Our school kids skipping school to protest the Government’s inaction should be an example to follow. In fact, compared to the people who govern us, they’re the ones closer to reality.
I haven’t registered much politically for a while. I’ve possibly been a little more jaded than usual with respect to our leaders and political system. But something happened this week that enraged me so much that I had to say something in a public forum.
For those that haven’t kept up with the news, thousands of school kids are due to skip school today to hold a protest against the Government’s lack of action on climate change, following on from a similar demonstration in 2018.
Whether you agree with their cause or not, you’d have to agree that seeing the next generation politically engaged is an absolute plus. Perhaps if my generation or the others around mine had done more of it, we might not be where we are right now. What we’ve cultivated is a culture of schoolyard japes, barbs and behaviour.
At the time, the Prime Minister’s response to this was to suggest that such matters aren’t for kids to worry about and that we should have “more learning and less activism in schools”. For some reason, he believes the two are mutually exclusive. His response was terrible.
However, it paled in comparison to the response from one of his Cabinet Ministers: Senator Matt Canavan, Resources Minister.
Canavan was interviewed on 2GB radio and responded to the protests as follows:
Walking off school and protesting, you don’t learn anything from that. The best thing you learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. I want kids to be at school to learn about how you build a mine, how you do geology, how you drill for oil and gas, which is one of the most remarkable scientific exploits of anywhere in the world that we do.
As some of my friends have already pointed out online, there are many of us who have exercised our right to protest against something we are passionate about (both as kids and as adults) and have managed to transition into adult life and employment as law-abiding taxpayers who have been lucky enough not to have needed the “dole queue” – not that I’m suggesting for a second that there’s any shame in needing help by way of benefits; his comments were just as insulting to those who are unlucky enough to find themselves in that situation.
Protesting and standing up for something you believe in is not something to be derided, it’s something to be admired and respected.
Without protest, the Vietnam war may not have ended. The woman’s suffrage movement may not have succeeded. Aboriginals may still not have the right to vote. The Salt Act in India may not have been repealed and the Indian people may not have gotten their independence. We may not have ever had the chance to be paid a fair wage and enjoy a safe workplace. Children might still be working in coal mines. The Berlin Wall may still be up.
The reason we value our right to protest is that it’s our last line of defence against people in leadership positions who refuse to listen to those they represent and answer to. People like Matt Canavan and the current Federal Government. As year 10 student Deanna Athanosos, who organised the Adelaide protest, so aptly put it:
If you were doing your job properly, we wouldn’t be here.
Preach, Deanna. We’re particularly stuck in a two-party political system that often leaves us with a choice between the lesser of two evils.
We will have a Federal election next year at some stage, most likely May. Despite being someone who is quite politically engaged, I’ve always made it a point not to tell other people who to vote for. And I’m not going to change my stance on that today. I will, however, plead with everyone who reads this to remember Senator Canavan and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s words this week when the time to vote comes. Please ensure that you remember a vote for them is a vote for two men who tried to shame kids for making their voices heard on an issue that will directly affect them far more than it will ever affect any of us. Remember that a vote for them is a vote for two men who attacked the most fundamental right we have in a democratic society. Remember that a vote for them is a vote for two men who were so scared by school kids going out and making their voices heard, that they resorted to insults.
Whether you believe in climate change or not, ask yourself whether you want to support people who believe that their position of leadership and power somehow exonerates them from challenge, questioning or justification.
Your vote is yours to use how you choose and I unequivocally support that right for exactly the same reason that I support the right of these kids to stand up for something they believe in. I hope you all do the same.