Students strike to demand climate action

National student walk outs defy PM's call to "stay in school"

PHOTO: Markus Christiansen

By Chris Shearer

December 6 2018Up to 4,000 students, including many from Anglican schools, descended on Melbourne’s Parliament House on 30 November to protest the government’s inaction on climate change.

The rally was part of a day of national student walk-outs, with many thousands defying calls by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to stay in school by taking to the streets of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and other cities.

Year 11 Melbourne Grammar Student Markus Christiansen told TMA that he and six other MGS boys joined the Melbourne protest because the government had been complacent about meeting its climate obligations.

“We wanted to start a conversation in parliament, which it already has done. The PM got angry and now there’s discussion in parliament about the issue – great. It’s the crux of democracy to protest for change and it looks like it’s working,” he said.

“We feel our opinion needs to be heard as we are the ones that will be living in the future anyway, where hopefully the world is not still heating up and falling apart.”

Mr Christiansen said that he wanted the government to commit to moving to renewables and “start finally doing what we signed in Paris Agreement”.

Speaking on 2GB radio in Sydney, Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan condemned the student action.

“Walking off school and protesting, you don’t learn anything from that,” he said.

“The best thing you learn about going to a protest is how to join a dole queue.”

Mr Canavan instead suggested students stay in school so they could learn “how you build a mine, how you do geology, how you drill for oil and gas”.

His comments echoed those of Mr Morrison earlier in the week, who said he did not support students protesting “things that can be dealt with outside of school”.

“We don’t support our schools being turned in parliaments,” he said. “What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”

Nonetheless, a Greens-sponsored motion in the Senate commending the student strike was passed on 26 November.

The student strike was inspired by 15-year-old Swedish student Great Thunberg, who has pledged to protest outside parliament in Stockholm each Friday until the country cuts its emissions by 15 per cent per year.

Her protest action has since inspired some 20,000 students around the world to take similar action, with protests also occurring in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Japan and the United States.