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New coal mines and protests crushed: is Labor resigned to doom?

It is more shocking watching Labor governments implement draconian anti-protest measures than it is the right wing parties. The latter are by definition opposed to labour’s efforts to achieve a less-exploited life for the average citizen.

The workers that the labour parties nominally represent won a fairer life by the protests that the leaders are now banning. No wage labourer would have a 40 hour week, or a weekend, if the workers’ interventions had been forced to avoid “intentionally or recklessly” obstructing the “free passage of a public place.”

This wording from South Australian Premier Malinauskas’s rushed anti-protest bill is consonant with the work of governments around the anglosphere. In the hours leading up to the coronation in London for example, republican protesters were rounded up and arrested to avoid the spectacle of people in yellow t-shirts peacefully holding yellow signs along the procession route. The new measures were described as unnecessary and “deeply troubling” by the UN. King Charles III signed the anti-protest bill into law in the days before his coronation.

In America, Republican politicians are promoting the ability to shoot or drive into protesters.

For us, it is more often climate protests that promote this kind of overweening law that would hide protesters in dark alleyways where their message will not be seen.

Protests must disrupt.

The most important rights and protections are usually gained by highly inconvenient measures to disturb the thinking of those who accept the status quo. Women’s right to vote was won only after a number of troublesome and painful protests forced male politicians to cease withholding that civic engagement from half the population.

Conservative governments are by definition less likely to accede to change or to civil rights protests. Right wing politics that have supplanted the old conservatism are more authoritarian: reminders of the suffering of the masses are an inconvenience to executing the wishes of the powerful. It is only the bravest who continue to protest Putin’s invasion of Ukraine after the brutal crackdown on early protesters. Alexei Navalny’s fate shows what awaits those who contest kleptocrats’ extreme corruption.

Governments that represent the more progressive or labour movements seem at the surface level to be less compatible with protest-crushing legislation or draconian police intervention. They also mouth their acceptance of the fact that climate change is a dire threat to our continued survival.

It was a climate protest that provoked the South Australian rushed change to the law. This came just after an obsequious statement from the South Australian Labor minister for energy and mining made the rounds: “We are thankful you are here. We are happy to a be recipient of APPEA’s [Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association] largesse in the form of coming here more often…The South Australian government is at your disposal, we are here to help and we are here to offer you a pathway to the future,” Tony Koutsantonis said.

Why relatively progressive governments continue to introduce new coal mines, or waste time and money with the carbon capture and storage distraction is difficult to know for sure. There is certainly the pressure from donors to consider. Whether they also feel pressure from unions to slow the shift from fossil fuel extraction is worth asking. Australia’s Labor parties have no doubt learnt, if not over-learnt, the lesson from the mining sector which spent $22 million on antagonistic advertising to punish PM Kevin Rudd for his attempt to introduce a mining tax.

It is also possible to argue that Australia’s government remains an outreach division of the fossil fuel sector. All the tens of billions of profit made by fossil fuel companies netted Australia almost no tax. In one example, they paid $30 dollars in tax in 2020-21 on $164 billion in profits. In return, the taxpayer gifts these same companies, currently, $11 billion a year in subsidies. And the Albanese government’s continuation of the carbon credit program, barely changed from the Coalition’s scam model, is the only way that these companies are promising to cut emissions. The carbon trading program is, as Nick Feik describes it, a “frictionless profit machine” pervaded with senior fossil fuel figures, based on “phantom” credits as well as dubious-quality offset actions. The program is “state-sponsored greenwashing.”

It is possible that centrist political parties have also foreclosed the possibility that humanity can check the race to our destruction. It is easy to see why. The idea that Russian silovarchs and Saudi princes can work together with the corporatocracy of the (dis)United States seems a slim hope sinking into the rising seas. Competition for resources threatens climate-harming war. India and Pakistan, for example, depend on the meltwater of Himalayan glaciers for the survival of a billion people; the droughts that will supersede floods portend further conflict. Those battles, like the Ukraine invasion, will cost tonnes of carbon as well as human misery.

Our government might feel trapped in a politics shaped by short-term problems and solutions, and that economies and energy supplies secured in old-school ways are the price to be paid for reelection. Despair at the prospect of a world that looks to be fracturing rather than uniting to limit the crisis might reinforce this short-term thinking.

If that is a factor driving the centre/left parties, we are in deep trouble.

We expect the radicalising right to have abandoned the well-being of the masses now, let alone into the future. Their military-industrial complex will sell nations and individuals weapons to protect resources from those desperate for survival. Late stage capitalism’s winners are buying their bolt-holes and calculating which people they’ll take to their luxury escape or doomsday bunker.

If the parties that claim to represent the people have given up in despair at the thought of doing better than mouthing platitudes and performative gestures, we have no chance of limiting the climb of temperatures in the decades to come. This matters: it is increasingly clear that every fraction of a degree we can prevent the temperature rising is a whole swathe of crises prevented.

Already our children are suffering. Black Summer babies were born premature, some with blackened placentas. Young children who breathed the worst that summer have damaged lungs and require constant medication. Children from flood and bushfire zones continue to live in emergency accommodation, with the all the disturbance that means. Trauma impacts are expected to require help for five years.

This abdication of ambition would make a likely motivation for Labor governments to join right wing parties in cracking down on protest. As the crisis worsens, so will public distress. Failure to act on pain over months of bushfire smoke in city air or rising food prices will push people onto the streets as the Black Summer bushfires did. Catastrophe-driven demands on our nations’ budgets will eat away at the services that governments provide.

Police are ill-equipped to manage the stresses they already face: increasingly we leave them to deal with the misery, distress and violence that is the end result of inadequate infrastructure and services. Police are militarising making them even less appropriate to deal with social crises and the public’s distress. These problems raise the threat from forces that have had little tolerance for those who dissent in an inconvenient fashion.

Labor parties must remember that the threat of community independent candidates will increase for ALP candidates if they continue to stonewall the majority of their voters. We voters need to be on the streets – and inconveniently so – to make sure the government knows this.

It is your children and grandchildren who will face the full catastrophe – and the crackdown if they protest the nightmare that looms.


A briefer version of this was first published in Pearls and Irritations as Centrist parties crush dissent, foreclose on race to avoid extinction


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  1. Baby Jewels

    Well said, Lucy. Shared.

  2. ajogrady

    With over a trillion dollar debt Australians know that;
    The definition of a Judas betrayal is the Albanese Labor governments flawed and dangerous $400billion AUKUS deal perpetrated upon Australian taxayers.
    The definition of obscene is paying $400billion for obsolete nuclear submarines while one in six Australian children live in poverty and
    more than one in eight people (13.4%) live below the poverty line.
    The definition of inhumane is not lifting the JobSeeker rate while Albanese Labor is spending $400billion on obsolete AUKUS nuclear subs.
    The definition of
    contemptuous is the Albanese Labor government gifting $700million to Ukraine,known for its wide spread corruption, while Australians are sleeping on the streets and having to choose between starvation or medication.
    The definition of laughable is the excuse for AUKUS is to protect Australia’s trade sea routes for trade with Australia’s number one trading partner China, against China.
    The definition of insanity is going to war with Australia’s, by far, largest trading partner that will cripple Australia’s economy while destroying Australian living standards and impoverish Australian’s quality of life.
    The definition of unconscionable is spending huge amounts of taxpayers money on weapons of mass destruction while there is a massive need for funding for Medicare, NDIS, housing, aged care, pensions and education while a a trillion dollar debt impacts where funds can be spent.
    The definition of absurdity is Australian politician following the US into another long losing war.
    The definition of treason is ceding Australia’s sovereignty to another nation.
    The definition of treachery is Labor who were once the party of peace, prosperity and conciliation but are now the party of war, austerity and provocation.
    The definition of duplicitous is making Australia the prime first target in a war with China because of US bases on Australian soil like Pine Gap.
    The definition of an unbalanced and a corrupted world view is that of Labor’s and unfortunately for
    Australians, Penny Wong’s.
    The definition of lost opportunities in the “Asia Century” is the Albanese governments defence and foreign policies.
    The definition of dishonest is Australia’s
    foreign policy that is actually the US’s foreign policy that is in the best interests of the US and not in the best interests of Australia. It shows poor judgement and a callous disregard for Australia and Australian values.
    The definition of folly is Australian politicians believing that the ANZUS treaty guarantees the US will defend Australia in it its hour of need.
    The definition of pathetic is Labor’s defence policy that is the same as the LNP’s failed policy.
    The definition of interoperability is being the US’s 51st state.
    The definition of irresponsibility is Labor’s lack of leadership. The present Labor leadership team of Albanese, Marles and Wong are a shiver looking for a backbone while being dictated to by the US and dancing to the Colonel Blimp legacy mainstream media’s tune.
    Besides peace, prosperity and security throughout the world and avoiding
    what else will happen if the AUKUS bullies don’t get their war?
    Albanese Labor is failing Australians but mostly it is failing Labor’s “true believers”.

    Beyond words: Labor’s betrayal of Australia

    What our media don’t tell us: Has the D-Notice returned?

    It Is the mass media’s job to help suppress anti-war movements

  3. Douglas Pritchard

    OG Its ok….we are saved.
    Albo is such a smart operator.
    He worked out that the US will have a real recession, one that we will never forget.
    They have realised this word is in the dictionary, and its time to admit it.
    Which means no expensive subs, and we can nullify our agreement with them.
    Maybe Macron will let us back in on his deal because French stuff is always styleish.
    He was thinking ahead and knew exactly what was going to happen.
    We can now deal with China with no silly sanctions, and possibly buy some houses like you do in monopoly

  4. Andrew Smith

    Good read, one would also suggest that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, while Labor has to navigate a proverbial minefield and traps set in the past by LNP, think tanks & now anti-ALP ‘grassroots’ campaigns are run in social media*, much astroturfing from the right occurring and ‘wheels withing wheels’ to muddy the water.

    This is backgrounded by right wing legacy media, influencers and an above median aged vote that is catered to…. one would like to be an optimist and see e.g. more discussion & wriggling out of AUKUS suboptimal sub deal etc. vs. our monocultural political &/or media elites’ propensity to follow anything Anglo etc. (like Murdoch, avoiding EU/Europe), and too easily duped and ‘wedged’…. related…

    ‘It is only the bravest who continue to protest Putin’s invasion of Ukraine after the brutal crackdown on early protesters. Alexei Navalny’s fate shows what awaits those who contest kleptocrats’ extreme corruption.’ Navalny and hundreds of others in Russia and Turkey have shown real courage.

    Now Assange, under the guise of being assisted, is being platformed and used again by the right, to attack not just Biden/Democrats, but also ALP govt. (& locally even adding Andrews in memes/gifs for good measure). Those select four Oz grifters (no names) on social media with a profile, esp. now cesspit Twitter, have been promoting Assange’s cause, but were the same who supported Russia vs. Ukraine, Trump etc..

    Further, other local indie media outlets seem too easily led &/or astro turfed by Anglo pro Putin, RW sock puppets and grifters eg. Max Blumenthal; formerly Alternet with Aron Mate, behind Kremlin’s ‘GrayZone’ denigrating ‘white helmets’ NGO in Syria, in order to support Assad & Putin; honourable mention to Rockefeller Foundation linked Jeffrey ‘for peace’ Sachs who hangs out with RWNJs, kissed the ring of Hungarian PM ‘mini Putin’ Orban and will be presenting at Koch linked event in Hungary…..

    Eric Draitser, has expertise on Ukraine & Russia and of the ideologically left Counter Punch has highlighted the same, and others, describing them as ‘fake anti-imperialist sh*theads of the left’, in their support of Russia’s invasion, see in this video presentation

    Rather than folding to and following RW media attacks Labor needs nudging and support from its own constituents including members, branches, sector unions, influencers and backbenchers, to avoid pitfalls.

  5. New England Cocky

    @ ajogrady: An interesting analysis and one where there are many points of agreement with my own thoughts. Thank you.

  6. New Bruce

    Massively overspend on useless defence object d’art.
    Offshore as much as possible.
    Use the National Budget to increase the wealth of those with money, at the expense of those without.
    Expand coal, oil and gas in the face of undeniable scientific proof that this is wrong, at the expense of people, Planet Earth, and election promises.
    Defund public services, including the Army, police forces, and other emergency services.
    Do absolutely nothing about the national housing crisis, rental costs, and negative gearing etc etc.
    And now “they” want to ban protesting.
    Good plan.

  7. Harry Lime

    Agreed ajogrady,best plan I’ve ever seen, New Bruce.We are fucked.Short of the Second Coming.Or something.

  8. Clakka

    Thanks Lucy Hamilton, a great read and fine provocation.

    Things are moving very fast economically and politically, and the chooks are coming home to roost. It gives the RWNJ politicians opportunity to leverage the rent-seekers, profiteers and religious neo-fascists as disrupters and catastrophists.

    There is no question in my mind that we are at the cusp of significant change in the global order of things (driven principally by economics and industrial bridging to climate change abatement), and the changes will upset the tenuous equilibrium that most rely upon. To me, most significantly, it will involve a significant, and to many, an alarming shift in economic and political dynamics between the ‘West’ and the ‘East’ (and not to forget Africa and South America). The major problem being how to bring the (usually chauvinistic) voting populace along on the ride

    On the surface of it there are many things I don’t like about Labor’s manoeuvres, eg, buddying up with violent sectarian hate-peddler, Modi. However, I am drawn to reading between the lines and second-guessing the devices of AUKUS (and particularly its second pillar), the QUAD / ASEAN, and Wong’s multi-polarity contortions.

    It’s all happening so fast, and there appears to be an elevated risk of political failure and change being stymied by the disrupters and catastrophists, drawing us all into not only further economic stagnation but depression, social upheaval and conflict. To say the least, aside from Russia / Ukraine, there are already extremely difficult situations afoot in Britain, USA, Pakistan and Turkey.

    This week’s Andrews / Pallas budget was a monumental reversal of previous infrastructural ambition, and will be a very hard pill to swallow for most. To me, there was little alternative in the face of the on-rush of global inflation, stagnation and lack of available liquidity for such projects. In addition to the cancellations, there will be a hit to those most able to pay, with little to nothing for others. Thank goodness we have the good sense, flexibility and courage of Dan to carry it through.

    All that said, back to your article, Lucy, and the headline question ” ….is Labor resigned to doom?” I think not, in fact I think they are committed to taking head on the ways and means to avert climate and structural catastrophe, and in promptly oiling the wheels of those ways and means there are seeming dichotomies, like protraction of fossil-fuel extraction and AUKUS, and what might be named as neglect of Labor traditions. So Labor politicians in the various states, will be soiling their pants as to the risk of riots in the streets brought about by the shock of necessary urgent changes, and relentless pumping by the aforesaid disrupters, and the feckless LNP ‘opposition’.

    Lucy, under your article ‘Dan Andrews – and Murdoch crying wolf’ you said of my comment, “a really grim image”. Fair enough. Likewise, in this article you posit several grim images, to those I say ‘fair enough’.

    We have been warned, these are grim and treacherous times, and we are experiencing the affects unfold. I have learned not to hold my breath, as blue-in-the-face is not my best look. Never mind implementing necessary rapid change, politics and diplomacy have never been more exposed and difficult as in these times of social media, the strains of the talking heads, and irresponsible populist media. I opt to breathing deeply and trying to take in and make sense of what is said and not said, but implied, as well as actions taken, by the leaders of the great powers and other leaders and corporations around them.

    To that end, I accept that it could be said that I am an optimist and have faith. Fair enough.

  9. Max Gross

    Cue the chorus of the rusted-on: “At least Labor is not as bad as the L/NP.” (Sigh)

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