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People’s Climate Assembly calls for action

The Northern Rivers Extinction Rebellion’s Red Rebels joined the march from the Aboriginal tent embassy to the People’s Climate Assembly rally. Photo Chibo Mertineit.

Graeme Dunstan

The People’s Climate Assembly gathered outside Australia’s Federal Parliament on the first day of sitting, on 4 February ‘to make a stand against the ignorance of the Australian government, and to demand real action in the face of the climate change emergency.’

The gathering outside the Parliament followed a calamitous season of bushfire and a popular denouncing of climate change denialism. It coincided with the first sitting day of 2020 for the now reviled Morrison government.

The Assembly occupied Federation Mall for five days, and busloads of individuals and groups arrived from Melbourne, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains, Sydney, Dubbo and the Rainbow Region.

The program included workshops about liveable cities, hydrology, traditional ownership, doctors talking climate and mental health, veterinarians talking fire and wildlife. There were smoking ceremonies, and choir-led sing-alongs, information stalls and lots of banners and signage.

With hot sun, limited shade and blustery wind, Federation Mall was a harsh place for the protesters. They were corralled well back from the big house by an army of police, even though for four of the five days the crowds were sparse.

Support from across the community

The first sitting day saw the action begin at 7am with a Pollie Watch at the Melbourne Avenue entrance to Parliament House. Activists and their banners lined up so that politicians arriving from the airport could not help but notice them. There were about one hundred people with 20 big banners – the biggest Pollie Watch yet.

About 2,500 people attended the 11am rally. Popular science communicator, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki MC’d the rally, and the speeches were fiery – hot with anger at the government’s inaction and climate denial.

Speakers included the newly announced Greens leaders, Adam Bandt and Senator Larissa Waters, former Liberal leader, John Hewson, and the ever-popular Bob Brown who urged direct action against coal miners and Tarkine loggers.

Bruce Shillingsworth, a Muruwari and Budjiti man from the northwest NSW river lands, demanded water be put back in the rivers.

The Member for Warringah, Zali Stegall, spoke of a climate emergency bill, for which she intends bipartisan support. Go Zali!

Dr Sue Wareham from the Medical Association for the Prevention of War warned of coming conflicts from climate extremes and war-promoting military spending. Of the ‘LibLabs’ she decried, ‘How long do we have to suffer these people?’

The ALP Shadow Minister for Environment, Mark Butler, was heckled. He left the stage with the crowd chanting in unison, ‘No more coal!’

The rally finished with a walk and hand-holding around Parliament House. 

Personally, I felt disappointed that there was no direct action, and all-in-all it seemed to me just an exercise in more hot air. It was good for movement-building, but the practical task of reducing CO2 in the face of a fossil-fuel funded government remained unaddressed.

Graeme Dunstan is a peace activist from the North Coast of NSW (Peacebus.com).


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4 responses to “People’s Climate Assembly calls for action”

  1. Sure … hot & nasty conditions & Labor’s Mark
    Butler got heckled. I’m thinking back in time &
    how this country dealt with the Springbok tour
    that lasted around 6 weeks. Over 700 people
    were arrested & or beaten during Qld’s ‘state
    of emergency’ that remained intact for years.
    In the volatile 70s we marched against the
    War i.e Vietnam, & for Aboriginal Land Rites.
    We helped close ‘girls homes’. Women’s Lib &
    World Peace got the tick. We were part of the
    Feminist protests & the Campaign Against
    Moral Persecution; gay rights came of age
    along with its first publication Camp Ink.
    Tough times! But times are far tougher now.
    We must step-up-to-the-plate & be counted.

  2. Tim says:

    The Climate Change Emergency
    is now to be known as ..
    The Climate Change Crisis

    It’s not emerging
    It’s here, and it’s becoming more dire as climate scientists grapple with incoming data.

  3. Barrow says:

    What a load of rubbish Tim , that is about as Alarmist as it gets . Your comments are part of the reason kids as young as 9 are seeking professional
    Help for this eco anxiety. Irresponsible!!!
    Give ONE example of a crisis ? Incoming data
    Computer modeling thats the problem !
    Get a grip mate .

  4. The kids are too bright these days. We all need
    to address a foolish fossil-fuelled government
    that’s got its grubby hands stuck in a lolly-jar
    of it own making. No load of rubbish at all…

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