The ‘quiet Australians’ that Morrison fears

Stop Adani protest on October 23 calling on GHD to refuse work on the Adani mine.

It is worthwhile listening to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech to the Queensland Resources Council on November 1, where he rails against “progressivism” and the emergence of a “new breed of radical activism”, because it is a reminder of the parallel reality he inhabits.

In it, Morrison hypocritically describes the climate movement as “apocalyptic”, “brooking no compromise” and opposed to allowing for “alternative views”.

Yet he is the one refusing to compromise on climate action, despite more than 300,000 Australians marching on the streets as part of the September 20 Climate Strike.

And he is the one determined to ignore “alternative” points of view, starting with the scientists that make up the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was their 2018 warning about having understated the risks from high concentrations of greenhouse gases that propelled the highly motivated and knowledgeable high school students into action through School Strike 4 Climate.

Morrison may have used the protests at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne at the end of October to launch his counter offensive, but it is the millennial rebels and the impact they are having on “quiet” Australians that has prompted Morrison to act.

The PM and attorney-general have responded in the only way they know how: bringing in new laws with the hope they will silence, intimidate or bankrupt activists through ridiculously high fines and threats of jail.

The Coalition may have bitten off more than they can chew. Amending the secondary boycott provisions in Section 45DD of the Competition and Consumer Act, which currently protects consumer boycotts in relation to “environmental protection or consumer protection”, is something that a wide range of people are likely to oppose.

Yet Morrison is determined to push ahead on behalf of coal and gas corporations and their right to make profit — at any cost.

At the same time, Morrison has attacked so-called “indulgent” businesses that refuse to deal with certain companies on environmental grounds.

The success of the Stop Adani campaign is a formidable challenge to Morrison and the ruling class.

Market Forces estimates that 61 businesses — including banks and insurance companies — have refused to work with Indian mining firm Adani on its Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland.

Extreme as they are, Morrison’s efforts do not go far enough for some establishment figures. Reactionary columnist Andrew Bolt has sneered at the PM’s efforts, goading him to go full Donald Trump and dispute the fact that there even is a climate emergency.

When reactionaries are at peak hysteria, we know the climate movement is gaining traction among “quiet” Australians. This is what frightens the 1%, who would rather we focus on things other than politics.

Since Morrison’s speech, many commentators have noted how protests, including consumer boycotts, propelled major progressive social and economic change.

But we need to understand Morrison’s speech as more than just an attack on our right to protest or the right of investors to decide where to put their cash.

It is a declaration of war — he knows what is at stake and is choosing to perpetuate the climate crisis.

We are living in a period of unprecedented challenge. Scientists have said we need to decisively decarbonise the atmosphere — and quickly — or risk a serious social, economic and environmental disaster.

Capitalism, once the basis for an unprecedented wave of creativity, is today a force for destruction. The climate crisis is just one manifestation of this. That this discussion is being had a dinner tables and bus stops is what frightens the ruling class.

They have declared a class war. We need to be ready to defend ourselves and the planet.

[Pip Hinman is an anti-coal seam gas activist and member of the Socialist Alliance.]