Students protest for climate action
Students protest for climate action)

Hundreds of students protested across the country on Friday 17 March to demand an end to fossil fuels and taxes on the rich and big corporations to fund a shift to renewables and decarbonisation of the economy. The protests, organised by the National Union of Students, criticised the Labor government for approving major new coal and gas projects when the world needs to rapidly reduce emissions.

Speakers at the protest also condemned state repression of climate protestors and the ongoing theft of Indigenous land by mining corporations such as Santos and Rio Tinto. Students were supported by activists from Extinction Rebellion, Blockade Australia and others.

Three hundred rallied in Melbourne, where Indigenous socialist Oskar Martin slammed Labor’s decision to approve the Santos Narrabri gas project against the wishes of the local Gomeroi people. Greens leader Adam Bandt pointed out Labor’s hypocrisy in claiming to act on climate while opening up new coal and gas, saying “you can’t put out the bushfire while pouring petrol on it”.

Ella Gutteridge, environment officer at University of Queensland Union, addressed a crowd of 100 in Brisbane. She said Labor is putting the profits of capitalists above the good of the planet and ordinary people. She was joined by Indigenous activist Sam Watson, who condemned the state Labor government for approving fossil fuel projects and for racist policing laws.

Students also protested in Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and Wollongong, calling on their universities to cut ties with fossil fuel companies such as Woodside Petroleum at University of Western Australia.

It’s important that students took this stand. Right now Labor is attempting to greenwash Australia’s fossil fuel economy by pushing through its climate safeguard mechanism. This bill is supposedly meant to force corporations to reduce emissions. However, it allows them to reduce their “net emissions” by purchasing carbon credits, so they meet the mechanism’s requirements even if their actual emissions rise.

The overall effect of the bill is to give Labor a pro-climate gloss while they continue to approve new fossil fuel projects.

By protesting, students have helped expose the contradiction between Labor’s pro-climate rhetoric and their pro-fossil fuel actions. They’ve also shown that we can demand better than what the Labor Party offers. These rallies are an important step in rebuilding the sort of movement we need to defeat the fossil fuel capitalists and their friends in parliament.

Xavier Dupé is the education officer at the National Union of Students

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