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We Asked Four Legendary Australian Activists Why G20 Will Be Riot Free

"It doesn't help that Australians are essentially ignorant fuckwits"

by VICE Australia
Nov 14 2014, 5:57am

​Canada, a country often likened to Australia, hosted the G20 in 2010. That summit was notable for mass protests, riots, and cars burning in the streets. Over 1000 arrests were made, with 75 police injured, and $750,000 worth of damage done to downtown Toronto. It was a bad scene and lead to a lot of criticism on both sides.

Skip ahead four years and it's our turn to host the summit. A lot of the issues from back then are the same or much worse now. We've seen little action on climate change, the rights of refugees are still in the shitter, and indigenous issues, corruption, war, inequality, are still rife.

With that being said, when we turn our TVs on this weekend, chances are we won't see the mayhem of Toronto 2010. Whether it's apathy or a general sense of powerlessness, the overwhelming majority will not be joining protests in Brisbane or elsewhere. We asked some of our activist elders why they think that's so.

Photo by Nicole Verges

Norrie, LGBTI activist and ​Australia's first recognised agender

Perhaps because of growing public awareness of financial inequality, vested interests are hypersensitive about protests. The city has been locked down, with many residents encouraged to clear off for the duration, and special laws imposed on a special G20 zone that remove normal democratic protections for demonstrators. The Queensland courts have prepared for potentially thousands of people to be arrested at protests, with the Magistrates Court scheduled to run 24 hours a day during the summit. The local tabloid Courier Mail has photoshopped menacing covers with helicopters swarming over a searchlight-lit skyline under the banner "ANARCHISTS' G20 CORPORATE CHAOS THREAT", followed with editorial urging stronger police crackdowns on "ferals".

This overreaction may stop large gatherings on the streets, but perhaps people will find other, more effective, ways of challenging economic injustice. While it may have once been necessary to have a riot to get on the mainstream news for attention, it is now possible for people to get out dissenting messages to a mass audience by social media, on Facebook, Youtube, and online petitions. And it is possible that the leaders at G20 may actually feel the growing pressure to tackle such issues as climate change and corporate tax dodging without the need for riots on the streets. In the meantime, the swarms of extra cops on duty can put away their overtime, to insure them against future loss as inflation outpaces their pay rises.

Photo by Flickr user ​Somaya Langley

Dr Gary Foley, Aboriginal Gumbainggir activist, academic, writer and actor

We've got a perfectly indoctrinated mass public in Australia and that's hardly new, but the extent to which the press influences every other conversation, and our view of ourselves, is massive now.

Of course it doesn't help that Australians are essentially ignorant fuckwits. Please don't get me wrong, when I say that I mean that only about... 90 percent of Australians are ignorant fuckwits.

As far as I'm concerned, that's always been the case. Even though you'll hear old fogies like me talk about the great ol' day in the 60s and 70s, there were still no more than 10 percent of people who stood up and fought back. This country has always been dominated, and culture dominated by the 90 percent interested in nothing more that their mundane bloody lives. We were always out numbered by total mugs who were happy in their blissful stupidity.

Dr Stuart Grant, second from left. Photo ​via

Dr Stuart Grant, academic and singer/guitarist with noisepunk band ​Primitive Calculators

Who owns this magazine? A group of large media organisations concerned with the packaging and commodification of rebellion as a consumable product sold to make a profit? Shareholders? It's a part of the same international capitalist conspiracy as the G20. The use of Chicago School of Economics thinking, policies and techniques to facilitate the ultimate triumph of the capital virus over the dead thing that used to be called the human soul. the G20, this magazine, social media, reality tv, the economy as a news item, mum and dad investors, are all part of the most pure and beautiful mesh of techniques of social control that have ever existed. There is no air here. Whether or not there is protest at the G20 is of no consequence at all. The rotting carcass of humanity is exemplified by the dead-souled moral zombie representing Australia as its leader at this conference. The G20 is a terrorist's dream but if there were a successful action at the conference, the mesh of control would only draw tighter. Who owns this magazine? Do they have beards?

Photo by Nicole Verges

Jenny Munro, organiser of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy

If there is a riot it won't be instigated by the Aboriginal groups. It'll be the violence of the police that will probably initiate that sort of response from people. I'm actually leaving to go up there today and I have no problems about my safety within the Aboriginal protest group. It's the forces outside that protest group that will, if there is violence, bring that to the fore.

The illegal occupation of our country and the subsequent illegal regimes that we've had are things that we should be protesting. The so-called government in this country is not helping us at all. It's just ruled by the might of numbers. We've never had a democracy in this country and we've never had a conversation about the governance of the country. The debate about the constitution, a hundred years ago, we need to bring that back to the table.

How we are governed as people, the oppression of the Aboriginal people, are part and parcel of this system of institutionalised racism that white Australians call governance.

Climate change is an issue that everybody needs to deal with in a realistic fashion. I think Australia, as a country, has still got its head buried in the sand. Abbott's attitude towards climate change is disgraceful for a so-called educated man. The insistence that the climate isn't changing is something that will kill thousands, if not millions of people.

​As told to Paul Gregoire, Scott Mitchell, and Tim Scott

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