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.