Tales from the Convoy: less ‘no confidence’, more ‘conversation’ required

Originally published on http://www.crikey.com.au 

At 7am yesterday morning I arrived in Canberra to be greeted by a noisy chorus of truck drivers — honking their horns at at pedestrians, at my greyhound bus, at smaller vehicles, but mostly at each other. Long convoys of trucks clearly enjoying their police escorts and road dominance.

There definitely weren’t the 9,000 of them touted on the Convoy of No Confidence’s website,but those that were there, definitely wanted to make an impact. Huge semi trailers sporting multiple Australia flags and yellow mock road signs saying “No Carbon Tax”, black four wheel drives with pink balloons attached to signify which convoy they belong to, freight-liners of all sizes and trailers of all degrees of wear and tear.

Amidst the hubbub, the Organisation of Critical Students had strung a banner up between two trees on a median strip.

It said: “Welcome to Canberra. Workers Rights, Clean Energy.”

They greeted with honks by the convoy — it’s difficult to say whether they were friendly or not but the young students involved were keen to hear what the truck drivers had to say.

“We want to challenge the image of the truck drivers as climate deniers or ignorant about climate change. We want to find out what they want,” David Caffey, one of the student organisers, told me.

Caffey said that he wanted today to “bring the bike riders and the truck drivers together. This disparity between the truckies and the cyclists has become a Labor/Liberal divide and it doesn’t need to be.”

The young organisers were right.

There does not seem to be any easy way to class the Convoy of No Confidence participants. They seem to almost all be white, middle aged men who are against the carbon tax — but that’s where the similarities end.

Some believe that climate change is a hoax concocted by an army of conspirators who want to redistribute Australia’s wealth.

Others simply do not believe that a price on carbon will work. One truck driver had stuck a sign to his vehicle saying, “No Tax will Save the Planet”. There was no time to ask him what would save the planet if cutting our carbon emissions won’t, before the convoy lurched back into action.

Climbing up onto the metal steps of a truck pulling three trailers; the driver told me in no uncertain terms that the problem with the carbon tax was not solving climate change or concerns about the sustainability of using finite resources like coal; but rather an issue of “Aussie pride”. His three-trailer-long-truck plastered with Australian flags and “Keep Jobs At Home” signs, said it all. He mentioned BlueScope Steel’s announcement that there may be job losses on the horizon and his fears that Australian jobs would be sent offshore if we put a price on carbon pollution.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to discuss the need to Australia to keep up with the31 European nations that have already priced carbon, and the risk that if we don’t act soon we will be left behind in a world that is rapidly transitioning towards a clean energy future.

There were as many different concerns as there were trucks about pricing carbon. But, there is a huge amount of evidence to suggest that many of the truck drivers’ fears will not come to fruition.

Claims that Australia will suffer unpredented job losses seem to be largely hyperbole. The Climate Institute’s research indicates that close to 34,000 new jobs could be created in Australia by 2030, largely in the renewable energy sector. Banks like Westpac and the National Bank of Australia — plus numerous economists – have said that a price on carbon is essential for certainty and investment into the future. As for the Qantas job cuts – the carbon price hasn’t even been implemented! The connection there is pure fiction.

“Clean energy and workers’ interests are important to Australia. People are out today because they think it’s one or the other, it doesn’t have to be — we can have both,” noted Caffey.

As a young person, he certainly has reason enough to be fighting for clean energy and jobs in the clean energy sector that will benefit him and his peers in the not so distant future.

Young people have the most to gain from action on climate change, and the most to lose from the misinformation and fear mongering that is dominating political discourse at the moment. It is young people who will benefit from the thousands of new, sustainable jobs that could be created through a strong renewable energy sector. And it’s young people who will lose if fear wins and we continue to rely on our rapidly depleting supplies of dirty coal.

But Caffey’s got a point. Young people aside, thousands of workers and unions like theAustralian Council of Trade Unions and the CFMEU have been organising within their communities to spread support for a price on pollution for exactly that reason, “clean energyand workers’ interests are important to Australia”.

We can have both. Perhaps the Convoy of No Confidence would be more effective if the organiser’s had taken a leaf out of Caffey’s book and dubbed it instead the Convoy of Conversation. Then, we could stop buying into the fear mongering and political games and get on with creating the Australia we all want to live in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s