Queensland LNP senator, and former federal resources minister Matt Canavan, has been slammed for the use of a ‘black coal matters’ sticker, which has been denounced as a “tasteless’ co-opting of a civil rights movement for the purpose of promoting the fossil fuel industry.
The sticker is a take on the Black Lives Matter slogan, which emerged in the United States in response to acts of police brutality against African American people in the United States, and has called for reforms to breakdown systemic oppression of people of colour by the police, as well as wider institutional discrimination.
A number of rallies have been held across the United States, often prompted by the deaths of African American people at the hands of police, including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Black Lives Matter movement has also been active in Australia, in recognition of the same challenges faced historically by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including systemic disadvantage and continued instances of deaths in custody.
Matt Canavan – who has been known to describe himself as “Mr Coal” from Australia – has refused to remove the sticker, or apologise for the use of the black lives matter slogan in supporting coal.
“I don’t pay respect to the Black Lives Matter movement who have organised rallies in defiance of public health orders, who have been involved in violent protests in the US with Antifa and until recently had on their website as one of their goals to ‘disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure’,” Canavan said.
“I fully support the central Queenslanders who are rallying to fight for their jobs and communities by freely expressing their views in a free society.”
A fact-check of some of Matt Canavan’s claims about the views of the Black Lives Matter movement suggests that they are largely unsubstantiated.
Canavan’s response, and the co-opting of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogan, has been slammed by both environmental campaigners and advocates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Labor’s shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, described Canavan’s decision to parody the Black Lives Matter movement, which has sought to raise awareness of the disproportionate exposure of Aboriginal Australians to the criminal justice system as ‘tasteless’.
Regardless of what side you’re on in the energy debate, to parody a movement dedicated to ending the disproportionate incarceration of First Australians and deaths in custody is tasteless and beneath you @mattjcan
— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) October 6, 2020
Labor shadow minister for multiculturalism, Andrew Giles, said that the black lives matter movement wasn’t “something to joke about”.
“Senator Canavan must stop this now, and apologise. The least he can do is show some decency and respect,” Giles said on twitter.
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) October 5, 2020
Canavan posted the image to both Facebook and Twitter in an attempt at criticising former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, who undertook a ‘Stop Adani’ convoy in the lead up to the 2019 federal election which itself had been derided as ill-considered.
The ‘black coal matters’ sticker, featured prominently on Canavan’s ute, was criticised by clean energy advocates, as well as those who raised issues with the co-opting of the campaign slogan used in response to systemic oppression of people of colour.
— Mike Cannon-Brookes 👨🏼💻🧢 (@mcannonbrookes) October 5, 2020
Australian Greens First Nations and justice spokesperson, Lidia Thorpe, described the sticker as ‘racist behaviour’.
And this is what we gotta deal with in this place. Complete disregard and racist behaviour. Here we go …… https://t.co/O9duSq3trI
— Lidia Thorpe (@lidia__thorpe) October 5, 2020
Canavan, who represents Queensland in the federal senate, previously served as the federal resources minister under both the Turnbull and Morrison governments, but has been since relegated to the backbench after backing an ill-fated challenge for the National Party leadership by former leader Barnaby Joyce.
Canavan has openly campaigned for the Adani Carmichael coal mine, as well as the use of taxpayer funds to underwrite the construction of a new coal fired power station in Queensland.
Canavan’s brother, John Canavan, is managing director of the coal company Winfield Energy, has a significant ownership stake in Australia’s second largest coal mine, the Rolleston mine in Queensland.
Canavan has made a number of questionable claims, including making the disproven claim on ABC’s Q&A program in June that there were no fossil fuel subsidies in Australia. Last month, Canavan took to social media to rant about solar power, making a number of statements that were substantially untrue.