IN JULY hundreds of people will converge in Newcastle in a week long camp, with the aim of drawing attention to Australia’s contribution to climate change and rejuvenating the wider campaign for climate action.
Last month Solidarity reported that Climate Camp organisers had adopted a demand to stop the privatisation of NSW power industry. Unfortunately we were wrong.
This is a worrying sign. Rather than focus on concrete demands that could mobilise large numbers on an ongoing basis, the focus of the Camp is once again on coal exports and Newcastle as a coal port.By labelling this as the number one priority of the Camp and the climate campaign, the Camp has taken the focus off the domestic polluters.
Climate organisers seem to have been seduced by a media strategy of keeping the protest “on-message” rather than looking at how a climate campaign can build out of the Camp.
The NSW government’s move to hand power generation to private companies has already engaged unions and the wider public over climate change. A focus on the power privatisation would have been a way to directly link the Climate Camp with the union fight. Private ownership will likely mean the next power station will be coal fired, yet the Climate Camp demands are limited to coal exports, stopping the expansion of coal mines, a moratorium on new mines along with the demand for a just transition to a green economy.
Similarly the Camp’s call for direct action seems designed for its media impact. The mass direct action-walking onto the coal train tracks to “block” coal trains-and its clever slogan, “stopping climate change in its tracks”, has already been announced to the media without any attempt to discuss it with other environment collectives or groups going to the camp. This does not actually empower those involved or put direct action at the centre of discussions about how an ongoing, mass campaign can be built in the cities. The action could, for example, have targeted state government offices or power stations, as well as corporate vandals in Newcastle.
Discussion of a second day of decentralised action has been left to affinity groups-again something that detracts from the solidarity and cohesion of the Camp and a move that seems designed to favour fragmented media stunts by small groups of people. Hopefully activists will have the opportunity to argue for collective anti-privatisation, anti-corporate action on the second day.
The dropping of the anti-privatisation demand has generated some debate among those building the Camp. Sydney University Environment Collective is mobilising for the Camp around the slogan of opposition to power privatisation and will be taking the demand to the Camp.
The Camp will be an important focus for climate activists around the country. Discussion and debate at the Camp will be a crucial part of laying the political basis for a growing climate campaign.
The experience of activists attending from Melbourne, where a promising rally is bringing unions and community campaign groups together, will be extremely valuable.
The Climate Emergency Rally in Melbourne on 5 July is demanding, “No desalination plant, phase out coal, no new freeway tunnel, no bay dredging and yes to renewable energy, public transport and urgent action to stop global warming.” This is a good example of how to put forward immediate demands, with a focus on the big picture of global warming.
By Ian Rintoul