The Liberal Party’s Margaret River-based shadow environment minister says last week’s school holidays clearly killed the fervour of student climate activists after rolling protests in Perth only “attracted something over 300 people”.
“Where were the thousands who were glad to skip school in September, today, when the protest was on their own time in school holidays?” Steve Thomas MLC asked.
“And does the wider community have any respect for Extinction Rebellion and their antics?”
The Liberal MLC said despite small crowds, protesters still “caused significant inconvenience” and “had probably lost more support for climate change than they had gained”.
Dr Thomas said climate change was an important issue, but the right to protest should be balanced against “public nuisance (that) cheapened the issue and reflected poorly on the organisers”.
“The Liberal Party takes the issue of climate change seriously,” Dr Thomas said.
“The Morrison Government is spending billions on emissions reductions.”
Margaret River’s school strike for climate action organiser Maia Sheridan-Hulme said the Upper House member’s comments “show an overwhelming and disappointing lack of understanding, and highlight a deeper unwillingness of both Federal and State MPs to look beyond party ideology and external interests”.
Maia acknowledged differing attendances, but said the protests were led by “two distinctly different groups” and were not a question about school holidays.
“In our current political climate, it is clearly being left to the people to take action,” she said.
“We are in the midst of an ecological breakdown and we will not stand down until the Government commits to taking real action towards achieving climate justice.”
Shire president Pam Townshend — who se last act on council before finishing up next week was to call a formal climate emergency — said disruptive protests were sparked by world government inaction.
“A protest stopping traffic for a while may be inconvenient, but it isn’t anything like the inconvenience of whole ecosystems collapsing through lack of urgent action on the complex causes of global climate change,” she said.
Protests were highlighting how global short-term money markets were winning out against action to protect the planet, Cr Townshend said.
Maia also blasted Dr Thomas’ Liberal climate-action claims, noting the Coalition blocked declaration of a climate emergency in the House of Representatives this week.
“When the Prime Minister refuses to attend climate-related UN summits and many ministers are climate change sceptics … I cannot see any action towards achieving climate justice,” she said.