Rebel with a clause

• Extinction Rebellion’s Jesse Noakes in a stand-off with police before his arrest at the West’s offices.

THE trial of WA Extinction Rebellion coordinator Jesse Noakes for trespassing at the West Australian newspaper’s Osborne Park offices was adjourned last week in order for a magistrate to consider a verdict.

Mr Noakes is the first of the alleged trespassers to come to trial.

He pleaded not guilty on the basis the West’s provocative October 8 front page offering the protestors a blank placard to fill in was an invitation to visit.

The trial saw Mr Noakes, who is representing himself, cross-examining West editor Anthony De Ceglie, who said the newspaper supported free speech, but only where it complied with the law.

The trial hasn’t stopped the group, who are planning a two-week vigil at Solidarity Park across the road from WA Parliament, with demands for the McGowan government to adopt an agenda guided by advice from the Conservation Council WA, 350 Perth and the WA Forest Alliance.

“We’ll even invite the MPs to join us, so that they can learn how to make better decisions,” Mr Noakes said.

His trial was adjourned to yesterday, (Friday February 14).

BACK in October last year I was arrested trying to have a yarn with the editor of the West Australian.

My trial started last Friday morning, and it was an opportunity to tell the truth about WA’s free speech crisis and the reasons for it.

I was collared crossing the visitor’s car park at the SevenWest compound with another member of Extinction Rebellion WA, the climate crisis movement trying to get powerful institutions to tell the truth about the fact we’re currently racing off the end of the world.

My friend and I had already been inside the building the previous afternoon trying to arrange a meeting with the people who shape the narrative in WA.

SevenWest is WA’s homegrown media monopoly, and its editors and directors control 70 per cent of the market via a stable of local papers, the top TV station and our state’s only daily newspaper.

Even if no-one’s reading it these days, no-one’s told the top end of town. Politicians, business and other media still seem to take their lead from the front page of the West.

If they don’t want to talk about something, it makes it much harder to get the word out.

This is one thing when you’re keen to squeeze in a story about the Dockers during a Willy Rioli saga.

It’s more critical when we’re talking about the biggest news of our time, the only story in town – the climate crisis and what the hell we’re gonna do about it.

We’ve been trying to get the word out for months. After the West ran a series of front pages and editorials last year accusing Extinction Rebellion WA of abusing our right to free speech, which they claimed to prioritise, I fired back with three opinion pieces, which they didn’t run.

It wasn’t just us – when 10,000 kids marched through Perth in September the West hid it on page 30.

So a couple of weeks before we went out there Extinction Rebellion WA wrote SevenWest a letter with a few simple demands.

Tell the truth about the climate crisis by running stories about it every day.

Platform voices in your opinion pages and on talkshows with creative responses to the climate emergency.

And explain to the WA public the reason you keep so quiet – the small fact that most of SevenWest’s money comes from their deep investment in the fossil fuel industry fossil fuel industry, especially in WA’s expanding LNG sector.

This summer I noticed their coverage get a bit better. With the extraordinary bushfire emergency over east, even the sharks and Eagles stories got bumped for a few days over New Years.

But there was a missing link amid the red and orange hues on the front page. The bushfire emergency is a climate emergency.

Western Australia is fuelling those fires. The hot weather systems that made the east coast a furnace originate here before they head over the Nullarbor (closing it off as they go).

Likewise, the carbon emissions underlying the unprecedented heating disproportionately originate here too, mostly off our north-west coast.

WA emissions have increased 23 per cent since 2005. LNG is already responsible for more than a third of our total emissions – by the time the Burrup Hub is finished, that’ll rise to half.

Gas is going to add 61 per cent to WA’s 2005 emissions baseline, and 8 per cent for Australia as a whole. WA LNG is killing us softly.

The West doesn’t want to talk about the climate crisis because it’ll hurt their bottom line.

But the real bottom line is that their silence is deadly. The kids will keep marching in even greater numbers, and groups like Extinction Rebellion will keep disrupting business as usual because it’s driving us off the cliff.

We do it with a song and dance, or tea and cake for the journos we wanted to meet at the West.

We invited them to join us, and they invited us right back with a blank front page the morning we came to their doors.

When we got there though, they called in the cops and threw up a ring of steel around the visitor’s entrance. Evidence so far suggests their claims to prioritise free speech isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

I’m an incurable optimist, though, and I reckon I’ll get my editorial discussion.

I’ve pleaded not guilty to trespass. I’m arguing that they’d consented to our presence, and that in any case I had a lawful excuse to be there.

We’re in a climate emergency, and we need to start acting like it.

We need to tell the truth and start a new conversation – and government, business and the media need to join us around the table.

We only want to have a yarn.

I got it in court last week, when I called the West’s editor as a witness, but our conversation across the defence stand was a bit stilted.

Perhaps we can give it another go on their new current affairs show Flashpoint, or in the pages of another paper…

by JESSE NOAKES

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