News //

Protest marks World Environment Day, calls for repeal of anti-protest laws

Students and activists attended the rally to protest against Labor's expansion of fossil fuels and continued support for anti-protest laws.

Photography by Jamie Bridge.

Protestors gathered at Hyde Park North on Monday to mark World Environment Day. The rally, organised by the Sydney Climate Coalition, expressed opposition to new coal and gas projects and called for the repeal of laws restricting protests.

It was endorsed by more than sixty organisations, including unions, university collectives, NGOs, and the NSW Greens, and was attended by Greens NSW Senator Mehreen Fahruqi.

Labelling Australia an “international climate criminal”, Fahruqi noted the scale of Australian coal exports, with Australia being one of the world’s most prominent coal exporters.

Deen Kafina of School Strike for Climate stressed the importance of climate action, noting that young people are aware of government promise-breaking.

“We aren’t having enough powerful action [and] urgency in the climate crisis, because they are shamefully prioritising profit over people. The climate crisis is still here,” said Kafina. 

Commenting on Santos’ plans to extract coal seam gas in the Pilliga, Gomeroi man Raymond “Bubbly” Weatherall said a defeat of Santos there would “inspire other Aboriginal people to say no, stop coming onto our land and killing it”.

“I sat across the table for four years as an applicant feeling the disrespect and disdain that they [Santos] have for us as Gomeroi people,” said Weatherall.

Olivia Freeman, a Senior Solicitor at the Environmental Defenders Office, called out laws imposing harsh penalties on disruptive protests in New South Wales and South Australia as a violation of civil liberties. 

“It is the hallmark of a healthy, democratic society that the community, but more importantly the government, can accommodate peaceful expressions of political communication.”

Darren Greenfield from the NSW construction division of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union further denounced anti-protest laws which were passed last year in New South Wales, condemning the newly-elected Minns Government for supporting the previous government’s legislation. Greenfield emphasised that without protests against developers and governments “many parts of Sydney would not be as they are today”.

Fahimah Badrulhisham, speaking for Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, called out mining companies for pillaging the environment, labelling mining companies like Whitehaven Coal as “environmental vandals”.

Badrulhisham also condemned the banking sector, criticising the National Australia Bank for pledging “to be in alignment with the Paris Agreement”, yet “giving $3.3 billion to coal since 2016”.

The Sydney Climate Coalition is demanding an end to new fossil fuel projects, including in Kurri Kurri, Narrabri, Beetaloo and Scarborough. It is demanding 100% publicly owned renewable energy by 2030, an immediate just transition, upholding Gomeroi Native Title against Santos, and a host of other demands against exploiting the environment.

After gathering in Hyde Park, the protestors marched down Macquarie Street and regrouped outside NSW Parliament, where the bulk of the speeches were given.