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Close to 1,500 people turned out in Melbourne (Naarm) on Saturday for a rally to demand stronger climate action by the new Albanese Government.

The rally was called by a coalition of groups and organisations. These included Extinction Rebellion, Socialist Alternative, Victorian Forests Alliance, Socialist Alliance, Friends of the Earth and Workers for Climate Action. Several other groups also endorsed the rally.

Speaking at the rally, federal parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt declared that “we’re in a climate emergency.”

Our house is on fire and it’s time our government started putting it out.

 

— Adam Bandt, Greens leader

“You don’t have to look very far to see just how pressing the climate crisis is for people here and right around the world.”

Adam Bandt, federal Greens parliamentary leader, at the climate rally in Melbourne.

Adam Bandt, federal Greens parliamentary leader, at the climate rally in Melbourne.

“In Europe, firefighters are battling fires across countries that they’ve never had to do in a coordinated way before. Countries like England are suffering through heatwaves that they’ve never seen before. Here at home, we have flooding that’s happening again, and again.”

Bandt also took aim at the numerous gas and coal projects currently still on the books, declaring “any one of those [going ahead]” will be a “climate bomb that will blow even this government’s weak climate targets out of the water.”

“We know if we keep on using [coal and gas as we currently do], that the window for a safe climate closes.”

Freja Leonard, Friends of the Earth

Freja Leonard, Friends of the Earth

Freja Leonard, the No New Gas coordinator at Friends of the Earth, said that Victoria “needs a gas retirement roadmap.”

“[Victoria is] the heaviest user of gas in this country. It’s not our fault, we’ve been locked into this system.”

“Climate justice looks like a plan to retire the gas mains network over the next 10 years, the critical decade for climate change. We have 10 years to turn this ship around.”

“We’ve just seen the climate election […] make no mistake, every year, from now on, is a climate election.”

School Strike for Climate organiser Tansy Elliot

School Strike for Climate organiser Tansy Elliot

School Strike For Climate (SS4C) organiser Tansy Elliot said “I’m angry because its not fair that the people who should be protecting me, protecting everyone, frequently turn a blind eye.”

“I’m scared that I need to fight for something that should be automatic. That I need to fight for something that’s so obvious to everybody but them.”

“We’re here today because they’re blatantly ignoring the science, the evidence and the facts that we’ve known about for decades.”

You can’t be for your voters if you’re not for the planet. You can not say that you’re for the planet if you can frequently sign deals that cut away and destroy the planet.

 

— Tansy Elliot

Elliot was joined by Ballarat regional SS4C organiser Jonathan Stephens, who said he feared that “every summer my house will burn down”.

Jonathan Stephens, School Strike for Climate Ballarat regional organiser

Jonathan Stephens, School Strike for Climate Ballarat regional organiser

Stephens also decried the continuing logging of native state forests: “why are we still logging in the climate emergency? Every tree is vital in the protection of our planet.”

Jerome Small, the Victorian Socialists candidate for the Northern Metropolitan Region in the 2022 Victorian State Election, said he “never gets sick of people taking to the streets” in the fight for climate justice.

Jerome Small, Victorian Socialists and candidate for the Northern Metropolitan Region at the 2022 Victorian State Election

Jerome Small, Victorian Socialists and candidate for the Northern Metropolitan Region at the 2022 Victorian State Election

“What we have going for us is the majority of humanity that don’t make billion dollar profits from cooking the planet.”

“It’s an insult to say that [working class people in the La Trobe Valley love coal]. There are people in those communities, working in those power stations, making the argument that we need to get out of fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

Extinction Rebellion activist Catherine Strong

Extinction Rebellion activist Catherine Strong

Extinction Rebellion activist Catherine Strong, denounced police oppression and state overreach targeting climate activists.

At the end of June – start of July, New South Wales police used new laws brought in by that state’s government to target, pre-emptively and heavy handedly, climate direct action group Blockade Australia during its recent period of mobilisation.

Bail conditions, initially designed to target and break up outlaw motorcycle gangs, were imposed on climate activists including restrictions on association, mobile device usage, curfews and travel restrictions.

Blockade Australia activist Tim Nevile.

Blockade Australia activist Tim Neville.

Tim Neville, one of two Blockade Australia activists jailed in a maximum security prison, in solitary confinement for almost four weeks, for ‘thinking about blocking a road’, said he “was charged for thinking about protesting”. 

“I’ve been doing direct action for five years. I travelled to New South Wales to take part in a mobilisation that was going to challenge the system as a whole, and the effect that system has had on the climate.”

We’re being charged before we even have the chance to take to the streets.

 

— Tim Neville

“This isn’t about whether you do or don’t protest; it’s not about how you feel about blocking roads or how you feel about taking civil resistance.”

“What’s happening now is they’re no longe stopping the actions after they’re happening. They’re stopping them in their thought process.”

“We’re being crushed. At the moment, we’re being hunted, monitored and surveilled. We’re likely having our devices hacked and very possibly being infiltrated by a state, a system, that’s trying to stop protests from happening before they even begin.”

DjabWurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman and Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe

DjabWurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman and Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, speaking on the steps of the Victorian Parliament, denounced the Andrews government for “logging our country” while saying that they “want to talk treaty.”

Thorpe previously represented the state electorate of Northcote, winning the seat in a by-election before losing it again in the 2018 State Election. She was chosen as Richard Di Natale’s senate replacement when he resigned.

“I’ve seen the dodgy deals that go on behind me, by a so-called progressive Labor government.”

“They’re destroying our people’s lives, our totems, our country, our water and our spiritual connection because they’re greedy, and they’re genocidal and they’re criminals.”

We need this country to stand up for Blak justice, so that we can get climate justice.

 

— Senator Lidia Thorpe

“We have to fight like our lives depend on it, because it does.”

The demands for the rally include real zero emissions by 2035, no new coal gas or oil, 100% publicly-owned renewably energy, tax the billionaires to fund a just transition for affected workers, land rights not mining rights and protect ecosystems and stop logging native forests.

Matt Hrkac is an award-winning photographer and photojournalist based in Geelong and works across Melbourne and throughout Victoria, covering predominantly the social justice beat.

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