5 min read

Nationalisation is finally back in fashion

The popularity of the SEC demonstrates that fighting for re-nationalisation of essential industries and rebuilding the public service is a demand capable of building a broad political base for climate action.
Nationalisation is finally back in fashion

Well, Twitter’s still not dead. But the odds aren’t in its favour. Since Musk continues to embed himself in the right-wing ecosystem, I’m finding it harder to use it for anything but insisting that everyone watch Andor (you really should watch Andor).

I like newsletters and I get a lot out of longer form writing, so I am grateful for the push to finally do this more regularly.

I haven’t settled on a format or even a frequency for this newsletter yet. But today I want to write about what I believe to be the most important development in Australian climate politics in years. And then share a quick summary of the projects I’ve been working on.

The SEC presents a massive opportunity

Tomorrow is the Victorian state election, and according to quite a bit of reporting, the election promise getting the most cut-through is Labor’s commitment to bring back the SEC.

Strategists, however, have said the policy is getting the most cut-through of all of Labor’s election commitments so far. It appeals to older voters, who remember the simpler times that Allan revisited in her speech, and younger voters, who in an era of job instability and short-term employment contracts would find the possibility of working for one company for decades an attractive proposition.

My initial reaction to this announcement was cynicism. Obviously, the SEC that Danial Andrews is promising to bring back is nothing like the one that people are nostalgic for. It will only be partly publicly owned, with just under half of it being owned by private investors, likely super funds, and it will still be competing in a largely privatised electricity market. The use of the SEC name and logo is largely just a rhetorical trick, but the fact that it seems to be working should embolden the climate movement.

As I have argued before, the only way to win the rapid, large-scale action we need to survive the climate crisis is by explicitly linking climate solutions to material improvements in the lives of the working class.

By guaranteeing dignified work in a rebuilt public sector that’s tackling the climate crisis, Labor could place itself on solid political ground to weather any attack the fossil fuel lobby throws at it. The alternative — ineffectual, market-based technocratic moderation — failed badly under Gillard. Instead, Labor’s weak primary vote — and the insurgent Green vote — should send Albanese’s government a message. Now is the time to put Australia to work to solve the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis at the same time, under a rebuilt public service.

The popularity of the SEC demonstrates that fighting for re-nationalisation of essential industries and rebuilding the public service is a demand capable of building a broad political base for climate action. Public ownership also blunts the fossil fuel lobby’s most potent attack lines (jobs and growth) and can unite the left.

If Daniel Andrews and Labor do win the election, the terrain of the climate fight will have been fundamentally and forever altered. Public utilities will be proven popular.

Publicly owned energy utilities are essential to climate justice. Just as public housing, public healthcare and public education. Solving the climate crisis is too important to leave in the hands of for-profit businesses. Power in the hands of the public is essential.

We should be thinking about how to make the most of the SEC opportunity. It could be a critical plank in a Climate Jobs Guarantee. We should push for full public ownership and then to grow its scope and power so that we can get the rent-seeking parasites out of our energy system and build one that works for the people.

Things I’m working on

Digital Rights Watch December Appeal

The end of the year is nearly upon us, and the holidays present an opportunity to do some fundraising. We’re working with a Melbourne artist to develop some fridge magnets as a reward to our donors. Our June appeal raised $20,000 which goes a long way to sustaining our work, and we’re hoping to match that this month. Hopefully, we will have final magnet designs next week, and we can launch the appeal early in December. Small donations are vital for giving us stability and independence, and growing the number of small donors has been a real focus on my work since beginning at Digital Rights Watch at the beginning of the year.

Organising Systems and CRM for Tomorrow Movement

When we started the work of building Tomorrow Movement we didn’t know what we needed because we didn’t know exactly how the movement would grow. But as the structure of the movement matures now is the time to really invest in some tools that will help facilitate the next phase of growth. There aren’t many (any?) good off the shelf digital tools for managing distributed organising programs. Good CRMs are expensive and regularly charge per user, which for grassroots groups becomes a considerable barrier to scale. If you have groups which need to have some level of autonomy over their people while also having some centralised oversight/integration, nothing quite gets it right. Last year I built a custom CRM for Helen Haines’ re-election campaign using Airtable and Stacker and got a lot of positive feedback from the leaders and groups using it. The structure of that campaign was actually quite similar to the structure of Tomorrow Movement, so I’m hoping to take from that experience and build a similar tool. It's also a good opportunity to sure-up some processes too, like how we welcome new people to the movement. Keeping track of everyone and making sure everyone gets followed up is a whole thing, you can always be doing it better. We’ve also been beta testing Daisychain, which is being built by Jon Warnow, a former 350.org colleague of mine and Nathan Woodhull who built ControlShift (the tech that powers Megaphone). They both have a lot of experience building digital tools for organisers, and we’re excited about the potential of this tool.

Privacy Reform Campaign

With the Optus and Medibank data breaches pushing privacy reform into the spotlight, the privacy reforms that are due for next year are much bigger news than they otherwise would have been. At Digital Rights Watch, we have been working on our campaign to ensure that we don’t waste this opportunity to win real privacy reform. Immediately after the Optus hack we realised we had a unique opportunity to really up the ambition on privacy reform. We did a lot of media and made sure that privacy was part of the conversation. It showed exactly why it's a risk to collect and store so much data, and everyone is doing it. We also held a briefing for our supporters to mobilise as many as we could to reach out to their MPs and show that there are people paying attention to this issue. Sam, our Program Lead, wrote a bunch of great resources including this cheat sheet on how to talk to your MP about privacy reform. The AG's department is scheduled to release a report before the end of the year which will set the direction for where the privacy fight is going to go. Sam, Lizzie and the team has been on top of this since well before I joined and have been making submissions into this process since it began under the last government. We don't really know what's in the report since it's the first since Labor won government, but we expect that a lot of big tech companies are going to fight to water down whatever they can to protect their surveillance driven business models. We know we are going to need some attention on this and some organised push to make sure that we win some meaningful privacy protections. Privacy reform isn't always sexy, but it's seriously important. People are paying more attention than ever and that is a good thing. We're working on the plan and when we finish that we'll make some resources to help people to be a part of the campaign.