Students hit back at PM after 'less activism in schools' climate change comment

Hundreds of students are planning to leave school this Friday to protest government inaction on climate change.

Jagveer Singh and Scott Morrison.

Jagveer Singh and Scott Morrison. Source: SBS News, AAP

There's a storm brewing between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and school students planning a national strike on climate change inaction this Friday.

Hundreds of students are vowing to put the books away and converge on MP offices and parliaments around the country in the Big School Walk Out for Climate Action.

On Monday, Mr Morrison implored children to stay in class rather than protesting things that "can be dealt with outside of school".


"What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools," he said.

But students aren't happy with the response.

Melbourne student Jagveer Singh, who will take part in the protest, said Mr Morrison's broadside made him "want to go on strike even more".

"[We want to] demonstrate that we're not happy with the federal government for not listening to us and demand that we get a safe climate," he said.

"It's our future. We are the ones that will be facing the consequences of the decisions that are made today, and that is why we need to have a say.

"The time that they're using to debate this issue is time that's being wasted ... We need to act on this." 

'Kids should go to school'

In Question Time, Mr Morrison furiously reacted when Greens MP Adam Bandt brought up the protest.

Mr Morrison began his answer to Mr Bandt's question by saying climate change is a "very real and serious issue" that demands attention.

He said the government was acting on climate change through initiatives such as the Emissions Reduction Fund and its renewable energy target.

Adam Bandt in Parliament.
Adam Bandt in Parliament. Source: AAP

"We are committed to all of these things, but I will tell you what we are also committed to - kids should go to school," Mr Morrison said.

"Each day I send my kids to school and I know other members' kids should also go to school but we do not support our schools being turned into parliaments."

Mr Bandt said he had met with some of the students involved and backed their actions.

"The PM is unbelievably out of touch with young people, not only in Australia but around the world," he said.

"These students want a leader to protect their future, but they got a hectoring, ungenerous and condescending rebuke from someone even worse than Tony Abbott."


'The adults have failed us'

Australian students were inspired by Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, who has been protesting climate change inaction in Stockholm.

Each Friday, Greta leaves school and sits outside her country's parliament to urge leaders to do more to tackle climate change.

"There are no grey areas when it comes to survival. Either we continue as a civilisation or we don't. One way or another, we have to change," she told  on Tuesday, expressing support for her Australian counterparts.

Greta Thunberg in Stockholm.
Greta Thunberg in Stockholm inspired the Big School Walk Out for Climate Action. Source: Twitter - Greta Thunberg.

"Countries like mine and Australia must start reducing our emissions dramatically if we believe in equality and climate justice."

"The adults have failed us. And since most of them, including the press and the politicians, keep ignoring the situation, we must take action into our own hands."

Additional reporting: Fintan McDonnell

3 min read
Published 26 November 2018 at 4:42pm
By Nick Baker