Prime Minister’s ‘Road-to-Damascus’ on Climate Change?

Firstly, there is an environmental crisis.
Then there is a bushfire crisis.
But there is also a political crisis – former union organiser.

We publish this speech given by Michael Clifford from the Queensland Council of Unions at a climate change and bushfires (Sack ScoMo) rally in Brisbane, organised by Socialist Alternative on 10 Jan 2020.

The turn-out at Friday’s rally calling for the sacking of the Prime Minister was inspiring. However the crisis outlined by Michael Clifford will not be fixed by people chanting ‘Scott Morrison is a wanker‘ at Sack ScoMo rallies.

It is worthwhile for readers to check out what Michael Clifford said about people joining organisations that challenge the government on climate change.

There were between 5,000 and 10,000 people present at the rally and march. To give readers an idea of the size of the march, people were still leaving the square to march four blocks of the city, when marchers were returning to the square.

The reason why the government is in denial of climate change is because it interferes with company profits – Ian Curr, Editor.


Michael Clifford from the Queensland Council of Unions pays respect to workers involved in fighting the bushfires.

People from many different backgrounds of work, the professional firefighters who do this year-round, a highly unionized workforce, our emergency workers like the ambos and the police, the health professionals, our nurses and our doctors.

National Tertiary Education Union banner at rally in King George Square, 10 Jan 2020.
Photo: Lachlan Hurse.

It’s great to see people from the nurses and midwives union here today.

The people who are involved in the recovery, the council workers the electrician’s, the plumbers, the builders, and of course the countless working people involved in community organizations wild life rescue organizations and others who support the recovery efforts.

Transition to sustainable future
Unions are also heavily involved and actively planning to ensure that there is a just transition (from fossil fuels). We need to remember the workers who will be affected by the transition to renewable energy to clean energy. 

It needs to happen but we need to support those communities. Those communities will not support governments who want to take action on climate change unless they know they have a certain future. (To) have a secure future, we need investment in job creating opportunities in each of those communities.

It’s not just the directly affected workers, it’s not just the power workers, it’s not just the coal miners; it’s the whole community: it’s the teachers, it’s the small businesspeople, it’s the nurses.

It’s the whole community that our plans need to lift up and ensure that they can thrive.

Currently the trade union movement is supporting the fundraising effort. We shouldn’t have to do that because governments should be supporting these efforts. 

We need more than the two billion dollars, we know that governments should be supporting our firefighting efforts, we know that government’s should be buying the materials.

But for now we are supporting the fundraising efforts (and we) would encourage people here to do the same.  We would encourage you to go to our union websites to do just that if you have the skills to volunteer to help in the recovery effort we are encouraging union members to do that and again you can go to the Queensland unions website and sign up.

Royal Commission
The firefighters union is calling for a Royal Commission. And if we have a royal commission, and we need one, it needs to address the issue of climate change.

I recently had a friend goading me about why there was no mention of climate change (after Black Saturday).  He believes he’s a, to put it kindly I’d say he’s a climate change skeptic, …. he was goading me to say after the Black Saturday bushfires why was there no mention of climate change in the Royal Commission?

There was, the difference then was people agreed that it was real. People agreed that it was happening in that we needed to take action on it. They had evidence before the inquiry from the chief scientist of the CSIRO who convinced them … and the commissioners did not take much convincing that climate change was gonna drive worse bush fires in the future.

That it was a factor in those bush fires back (then), they took the evidence of the Bureau of Meteorology and they accepted that the politicians in power in Victoria at the time and in the Commonwealth also believed that climate change was real and that they were taking action on it. 

I think it’s a shame they went no further than that. Justice say it’s real and people are taking action because if they had and if a whole people that have spoken up at the table we might not find ourselves in this position right now 

People are angry right around the country for a whole range of different reasons but as I had seen this unformed one of the things that has driven my anger is that  years after that world commissioned  11 years after the Gana report we are in a situation where we have a government that simply does not believe that climate change is rea.

That’s what’s driving their actions [Applause] 

Union busting
Have a look at what they’ve done in nine member in November when they were fires raging around us throughout the country and here in Queensland their top priority was to push through the federal parliament a union-busting bill.

That was their top priority [Applause] their other priority was the religious discrimination bills. This government (didn’t care) about the crisis that was starting to unfold, that was already unfolding. 

In December, he (Morrison) told volunteers that they didn’t need to be compensated, and that they wanted to be out there. We’ll just ask Paul Parker (from ?) about what he thinks [Applause] 

He needed to say that because for him it had to be business as usual in December. as we’ve already heard as you know he went on holidays … he did that, he did that because for him and his government this was business as usual .

To even think about compensating firefighters would be to recognize that there was a crisis that this wasn’t business as usual, and then would take delving into the reasons for it and would force them to acknowledge that perhaps climate change was a factor and perhaps they should be doing something about it, but they didn’t.

Road to Damascus?
And now, now he’s saying that he believes in climate change, now he’s saying he believes it, his past actions would tend to indicate that that is crap.

A bloke does not take a piece of coal into parliament and goad the opposition with it if he believes that climate change is real [Applause] 

His recent actions would say to me that there has been no-road-to-Damascus-experience for Scott Morrison 

He should step down. 

The problem is who takes his place who takes his place because we have an entire government of deniers and skeptics, 

And it’s interesting to watch how their argument progresses and it becomes harder and harder to maintain the view that climate change is not real.

First of all it was a hoax, then it was real but it’s not humans who are driving it, then and now, the argument is that our emissions are so small in Australia that there is nothing that we can really do about it.  It denies that we are one of the highest emitters in the world per head of population 

It denies our role in driving climate change internationally we have in this country ? – 2.4 percent of global emissions 

But if you look at all of the countries who have less than % emissions they make up % of global emissions (?).

Why this is not an occasion where we say we should act collectively with other countries in the world on this international problem is beyond me. [Applause]

The final thing I’ll say is this the other argument they’re starting to use now is that of course we are meeting our emission reductions targets, we are meeting, we are meeting the Kyoto Protocol targets.

Emissions increased from 1999 to 2007 under John Howard’s gvernment.
They decreased from to2008 to 2013, each year they went down.
Since  2013 since Tony Abbott came to power,  emissions have increased every single year. It was not (that there was) a carbon tax (?).

What is to be done?
The problem then, is not just Scott Morrison, it’s the whole government, and any government that does not prioritise this issue.

So what do we need to do? We need to continue to campaign to remove this government and to get a government that will really take action on climate change. But there are things that we should be doing in our communities each and every day. If you are not part of an organization which gives a bugger about climate change (then) join one. Join and get active! [Applause]. Make sure that all of us are collaborating to keep the pressure on and to take actions in any way that we can to reduce emissions.

We can do that in a whole stack of ways. You can do it in your workplaces. You can set up workplace committees that talk about this issue and decide on actions that you might want to take to drive down emissions in this country. There’s a whole wide range of ways you can be involved but we need to do it together. 

We need to do it collaboratively. all the groups involved in this need to work  coolaboratively, for a better country, for a better climate. We can do it together. Thank you.

Michael Clifford
speaking at ‘Sack ScoMo’ rally in King George Square, Brisbane.
10 Jan 2020

Editor’s Note: I have transcribed this from a recording of his speech and there may be omissions and mistakes however I include the video here so people can see and hear for themselves. In the video (and transcript) I missed the first few words spoken by Michael Clifford. – Ed.

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