The Melbourne Riots and Climate Change

A peaceful and well organised demonstration in Melbourne c.2016 (FOE)

Unruly, violent, and unco-ordinated protests against the pandemic lockdown by small groups continued in Melbourne recently. Propaganda, mainly from the Murdoch media, has blamed unionists and the protests ostensibly were caused by the Andrews government’s attempts to control the spread of the virus in the construction industry. In reality, anti-vax and anti-lockdown campaigners, along with conspiracy nuts and neo-Nazis, have hijacked the angst felt by some in the construction industry and community at large. Much of their actions are antithetical to the union* movement, (e.g. being a leaderless rabble as opposed to highly organised) and definitely to science. Unions also are concerned with the common good rather than individual freedom.

How is this connected to climate change? I have recently written that the anti-vax and anti-lockdown movements centre on the denial of medical science and this opposition goes hand in hand with climate change denialism. Guest blogger Mark Kilpatrick wrote a similar critique of this three years ago – well before the covid pandemic. Those vigorous climate change deniers in the political sphere – Palmer, Kelly, Christenson, Roberts and no doubt many others – are quick to exploit these divisions and disturbances. I have argued previously that, as the result of their actions can be fatal, they are also criminal.

An article by Josh Roose in The Conversation suggests that the demonstrators’ main concern is employment insecurity exacerbated by the current political miasma. The ability of these various political rogues to use the social media to promote their cause is also important. To that, we can add the mainstream media, especially with regards climate science and in this regard, the propaganda of the Murdoch media has been appalling. These conflicts, with violence begetting violence and the proliferation of videos of the violence on the social media, have distracted many from the overriding issue of global warming and divided friends and family over vaccinations and violence. As Michael Mann has pointed out distraction and division are now some of the main tools of the climate change deniers.

The demonstrations highlight the need for a just and peaceful transition from the fossil fuel based economy to a renewable energy one, better media laws and improved science education both for students and for the general public. In the longer term when our government eventually adopts a climate emergency, everyone who wants work will be fully employed and reaction in the media will be muted.

*many years ago, I was a member of the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association. Since then I have written a sympathetic history of the Victorian Coal Miners Association.