Protesters call for action on climate change.
Protesters call for action on climate change. TREVOR VEALE

UPDATED: Gas protest moves online due to COVID-19

UPDATE: High school climate activists have cancelled planned public protests against gas expansion across the Coffs Coast, opting instead to hold them online. 

Protest organiser Ellena Cheers-Flavel confirmed the changes following discussions with the police and fellow protest organisers. 

Ms Cheers-Flavel said while it was disappointing to have to cancel the public action, she encouraged the community to show their support online. 

"In light of recent discussions with authorities, COVID-19 restrictions and the safety of the community, we regret to inform you that the scheduled action for September 25th will be moved to an online event," Ms Cheers-Flavel said. 

"The last school strike was an online action and people can still show their support by wearing yellow, posting a photo of a banner and using the hashtag 'Fund Our Future Not Gas'."

The now online protest scheduled for September 25 is in opposition to Federal Government moves to invest heavily in the natural gas sector, a prospect labelled "irresponsible" by Ms Cheers-Flavell.

The Toormina high student has been involved in past climate protests and the community push to have Coffs Harbour City Council declare a climate emergency.

While that ultimately resulted in a watered-down "symbolic" declaration from Council the students' have turned their attention to the potential deregulation of, and investment in, the gas industry.

"Students here on the Coffs Coast want Scott Morrison to invest COVID-19 recovery funds into renewable energy, creating thousands of jobs that would also help tackle climate change," Ms Cheers-Flavell said.

"Giving billions of taxpayer dollars to the polluting gas industry is clearly an irresponsible use of public funds."'

Students discuss climate policy with Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh through the medium of chant during the 2019 election campaign.
Students discuss climate policy with Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh through the medium of chant during the 2019 election campaign.

The issue has gathered steam after a number of Government MPs threw their support behind plans for a "gas-fired recovery" from the coronavirus economic mire, contained in leaked documents from the The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

Questions were raised over the make-up of the Commission, established by Scott Morrison in March, which included a number of people with ties to the fossil fuel industry, including the chair Neville Power.

Mr Power is a director of gas company Strike Energy and stepped back from his position of Deputy Chairman in March over conflict of interest concerns following his appointment to the commission.

Mr Power also holds shares in the company worth more than $2.4 million dollars.

The commission is charged with accelerating economic recovery and is expected to propose underwriting gas prices and investing in gas projects including the construction of new pipelines.

"The leaked gas plans come from the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, a commission that is stacked with gas executives," said Ryan Gilchrist, year 12 student at Toormina High.

"Of course they're trying to convince Scott Morrison to give billions of taxpayer dollars to their own industry. It's appalling."

As part of the online day of action, school students will rally to demand Scott Morrison rule out giving billions of COVID-19 recovery funds to gas.

Protesters at the Climate Crisis National Day of Action in Sawtell model the latest in 2019 agitation fashion.
Protesters at the Climate Crisis National Day of Action in Sawtell model the latest in 2019 agitation fashion.

The #FundOurFutureNotGas day of action is organised by the School Strike 4 Climate network and has already spread across the country, with hundreds of actions planned.



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