week we have seen the Tiwi Island mob beat Santos in court, due to a failure to consult with the rightful owners of waters they are exploiting for gas,” Bell said.
“We have recently fought off the Shenhua coal-mine and we are organising to defeat Santos and the expansion of coal mining also proposed for our lands. If we don’t, it will be catastrophic for the climate, for our lands and waters,” he said.
“First Nations people, our ways of being, must be put in the driver’s seat to stop the climate crisis threatening all people.
“We might have an unprecedented number of Indigenous people in the new Parliament, but fossil fuel destruction continues, so we need unprecedented numbers in the streets building people power,” he said.
Also joining the rally was Greens Senator David Shoebridge, who galvanised the crowd with some words of action before the march from Town Hall to Santos’ head office on Bligh Street.
“Labor hasn’t followed through on the promise millions of Australians voted for. They didn’t vote for 43 per cent, they voted to save the planet,” Shoebridge said.
“We have a message for them: if this is your ‘plan B’ then we have a ‘plan A’, and that’s to throw you out at the next election. One planet, one struggle, one fight. We’re in it to win it,” he said.
Speakers also announced plans for a major mobilisation during the COP27 conference in November. As Australian officials travel to Egypt for the conference, protestors plan to take to the streets, demanding an end to fossil fuel expansion in Australia.