Blockade Australia climate activists shut down activity at the world’s largest coal port yesterday by climbing on top of machinery at the Port of Newcastle and pressing an emergency safety button, The Guardian reported.
“As scary as [the police] might be, as scary as taking action which might ostracise you from certain communities might be, it’s not as scary as the future we are heading to,” one of the protesters, 21-year-old Hannah, said.
Over the past 10 days, a handful of climate activists have allegedly used their bodies, rope and glue as part of “destructive action” to block key bottlenecks in the coal supply chain in the Hunter.
NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller warned protesters they faced jail sentences of up to 25 years, but activists have vowed to continue.
Protests by the newly formed “Blockade Australia” have been labelled as “nothing short of economic vandalism” by New South Wales police minister David Elliot.
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The activism also angered deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, who claimed each train load of coal was worth about $1 million in export value.
He said the blockades had disrupted $60 million in exports.
“If they’ve got other ways that this nation can earn money right now, then we’re all ears,” Joyce said. “[But] in the meantime, we’ve got to make a buck.
“It’s about $100,000 in royalties, so what you’ve got here is payments for your NDIS, payments for your pharmaceutical benefits scheme, payments for pensions and unemployment benefit.”
Even Matt Kean, the NSW treasurer and energy minister who has been vocal in his criticism of the federal government’s climate transition strategy, has lashed out at the disruptions, calling for police to “throw the book” at the protesters.
“Pull your heads in—get out of the way and stop hurting other people going about their lives, running their businesses,” Kean told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.
“There are hundreds of ways to make your views known and advocate for change but risking the lives of rail workers is definitely not one of them.”