I have spent the last few months in a state of ongoing fury. I’ve been fuming about the mess that is the Liberal party, and their refusal to put running the country ahead of in-house bickering. I’ve been mad about the inaction of the Libs on climate change. I’ve been utterly enraged about the ongoing detention of Asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, including children. And I’ve been livid about the unfolding saga of the Don Dale detention center, where children are treated like hardened criminals, rather than being given an honest chance at life. Don’t even get me started on the rampant mysogny in politics, or Scott Morrison’s hypocrisy, or the willingness of politicians to put big business interests ahead of actual people.
It’s exhausting and, I’m sure, unhealthy to live in such a state of anger, which is why events of this week have given me so much hope for the future. School children are on strike, calling for action on climate change. It is wonderful, and I can’t get enough of their earnest faces and their fantastic signs. Our politicians seem to have priorities which are entirely skewed, selfish, and devoid of morality. Thankfully, these children seem to be getting it right.
The average politician in Australia is a 51 year old white male. Judging from the actions of our current pollies, their primary concerns seem to be protecting big businesses, and bickering over their own interests. They are worlds apart from the wide eyed idealism that was on display this week across our nation, with school children calling for immediate action on climate change. This comes in a week when the Adani Coal mine has announced that it is going ahead, despite concerns about the affect this could have on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the issue of continued reliance on coal production. The government, under Scott Morrison, is prioritising ‘keeping electricity prices down’ which seems like a worthy goal, but if it is done at the cost of our future, then it is not a good priority at all.
And then we have the children who are protesting. It seems to be a developing theme lately. This particular protest was sparked by a 15 year old Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, who started the ‘Strike 4 Climate Action’ earlier this year. Also this year, we have seen young people in the US demonstrating for gun control, striking hope in our hearts that there may be a change to the lax gun control in that country that has a mass shooting 9 out of every 10 days, on average. These young people are fearless, articulate, and passionate, all things that we should want our young people to be.
What has been the response of our politicians? Their reactions to the strike for climate action this week has been both laughable and infuriating. PM Scott Morrison said “What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.” Resources Minister Matt Canavan said “The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join a dole queue.” This comes after Canavan praised the announcement that the Adani mine would be going ahead, calling it a ‘little Aussie battler’. I guess these politicians don’t realise that in a few years, these same students will be voting, hopefully bringing the same passion to the ballot box that they have brought to the streets this week.
Here is the thing. We teach our children to care about others. We want them to be kind, to be passionate, to make the world a better place. We should rejoice when they do exactly that. Instead, we have people who are in positions of leadership in this country who are mocking, belittling and discouraging these students who are taking a stand for what they believe in. The message that we seem to get from our politicians is ‘look out for number one’. This is the example that they set, in the way that they bicker and fight amongst themselves, trying to get a better position. And we see it in their policies. When the Liberal government’s energy policy is all about keeping electricity prices down, they assume that we as voters only care about the bottom line of our power bill. This is not true. We care about the future of our planet.
Of course, we will continue to vote, to write, to agitate. We will write to our local MPs. (If you, like me, are in the electorate of O’Connor, you can always write to Rick Wilson. He has ignored my repeated requests to elaborate on his stance towards climate change, perhaps a few more emails and letters would help to jog his memory on this topic…) We will continue to hope for the best, and to be furious when our politicians reveal their worst sides. But for me, it provides so much hope to see young people marching in the streets, making speeches, holding signs, and chanting. They are the future, and this week, especially, it looks like our future is going to be bright.