As massive fires broke out across the country, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for a crackdown on environmental protests, BuzzFeed News reports. In a November speech, Morrison spoke out against “radical activism” as demonstrators in the country engaged in protests against mining projects and boycotted banks that finance the coal industry.
“A new breed of radical activism is on the march. Apocalyptic in tone, brooks no compromise, all or nothing. Alternative views not permitted,” he said in the Nov. 1 address. “Ladies and gentlemen, there should always be a place for peaceful protest. Of course. It is one of our democratic principles. But in Queensland and elsewhere, one variant of this new absolutist activism, anarchism, is testing the limits of the right to protest.
“We are working to identify a series of mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians, especially in our rural and regional areas and especially here in Queensland,” he continued.
The speech came as some fires had already broken out, but major blazes were yet to ignite. A few weeks later, experts would describe the creation of a “megafire” and estimate that 1 billion animals were killed in the fires.
Morrison has faced criticism from environmentalists since the fires began, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets in major cities across Australia last week to condemn his actions on the issue.
Videos on social media showed crowds of people filling the corridors surrounding the Sydney City Hall and Parliament House. Those behind the protests say they are planning more demonstrations in the coming weeks and months.