Climate Crisis: Fight for Public Ownership!

All electricity infrastructure needs to be in public hands, and not “supplied” for a profit. Image from

Climate Crisis: Fight for Public Ownership!

22-02-2020 – First came the fires, then came the floods. After the bushfire infernos which swept this country in December and January, Australia is now being viewed as the “canary in the coal mine” of global warming. As the driest continent on Earth, it is looking likely that Australia will experience some of the worst climate calamities due to the ever-approaching collapse of the ecology required for human (and much animal) habitation. The climate records keep being broken. In 141 years of climate records, this last January was the hottest on record, with an average 1.14 degree increase on the 20th century average. Describing an obvious worsening, the ten warmest Januarys on record have all occurred since 2002. To underline it still further, this latest broken record was “achieved” with no El Nino.[1]

Federal and State governments light the fuse

Fuelling the carbon emissions chiefly responsible for the climate catastrophe, we find Federal and State governments approving fossil fuel expansion like it is going out of fashion. The Adani mega coal mine in central Queensland ludicrously remains approved, with its 60 million tonne predicted annual coal output.[2] The Labor Party Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk has been a relentless champion of the Adani coal mine, in the face of overwhelming public opposition. Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his New South Wales counterpart Gladys Berejiklian just announced a plan to “reduce” emissions – by unleashing more gas. The 2 billion dollar deal could be dependent on the approval of the Narrabri gas project, which entails the drilling of 900 (!) coal seam gas wells, including in the Piliga state forest.[3] By now, it is common knowledge that coal seam gas releases methane, a gas many times more potent in terms of greenhouse gas emissions over a shorter period of time than carbon. To top it off, plans for new exploration and likely drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight were given the tick of approval by the Federal Government “regulator” last December.[4]

The clear separation between the governments sparing rhetoric about reducing emissions, and enabling big capital to expand fossil fuel extraction and burning despite the climate emergency is not lost on anyone. Even the satirical The Juice Media spelled out the reality with precision, when they warned in a short video that it is obvious that it is not the government’s job to protect the people, but to protect the giant corporations from the people.[5] This is the bare reality of capitalism – the private ownership of the means of production by a handful of billionaires, which is then protected by the state with all its law enforcement agencies. Irrespective of the damage inflicted on those who must labour for a living and the desecration of the natural environment, the capitalist state deploys the public service bureaucracy, the courts, the police and the armed forces against those who appeal for reason.

Climate Action means Public Ownership

As the most developed form of class exploitation – of which the destruction of the environment is a by product, capitalism is of course immune from reason. In fact, reason itself has a different meaning to the two great classes which the private profit system creates. The exploitation of natural resources to increase the rate of return on capital investment is entirely reasonable from the point of view of capital, but wholly irrational from the point of view of labour. This is one reason why the understandable cries for “climate action” fall flat unless they are accompanied by a demand for public ownership – of the mines, the land, infrastructure and transport. Working people as a class must own and control the basic means of production, and run them in the interests of all, not the corporate elite. It is only the working class which has the material interest in ensuring that energy production in particular, is not conducted for private profit, but to ensure a better life for all.

It is accepted by all in the climate movement that energy production must switch to zero carbon sources. This must include nuclear power, which has by far the greatest potential to replace coal and gas as a baseload source of power. The sheer urgency of the climate crisis demands that the old “anti-nuclear” diversion must be left in the past. More than this, public ownership of energy (and the means of transport and basic industry) must be linked to the demand for a workers’ government. If it was somehow possible to force the capitalist government to nationalise energy, it would still run it as a for-profit business – in order to assist the corporate magnates. In other words, climate action must be given a clear pro-working class character, for it to even begin to achieve its demands. In this vein, calls for climate action must be accompanied by the demand for a six-hour day. If won a six-hour day could eliminate unemployment, if not seriously undermine it. Not only is the right to work a necessity for workers, full employment is an urgent necessity if the full decarbonisation of society – implying a restructuring of the entire economy – is to occur.

The climate movement in Australia so far has organised some impressively sized mobilisations. But for it to achieve serious gains it must become a pro-working class climate movement. This means it must force a split with Labor Party fronts such as GetUp! and School Strike 4 Climate. Many honest school students and workers do not yet grasp that such fronts attempt to steer the climate movement back towards the politicians (even if they dislike some of them) and thus back into capitalism itself. Only the power of the working class and its attempts to build its own state has a chance at winning climate action – and much else besides. To begin, we suggest workers demand:

1. A six hour day

2. Public ownership of energy, infrastructure, banks.

3. A workers’ government




PO Box 66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] (16-02-2020)

[2] (16-02-2020)

[3] (16-02-2020)

[4] (16-02-2020)

[5] (16-02-2020)

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