Dozens of actions were held outside the offices of MPs nationwide on March 27 to protest the Rudd government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).
The call for the March 27 protests came from the Climate Action Summit held in Canberra in late January. More than 500 climate activists, representing more than 150 climate action groups, declared that a key goal of the movement for climate justice must be to prevent the CPRS from becoming law.
The CPRS was roundly condemned at the summit because it sets a tiny 5% target in emission cuts by 2020, gives $9 billion in free permits to some of Australia's wealthiest polluting companies, will undermine international negotiations for a strong agreement to tackle climate change and means emission cuts by individuals and households simply free up extra permits for the big polluters to use.
The alternative to the CPRS, the summit concluded, is for the government to take serious action to halt climate change by planning for 100% renewable energy by 2020 with a long-term goal of stabilising atmospheric carbon levels at 300 parts per million.
In Victoria, Anthea Stutter reports the Western Community Action Network (WeCAN) activists protested outside ALP MP Nicola Roxon's office against the CPRS.
WeCAN activist and former Maribyrnong city mayor, Janet Rice, addressed a small but vibrant group. Rice told protesters that an emissions target of only 5-15% was not enough to avoid runaway climate change.
In Coburg, the Moreland Climate Action Group organised a protest at ALP MP Kelvin Thomson's office. Protesters filled the office foyer and festooned the security grille with black balloons. The balloons symbolised the death of the planet if the federal government's climate policies are implemented.
In Geelong, Julia Burder reports 50 demonstrators chanted "5% is not enough", outside the office of ALP member for Corio, Richard Marles.
Protesters then sandbagged the front door of Marles's office, forcing the MP to join the rally from a side entrance.
Marles stood and listened as Bruce Lindsay from the Greens, Chris Johnson from Socialist Alliance, Mitch Cherry from Resistance and Tim Gooden from Geelong and Region Trades and Labour Council outlined the real impact of climate change on the environment and jobs. All speakers stressed that the big business-oriented CPRS offered by the government would provide no positive benefit at all.
Other Victorian federal parliamentarians to face protests
included Labor MPs Martin Ferguson, Jenny Macklin, Michael Danby and Lindsay Tanner as well as former Coalition treasurer Peter Costello.
Two hundred people protested outside Commonwealth parliamentary offices in Adelaide, reports Leslie Richmond, including many passers-by who stopped to join the rally, and a loud and energetic student contingent that marched from Adelaide University. The rally, organised by the Climate Emergency Action Network, called for a climate change policy based on science and human need rather than on the self-interests of corporate polluters.
Rally chair, Ruth Ratcliffe, said "all the evidence tells us that it is the free market that got us into this mess and it makes no sense to think the free market can get us out of it". She called on Greens parliamentarians to block the CPRS and follow the lead of the growing grassroots movement in rejecting discredited carbon trading and free market ideas as a solution to the crisis.
Jay Fletcher reports 20 people picketed the office of Sharon Bird, ALP MP for Cunningham. Participants wore snorkels, flippers and floaties to dramatise the fact that coastal cities such as Wollongong will be devastated by rising sea levels resulting from runaway climate change.
The action was organised by members of the Wollongong Climate Action Network and the University of Wollongong environment collective.
In Sydney, 30 people gathered for an afternoon protest outside ALP headquarters in Sussex Street. A number of other ALP politicians were targeted earlier in the day.
The Ryde Gladesville Climate Action Group protested outside the office of MP for Bennelong, Maxine McKew. Climate Action Coogee organised a demonstration outside the Maroubra office of federal environment minister Peter Garrett.
Other MPs targeted in Sydney were Julie Owens, Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek. Sutherland Climate Action Network held a protest at the office of ALP senator Michael Forshaw.
In Newcastle, Simon Cunich reports a protest was organised by the Newcastle University Students Association outside of the office of ALP MP for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson. The protest attracted 40 people.
Climate action groups Lake Macquarie Climate Action and Rising Tide marched from Cardiff station in Newcastle to the office of the ALP parliamentary secretary for climate change, Greg Combet.
The Bathurst Community Climate Action Network held an action at the office of the ALP MP for Macquarie, Bob Debus. On March 25, network president John Kellett said the group was protesting the CPRS "because of the vast concessions made to the fossil fuel lobby and other big carbon polluters. What we need instead is a higher initial target and a massive investment in renewable energy."
The Katoomba Area Climate Action Network also protested outside Debus's Katoomba office.
Leigh Hughes reports from Canberra that a protest of 60 people was held outside the offices of the federal department of climate change on March 28. The rally was organised by Climate Action Canberra.
Violinists wore masks of climate change minister Penny Wong and roman togas as a protest against the government's "fiddling while the planet burns" climate policy. Protesters dressed as gangsters — a reference to Canberra's many "greenhouse mafia" lobbyists — held a "fire sale" of emissions permits.
Kamrul Khan, from the Bangladesh Environment Network, reminded protesters that the campaign around climate change is growing stronger — even in poor countries like Bangladesh.
"I am from a country of 150 million people who live just above sea level. We will see the worst effects of climate change and so are fighting back — including against Australian and British companies who want to mine for coal in Bangladesh."
In Hobart, 30 people rallied outside ALP MP Duncan Kerr's office demanding that the government "switch off the CPRS, and switch on renewables".
Mel Barnes reports the action was organised by Climate Action Hobart.
After the rally, participants met with Kerr to let him know they expect his government to make stronger targets. Remarkably, Kerr acknowledged the inadequacies of the 5% target and some of the weaknesses of the CPRS but said as a government minister he would still support it.
Holding placards and banners criticising the government's proposed carbon trading scheme, 20 people protested outside federal MP Stephen Smith's Inglewood office in Perth, Kamala Emmanuel reports. The action was organised by the Coalition for a Safe Climate.
The protesters presented office staff with an "open letter" to Smith, outlining a range of concerns about the carbon trading scheme, and urging the government to go for policies that will "guarantee that we make the change to a carbon-neutral economy, creating green jobs — with support for the most vulnerable, including workers and communities dependent on carbon-polluting industries".
Protests were also held in Brisbane outside the office of PM Kevin Rudd and in Darwin outside the office of Damian Hale. Climate activists based in Alice Springs also targeted the ALP MP for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon.
Protest organisers pointed out that the March 27 actions mobilised twice the number of people who took part in similar actions in December last year to protest the release of the Rudd government's White Paper on climate change.
Climate action groups will now be working towards further mass rallies.
Media spokesperson for the protests, Pablo Brait from Yarra Climate Action Now, said on March 27: "We are calling for a moratorium on coal mining and coal-fired power stations, and an end to perverse subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. We want just sector-by-sector transition plans for affected workers and communities.
"The government can stimulate the economy and create quality green jobs, by making direct investment in renewable energy to move towards 100% renewables by 2020."