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Byron Shire
February 5, 2023

Corrupt politics in the climate era

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As the world now knows, Violet Coco parked a truck on a lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, stood holding a flare, representing a distress symbol to highlight the climate emergency. She blocked traffic on a single lane for about twenty-eight minutes before she was arrested.

For this non-violent protest she was jailed for 15 months with a non-parole period of eight months, and was denied bail, even after her mother offered a $10,000 surety.

She will remain in prison until her appeal is heard in March.

Even if her appeal is successful, she will have spent months in jail.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet welcomed her jailing saying, ‘If protesters want to put our way of life at risk, then they should have the book thrown at them and that’s pleasing to see.’

The premier fails to see the irony in his comment about putting ‘our way of life at risk’. Nothing puts it at risk more than the climate crisis.

No doubt, the fossil fuel industry who make huge donations to the Perrottet government will also find the jailing of Violet Coco ‘pleasing’.

It’s exactly what they would have wanted.

Australia is still an international pariah when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. We are the largest exporter of coal, selling $47 billion worth around the world, and the fourth-largest coal producer, way behind China in first place.

The fossil fuel lobby owns Australian governments. According to the Australian Conservation Foundation, the fossil fuel industry gave $2.1 million to the major parties in 2020–21, $1.3 million to the Coalition and $794,880 to Labor. There’s dark money slushing around too, 37 per cent of total income declared by political parties had no identifiable source.

The Coalition and Labor think they can’t operate or run campaigns without this dirty money. They have been hopelessly corrupted. The multi-million-dollar donations by fossil fuel lobbyists are not given out of the goodness of their hearts. These corporations are not charities, they are hard-nosed totally ruthless businesses. These donations are simply investments.

Directors of public companies are obliged by law to act first and foremost in the interests of shareholders.

Millions paid to the major parties pay handsome dividends

Of course, this corruption is not confined to fossil fuel interests. Why do you think no action is being taken on those ubiquitous poker machines draining the purses of so many vulnerable people and wrecking families?

Why is no action being taken in Australia to reduce sugar content and improve labelling on processed and snack foods consumed in vast quantities by young people in particular?

Two thirds of Australians are now overweight or obese and the percentage is rising inexorably year by year.

Preventable diseases like diabetes are taking an increasing toll.

These multiple crises are symptomatic of a failure of government at all levels. We are not living in a true democracy where the people are fairly represented by the people they elect. Our governments are corrupted by vested interests who determine policy outcomes.

The Albanese government is making the right noises about the climate crisis, yet they still support the opening of new coal mines and gas fields, as though the government hasn’t changed. Of course, they are not going to say no to their donors!

Politicians and lobbyists say it’s the choice of people whether they want to have fun on poker machines, putting aside how addictive they are. Likewise, it’s the choice of consumers whether they eat healthy food or food and drinks loaded with sugar. We wouldn’t want a ‘nanny state’ telling us what to do, would we?

They can’t use the same spurious arguments about the climate disaster though. Try telling farmers they should have planted crops on higher ground. Try telling people they shouldn’t have bought or rented homes near a forest that burns or in low lying areas now subject to unprecedented flooding.

Violet Coco very bravely put herself at risk of being arrested to bring home the gravity of the climate emergency and the existential threat to our future.

Her sentence to any fair-minded person is excessive and denying her bail when she is a non-violent offender is draconian.

Violet Coco is like a modern-day suffragette. Women tried peaceful protests for decades to gain the right to vote. Eventually, they resorted to serious violence with bombings. 

Famed suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, claimed responsibility for bombing the house of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, in 1913, and was jailed for three years. Five years later, when Lloyd George was prime minister, women finally gained the right to vote and stand for election.

Violet Coco didn’t want to have to stage such a protest. As she said, ‘I do not enjoy breaking the law. I wish there was another way to address this issue with the gravitas it deserves’.

David Attenborough agrees. He says, ‘We cannot be radical enough’.

♦ Violet Coco was released on bail on Tuesday 13 December after Judge T Gartellman overturned the previous decision not to allow her our on bail. Richard Jones is a former NSW MLC, and is now a ceramicist.


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14 COMMENTS

  1. Sir David, “We cannot be radical enough.”
    Antonio Guterres, “Code Red for Humanity”, “Humanity is a weapon of mass extinction.”

    They both know whats what.

  2. Very like the current environmental protest movement, there was a wide spectrum of activist actions taken by various branches of the Suffragette Movement in the early/middle 1900s.
    Some of these actions were damaging to the community and akin to domestic terrorism.
    This did not advance their Cause.
    It was definitely and publicly condemned by Mrs Pankhurst as being counterproductive to the goal of universal suffrage.
    Richard – to state that :”Famed suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, claimed responsibility for bombing the house of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, in 1913, and was jailed for three years” – is historically incorrect, especially so if equated to the current x3 Coco criminal cases and should not be held up as an example to be emulated.
    Can it be a concern that yet again in public debates some appear to use fallacies to bolster their diatribes?
    As per some MLC’s election promises, this ‘historical amnesia’ can also affect present public credibility.

  3. This young lady apologised, publicly, for what she did.

    I hope she meant it.

    The environment movement needs to acknowledge that this is not criminalising protest, it is criminalising randomly impacting others that also have to live in the car-dependent society we have created for ourselves – which is not peaceful protest.

    If it fails to do this, the laws will possibly be extended to actually criminalise peaceful protest – which would not be in the interests of the environment.

    Real environmentalists will recognise the truth of what I say, and stand for confining disruption to point sources of greenhouse gas emissions – coal mines, coal trains, airports, and similar. They will stand against using disruption as a tactic for diffuse sources of greenhouse gas emissions – vehicle use, gas- and coal-fired power stations (which are diffuse source because they distribute energy to the masses and the grid works, or doesn’t, as one), and similar.

  4. Instead of bringing environmentalism into disrepute by potentially harming ordinary working people (on their way to a job interview,  to hospital to give birth,  keeping their gainful employment ?),  Coco Violet could have:
    Blockaded Lismore or Ballina  airports, or a cruise and travel agent, a 4WD car dealership (most people don’t actually need these), an aircraft manufacturer in Brisbane, our local big screen TV sellers or other such causes of unnecessary carbon emissions which consumers  create the demand. Pointless and ineffective protests like this make if more dangerous for those who stage thoughtful, meaningful protests.

    • Agree she is just a inconsiderate selfish
      Spoon feed brat .. and here we go again
      This stupid woman would not have enjoyed a hydrocarbon free day in her life .. oh
      The hypocrisy..

    • I see stefanie so if one of the Activists was blocking
      A main road and one of your loved ones needed
      Medical attention..but died due to the Activist
      Blocking the road !! So just go ahead and do
      Again Stefanie ?

  5. Hey Richard this is not a peaceful protest mate
    Far from it ..they tried to tell us this during
    The BLM protests many lives lost billions
    In damages.. ABC / CNN mostly peaceful..
    So all good Richard if your loved one was caught up
    In the road blocking and needed urgent medical attention, but died as a result of the road blockage ? That’s all cool Richard FFS mate pull your
    Fing head in ..

    • Absolutely Lizardbreath.. we all are certainly wanting a cleaner planet ..the world’s Population
      Is certainly to much for mother earth..
      Activists should consider all when planning
      Action ..they are very self centred… at least
      Be considerate to others .. or better still
      Go to china and protest..!!

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