Newcastle port disruption and arrests highlight dirty coal industry

Photo from Roni Bintang/Getty: take to the water at Horseshoe beach in Newcastle to block access to the world’s largest coal port

Contributed by Ben Wilson

Lat weekend saw the arrest 109 people in Newcastle. They had joined the 30-hour blockade to disrupt coal leaving the world’s largest coal port.

Among the seeable crowd involved in the action, hundreds paddled into the water and the shipping lane.  Those who ignored the police warning to leave were arrested. By taking this stand they made sure that Australia heard all about it.

Reverend Alan Stuart, 97, among arrested in Newcastle blockade

Video from The Guardian

Growing numbers feel strongly enough about the threat of climate change to put themselves on the line. The success of getting a large crowd at Newcastle is a big deal.  

Although this act of civil disobedience has the non-violent and colourful style introduced by Extinction Rebellion in recent times, it came under the broader umbrella of Rising Tide, which has gained the support of the greens and founder Bob Brown.

But they are confronting an industry that has long enjoyed political protection, and a new NSW government continuing its predecessor’s policy of rising intolerance on the streets. Australia’s most restrictive big brother anti protest law is in place and being used. To date, its major target has been fighters for the environment. The consequence is consistent policing over reaction, and this case is no exception. over policing is raising concerns about diminishing civil liberties from any quarters.

There is a particular fear of the idea of turning towards disrupting business as usual as the best option for bringing about a change. This has emerged out of the rising gulf between the political leadership of this nation and the society that they are supposed to serve. This leadership is seen as corrupted and in the corporate pocket. Appeals to them will not succeed. But encouraging others to disobey might.

“If the government will not take action on climate change, the people will use civil disobedience,” the Rising Tide organiser said.

“We wish we did not have to do this, but the Albanese government needs to understand we are serious.”

Photo from the BBC

Those at the Newcastle Port join most Australians who consider climate change and the need for Australia to do much more to stop carbon emissions critical issues of the first order.

On this occasion, the target was coal exports leaving the port. They only stopped this for 32 hours. That’s not the point. The action signals that more disruptions are to be expected.

Rising Tide aims to stop the government allowing new coal projects, and to gain support for taxing fossil fuel exports profits by 75 percent, to fund community and industrial transition, and cover the cost of climate damage.  

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