From June 14 – 17, the Australian Petroleum Production and Extraction Association (APPEA) held their annual conference at the Perth Convention Centre.

120 oil and gas companies were represented, including Chevron, Santos, BHP and principal sponsor Woodside. Woodside, the largest oil and gas polluter in Australia, is currently pushing ahead with plans for its Scarborough gas development off the Western Australian coast. This project will massively increase WA’s emissions and contribute to climate breakdown.

At the APPEA conference, behind closed doors, fossil fuel lobbyists met with politicians to plot further extraction of fossil fuels, despite the International Energy Agency’s warning that we cannot afford new developments if we are to reach net zero by 2050 (let alone 2025 as is necessary).

During the conference, the streets of Perth were plastered with propaganda from APPEA. Flags, billboards and trucks screamed of the supposed benefits of oil and gas, which APPEA would like us to believe are sources of “Energy for a Better Australia”.

It was hard to take it seriously, given that both science and common sense suggest that a ‘better Australia’ is one where we act with urgency on the climate crisis, transforming our societies with clean industries and a deepening of democracy.

As a group of citizens deeply concerned by the climate crisis, Extinction Rebellion were compelled to disrupt the conference, draw attention to the harm being caused by resource extraction and demand urgent action.

Monday

On Monday at midday, XRWA’s North of the River group held a die-in by the doors of the Convention Centre. Around 40 protesters were present, including Drummers for Climate Action.

A huge banner stretched across the entranceway reading ‘Gas is the new tobacco’.

Photo by Nancye Miles-Tweedie

As delegates registered for the conference, they were greeted by Rebels who lay dead on the ground, representing the loss of life that is already occurring and will become worse as a result of the climate crisis. Others danced, drummed and sang around them.

A group of five Rebels entered the Convention Centre and sat with XR flags by a Woodside sign before police removed them from the building. One XR member received a move-on notice.

The group then marched onto Mounts Bay Road to tell the public about the destruction being planned nearby at the Convention Centre, chanting and distributing flyers.

Tuesday

On Tuesday morning, the conference was opened by none other than WA Premier Mark McGowan, an active supporter of Woodside’s Scarborough project.

Scott Morrison also addressed the conference, telling delegates by video link that “The oil and gas sector is a major contributor to Australia’s prosperity. Always has, will always be.” His choice of words showed shocking disrespect to First Nations sovereignty. It also made clear that the government’s talk of gas as a ‘transition fuel’ is nothing but lies.

While the politicians and lobbyists mingled inside, around 40 protesters from Extinction Rebellion and 350.org braved the cold and pouring rain outside the Convention Centre.

The XRWA Western Suburbs group staged a dramatic action outside the doors. Five women in gas suits set off emergency flares, to remind us all of the severity of the crisis. Men in suits, representing the fossil fuel executives, tipped fake oil on the women.

Police gave move-on notices and said they’d send fines in the mail to the activists who set off flares, telling them there was no emergency. Obviously, we disagree.

Wednesday

On Wednesday morning, the XRWA Grandparents gathered outside the Convention Centre in costume and staged their ‘tug of war’ pantomime – with government and big business on one side, and scientists, School Strikers and grandparents on the other.

XRWA Grandparent Tom spoke outside, saying: “I’m a builder. I’ve been involved in the environment movement for a long time. I’ve seen the destruction of the planet. I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s happening everywhere. Everywhere we look, everywhere we go, there’s collapsing ecosystems… Our children will have to live with what we’re doing. If you love your children, stop taking fossil fuels out of the ground and move to renewables. We’ve got the technology, the only thing that’s lacking is the willpower.”

In the afternoon, Rockingham and Walyalup/Freo local groups joined together for a regenerative action at the Elizabeth Quay Bus Port. Participants sat in quiet meditation to the sound of the flute to bear witness to our age of climate and ecological breakdown. They were moved on by authorities and went down to the train station instead, where they did plenty of outreach, handing out flyers and speaking to passers-by about the climate crisis and the need for civil disobedience.

Thursday

Thursday was the final day of the conference, and time to escalate to some heavier disruption.

Two Rebels, Kelly and Carmen, blockaded the Convention Centre by parking a truck at the entrance of the carpark. They climbed onto the roof and eventually locked themselves to each other. They disrupted access to the Centre for over three hours, before being removed by police on a fire engine.

Kelly and Carmen locked their necks together using two bike locks and a chain. After hours on the truck, the chain was eventually cut by the police tactical response group before the two were arrested and taken to Perth Police Station.

Dozens of Rebels gathered to support by drumming, singing and holding flags.

Kelly said, “I am disrupting the APPEA conference because we are in an emergency. We are in the middle of a climate crisis, the beginning of the sixth mass extinction, and we have fossil fuel lobbyists and politicians going ahead with new fossil fuel developments.

“We need a commitment to no new fossil fuel developments in WA and across Australia if we’re going to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“We’re in an emergency, but no one seems to have noticed or to care. I am terrified of breaking the law but I feel compelled to do this.”

Carmen said, “I am willing to risk everything so that my kids have something to look forward to. I have kids and one day they might want to have kids. Lots of people in Perth and the world have kids. Lots of animals have offspring. They all deserve a future.”

Then, in the afternoon, we made it inside.

Dressed up in a suit, XR’s Ewan Buckley interrupted a plenary discussion on ‘Rebuilding Australia’s States and Territories for a Stronger Future’.

On the panel were Resources ministers from four states or territories, including WA resources minister Bill Johnston.

Ewan stood in the conference hall and addressed the speakers. He said: “You said ‘natural gas’, but it’s fossil fuels… It’s very important that we understand and recognise that the International Energy Agency has said that no new fossil fuels can be mined if we are to have a safe and habitable future. This is the International Energy Agency, not a green leftist.

“Imagine if we could harness all of the intellect in this room to transition immediately to net zero by 2025.”

Ewan was removed from the venue by security.

Afterwards he said, “that was quite a rapid response, as expected. It has to be said that we have to show resistance at every opportunity to things like this APPEA conference. It’s not okay that fossil fuel lobbyists and politicians are behind closed doors working to increase carbon emissions.”

You can help us take down oil and gas

The fossil fuel companies are feeling the pressure and are on the back foot. If we work together, we can stop them and secure a safe future for generations to come. And you can be a part of it by funding the Rebellion.

Right now, we need funds for:

  • Arrestee support. Help Carmen and Kelly pay their fines!
  • Truck hire, deposit, impound fees and extra charges.

Any additional funds raised will go towards supporting XRWA in future actions, big and small, that are an essential part of building our movement for climate justice.

Donate now!

What’s next?

It is simply not true that our economy needs fossil fuels. There are huge opportunities for clean jobs that will employ workers while keeping us safe. Stopping fossil fuel developments makes sense for the economy and the climate.

We have a chance to work with other environmental organisations in WA to stop Woodside’s Scarborough project. There is intense public pressure to stop the development, and Woodside are on shaky ground.

Over its lifetime, Scarborough will create more emissions than the Adani coalmine. This is a tragedy for people here and across the world. We demand that ordinary Western Australians as part of a Citizens’ Assembly make decisions on whether or not the Scarborough project is allowed to continue.

Join us on July 23rd to take action against Woodside. More details soon.