My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 4 December 2018

by ray goodlass

School students show the way

Last Friday thousands of students wagged it and converged on MP offices, parliaments around the country, and various public spaces in the Big School Walk Out for Climate Action.

The movement, School Strike 4 Climate Action, has been inspired by a 15-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who started boycotting classes before parliamentary elections in her nation on September 9, and continues to skip school every Friday.

Students in each state capital and across 20 regional Australian centres walked out of their classrooms this week to tell politicians that more of the same climate inaction is not good enough.

PM Scott Morrison hectored children to stay in class rather than protesting things that “can be dealt with outside of school”.

Of course, what Mr Morrison overlooked, and has for a very long time, is that climate change isn’t being dealt with outside of school. It certainly isn’t being dealt with by his government.

“What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools” he said, conveniently forgetting that this student activism isn’t happening in schools, but outside. But Mr Morrison isn’t one to let the truth get in the way of an indignant response, as he regularly demonstrates at press conferences and during Parliamentary Question time.

“The students want and believe that action on climate change is essential, which our parliament seems not to” (Mary Kidson, Letters to the Editor, 1st December).

Naturally enough students aren’t happy with the PM’s response. Melbourne student Jagveer Singh, who will take part in the protest, said Mr Morrison’s broadside made him “want to go on strike even more”. (SBS News)

Indeed, in Question Time Mr Morrison reacted furiously when Greens MP Adam Bandt brought up the protest, angrily saying “Each day I send my kids to school and I know other members’ kids should also go to school but we do not support our schools being turned into parliaments.”

Mr Bandt said he had met with some of the students involved and backed their actions.

“The PM is unbelievably out of touch with young people, not only in Australia but around the world,” he said.

“These students want a leader to protect their future, but they got a hectoring, ungenerous and condescending rebuke from someone even worse than Tony Abbott,” he said.

Students planning to participate in a national school strike last Friday should ignore the Prime Minister’s patronising speech on the matter, said Member for Ballina and Greens NSW Education spokesperson Tamara Smith MP.

“The idea that schools and students should have less activism – how incredibly out of touch is the Prime Minister to suggest that young people are not activists in their own right?” said Ms Smith.

“I will be supporting students from my electorate during their School Strike on Friday at Railway Park at Byron Bay. I am proud to be their local MP” concluded Ms Smith.

Last Tuesday, the Senate also approved a motion to support the students, moved by Steele-John and fellow Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi. Other students around the world have also posted messages of support on social media.

Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, the inspiration for our Australian students, leaves school each Friday and sits outside her country’s parliament to urge leaders to do more to tackle climate change.

“Countries like mine and Australia must start reducing our emissions dramatically if we believe in equality and climate justice.”

Greta has now seen her Friday vigils for action on climate change copied in many parts of the world, including Finland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Canada and Britain. “And Australia of course!” she says.

Students from Castlemaine, a town in the Victorian goldfields north-west of Melbourne, were the originators of the School Strike movement in Australia after reading about Greta Thunberg and also the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report.

Tully Boyle, a 15-year-old at Castlemaine Secondary College, has already taken part in several school boycotts. “It’s a massive emergency,” Tully says. “We want all governments to take it seriously.”

I’ll leave the last word to Greta. “And Australia is a huge climate villain, I am sorry to say. Your carbon footprint is way bigger than Sweden and we are among the worst in the world.”

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