Peter Dutton’s outburst last Wednesday, where he called for the public shaming of those involved in actions carried out by Extinction Rebellion is telling.
The Minister for Home Affairs claims he is responding to illegal activities. His comment can also be seen as positioning to possibly brand Extinction Rebellion an illegal organisation. At least, this is the implied threat, and it will obviously be a worry for those who are being targeted.
On the other hand, for Peter Dutton especially, and for the government and the fossil fuel companies that they are closely associated with, the comment is an expression of frustration over what they have been ineffective against and worry over what lies ahead.
The minister has never been shy about putting his view out there, and has consistently stepped out, where many of his colleagues prefer to remain in the shadows. His shaming comment is likely to express the opinion shared by at least some of his colleagues.
They have good reason to be worried. The disruptions in Brisbane and other actions aimed at preventing the Adani Carmichael coal mine have not brought on this reaction on their own.
Australia is witnessing the rise of a big movement for taking on the threat of global warming seriously.
The school kids’ three strikes to date, have shaken those on Peter Dutton’s political turf, and the massive turnouts across the country on 20 September, were a metaphorical bomb on their turf. It’s got them seriously worried. looking, weakened, losing the initiative and facing a public relations disaster.
If the young atre prepared to make a stand, what does this show for the future?
No doubt they are looking for ways to turn this threat around.
The Spring Rebellion being launched by Extinction Rebellion today, was never going to win Peter Dutton’s approval. His angst is not that this is going to bring the economy and society as we know them.
What he and his people don’t like, is that Extinction Rebellion is already showing its capacity to mobilise a significant number of people and have an impact on public opinion. The capacity of the movement to link in with a growing distrust of the political elite and power of big business, makes it and even bigger potential threat.
People wanting action on the climate crisis can take comfort in that Dutton’s words are a clumsy expression of his and the government’s weakness, and it won’t intimidate people from taking part in Extinction Rebellion’s activities. It might even encourage others to get involved.
It is more likely that attention will be paid on raising penalties for those arrested at disruptive actions.
But when this is aimed at a movement with people prepared to put themselves on the line and get arrested and not too worried about fines, is the government prepared to lock up thousands, is the government prepared to come out looking come out looking like a tyranny and lose the battle for public sympathy?
Peter Dutton, the government and the interests that stand behind them, have a dilemma on their hands.