- The Guardian
- Issue #1964
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has once again shown how, with militant leadership, the trade union movement can be a vehicle for taking the workers’ movement to social issues. Late last month, all three NSW Branches of the MUA announced that they are ready to support Gamilaraay Traditional Owners, farmers, and the community in opposing Coal Seam Gas extraction in Narrabri.
The project has received local and national opposition. However, Santos the multinational energy company is moving forward, proposing to construct up to 850 Coal Seam Gas wells in the Liverpool Plains, the Pilliga Forest, and surrounding areas near Narrabri.
While Santos may have a lot of opposition it has powerful backers. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, through his “gas-fired recovery” plan, is attempting to assist Santos by proposing to spend millions of dollars on subsidising fracking and coal seam gas projects. This would be in addition to the already-spent $200mil+ on fracking in the Northern Territory. The Traditional Owners have opposed all of these projects.
Speaking on these projects, MUA National Indigenous Officer Thomas Mayor said, “The Morrison government’s plans are unviable according to economists, and destructive and dangerous according to Traditional Owners. It’s disgraceful that they are not listening to the experts.”
MUA Sydney Branch Secretary of the Paul Keating echoed much of Mayor’s statement, saying, “Working-class people know when we’re being sold a lemon, and I can say with complete certainty that there is a lifetime of lemonade in this cooked idea. As ordinary people, as unionists, as community members, we will not stand by and let Santos destroy a millennia of cultural knowledge in pursuit of a superfluous, wasteful proposal. Our Unions in NSW will support Traditional Owners in their fight with everything we’ve got.”
The Narrabri Gas Project is one of the projects with the largest opposition – ranging “from farmers to football players”. According to the MUA:
“Leading water scientists have raised grave concerns about the potentially disastrous impact on Australia’s vast inland aquifer, the Great Artesian Basin. The [Narrabri Gas] project would create significant new methane and carbon dioxide emissions, worsening the climate crisis, and causing more heat, drought, bushfires and storms.”
The MUA also spoke out about the government’s blocking of renewable projects and even presented their own, green alternative:
“Seven huge offshore wind projects are blocked and waiting for the government to put forward legislation – three just in NSW. Government funding could support new port terminals and upgrades of steelworks and cable manufacturers to supply offshore wind projects. Commonwealth-owned Snowy Hydro could be building offshore wind projects to ensure this happens quickly and provides good jobs.”
It is great to see this resistance and solidarity in the trade unions. The vision and determination these comrades have shown highlights how working-class perspectives can inform social issues and how we must all stand, side-by-side, to fight the injustices unleashed onto the majority of the working masses by the minority capitalist ruling class. By building strength in the trade unions, the workers will have the power to fight back against reactionary governments.