The Right to Protest: Adani

07/07/2019

Along with the recent string of protests against the Adani coalmine in Brisbane, there has been a call from a number of people – generally supporters of the mine – saying that protesters should be locked up, fined, or punished in some way. That sort of rhetoric should alarm you for a few reasons, not least because Queensland has been there before.

Joh Bjerke-Petersen cracked down heavily on Union protests and marches during his tenure as QLD Premier. The same argument against the Adani protesters now was used back then – they’re ‘disrupting the peace’ and being a major ‘inconvenience’. As I’m sure I’ve said a few times on this site, it’s almost like those people don’t understand what a protest is supposed to be.

Just like the Union protests in the 80’s, the protests against Adani today are entirely for the benefit of Australia; this time, in fact, the world as a whole. If you refuse to believe in climate change, or are under the delusion that mankind has not had any notable effect on it (despite numerous studies proving it since the 1950’s), then that is your prerogative. But your denial does not change reality, and it most certainly does not override the right to protest.

The argument that it is an inconvenience doesn’t hold because that is the purpose of it – it is supposed to bring attention to the issue. A mild inconvenience for a day or two is nothing compared to the devastation the Adani mine will set off if it is approved and started. I’ve seen ‘horror stories’ of parents getting stuck in traffic with kids, or bills to pay, places to be! To reverse the accusation, with full knowledge it might be a little confronting to some: grow up.

Being stuck in traffic is not the end of the world – the roads are so choked up in rish hour you’re stuck for ages anyway. If it’s an electricity bill you’re hankering to pay, then those inconvenient protesters are doing you a solid in the long-term. And places to be, be grateful those places are still around. In few decades, if we don’t change course, it may not be so easy going. Complaining about having part of your day disrupted when the benefits of that occasion are positive for everyone is rather short-sighted.

But more generally, the right to protest is one that all people should have, and any infringement on that is a dangerous overstep of authority. You think the State should have the power to punish people for gathering and association, or marching and protesting for a cause? Is your ‘freedom to convenience’ more important than the freedom to speak and be heard, to the above actions? To use some misappropriated terminology, how communist of you, advocating for such brutal State censorship.

No major victory for the people was won by living a life of convenience and complacency. Civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war, LGBT+, Union, many others – all movements that required direct action from the population against the systems of power that oppressed and discriminated against them. Peaceful protests to champion the progress of society must not be shut down for the sake of ‘convenience’, and most certainly not be suppressed by State power.

The Adani protest is no different. Our right to life, a healthy planet, and diverse environment is more important than some people’s ‘right to convenience’. Any (peaceful) action taken to block or rise against the corporate tyranny of a corrupt, deceitful, and destructive company is one to be proud of. Some points on fossil fuels vs renewables:

  • The number of jobs offered by the Adani project is only a tiny percentage of the number they originally peddled, and many of those will be automated within a few years. Any workers in the mines will also likely be subject to illnesses like black lung disease.
  • Coal is a dying and, in the long-term, non-profitable industry. That shouldn’t be relevant, however, as most of the coal and most of the profits will be swindled right out of Australia anyway. Maybe the project would be ever so slightly more bearable if we, the Australian people, saw the fruits of this labour, but we won’t.
  • If coal does appear to be ‘better’ than renewables it is because our government subsidises it wildly.
  • Renewables, if we were to properly invest in them, have the potential to offer around 180,000 jobs – and yes, we could invest in them properly if we stopped subsidising fossil fuels.
  • We could also, instead of exporting coal, become lead exporters in renewable and energy storage technology. Rather than crippling the CSIRO, defunding education and deregulating universities, and pushing back against a growing industry (even without government investment, renewables will eventually overtake fossil fuels), we as a nation can take advantage of it for the economic benefits those Coalition hacks supposedly care so much about.
  • On an unrelated note, many supporters of Adani (but by no means are the two always in sync) are also anti-immigrant, or anti-Chinese investment. So what’s the deal with this contradiction, letting a corrupt Indian company dictate the terms of a mine on our land (bet they also don’t pay much attention to Aboriginal voices either)? Or is that too inconvenient to talk about?

 

Liked this? Read Queensland Labor has Failed (coincidentally, so has Federal Labor, they just gave up)

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