Federal Senator Matt Canavan has angered opponents by appearing to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement to promote coal before the Queensland state election.
Senator Canavan, who sits with the Nationals in the federal Senate, posted a photo of a ute stamped with the phrase ‘Black Coal Matters’ to Facebook on Monday afternoon.
A cardboard cutout of former Greens leader Bob Brown is pictured in the driver’s seat holding a sign advocating for the New Acland Mine project.
The caption reads: “Bob’s back! And this time he is on a mission to create 500 jobs at the New Acland Mine. If you want to join Bob’s crusade for coal jobs please join us this Saturday at the Grand Hotel in Clermont.”
Bob’s back! And this time he is on a mission to create 500 jobs at the New Acland Mine. If you want to join Bob’s…
Posted by Senator Matthew Canavan on Sunday, 4 October 2020
Some of Senator Canavan’s supporters were happy to play along with the stunt, but others did not see the funny side.
“This is more attention-seeking behaviour from a politician who’s struggling with being irrelevant. It’s insulting and pathetic,” Labor Senator Murray Watt said in a statement to The New Daily.
Mike Cannon-Brookes, CEO of Australian software giant Atlassian, tweeted: “Black coal matters? Really?”
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) October 5, 2020
“Black Coal Matters? That’s in particularly poor taste,” wrote one social media user.
Another wrote: “This is disgusting. They have misappropriated a label about human rights and used it for one that represents environmental destruction.”
Fans of Senator Canavan posted tongue-in-cheek comments about Mr Brown’s appearance in the photo, including: “Good on you Bob. Keep supporting the coal industry. Way to go Bob.”
It is not known to whom the ute belongs, nor where the photograph was taken.
Senator Canavan’s post comes the same year that Black Lives Matters protesters across the globe took to the streets to highlight racial inequality after the death of US man George Floyd at the hands of police.
Many protests in the United States were punctuated by angry confrontations and rioting.
Less than two weeks ago a grand jury in Kentucky brought no charges against any of the Louisville police for killing Breonna Taylor, sparking fresh outrage among anti-racism activists.
Ms Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American nursing student, was shot dead in her home during a botched police raid on March 13.
The young woman has become one of the faces of the Black Lives Matter movement all around the world.
Senator Canavan’s coal-promoting post also follows the Morrison government’s refusal to sign a global pledge endorsed by 64 countries committing to reverse biodiversity loss.
French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were among world leaders who signed the Leaders’ pledge for nature.
The federal government was invited to sign, but refused because the 10-point plan calls for commitments that are inconsistent with Australian policy – including a greater ambition to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and reach net zero emissions by 2050.