Australia; Tens of thousands march
against attacks on workers
Adam Morton and others
Today was a huge victory for
working people across Australia. Reports are still coming in,
but there has been a massive show of union strength against the
Howard Government's attacks. Up to 120,000 in Melbourne; around
10-15,000 in Geelong; 5,000 in Adelaide; 15- 20,000 in Perth;
3,000 in Hobart; more reports to come (see end of email for
for media coverage)
Up to 20,000 packed King George
Square in Brisbane, with large contingents of 2000 or more each
from the Electrical Trades Union, the AMWU, the BLF/CFMEU, and
Transport Workers all marching to the square. The final
contingents could not get in to the square - it was packed out -
so stood in Ann St and packed out the church grounds across the
road! There were also significant numbers from the Qld Teachers
Union, ASU, CPSU, Nurses Union and many more.
The QLD Council of Unions estimates
regional rallies as:
* Rockhampton -2000
* Gladstone - 2000
* Cairns - 2000
* Townsville - 700
* Mackay -1200
The centre of Melbourne has
come to a standstill with up to 120,000 protesters filling Swanston
Street to fight the Howard Government's proposed workplace laws.
Opposition Leader Kim
Beazley was hugged and cheered as he waded into the crowd as it moved
from Trades Hall in Lygon Street, Carlton to Flinders Street Station.
The crowd, a cross-section
of blue and white-collar workers, many with children, chanted "Shame
Howard, shame'' and "Beazley's our man'' as the Labor leader joined his
deputy, Jenny Macklin, and union chiefs at the head of the march.
Others chanted: "What do we
want? Howard's head!''
One marcher held up a large
doll, wearing a fairy costume and a John Howard mask, prompting calls of
"Burn, Johnny, burn'' from the crowd.
Banners and purple Heath
Services Union balloons bearing the slogan "Stronger together'' dotted
the crowd, which stretched as far as the eye could see. Union leaders
estimated there were 100,000 marchers.
Mr Beazley, who was wearing
several union badges, briefly told reporters the turnout would send a
strong message to the Howard Government over its workplace law plans,
which include changes to unfair dismissal laws for small business.
Victorian Trades Hall
Council secretary Brian Boyd said the march was one of the biggest trade
union actions Melbourne had seen.
"John Howard is as welcome
in Melbourne as a redback spider on a dunny seat,'' he told the crowd.
Australian Workers Union
secretary Bill Shorten - touted as a future Labor leader - said the
protesters had come as "100,000 voices of a powerful army'' to say no to
the industrial relations overhaul.
"I've got one piece of
advice for the Prime Minister today - bring it on," Mr Shorten told
protesters before they left Lygon Street .
"If he wants to take on
ordinary employees and their families, he is digging his own political
graveyard and we will attend the burial.''
Mr Shorten described the
Government as a "band of robbers'' for its attempts to do away with
To loud cheers, he asked the
crowd: "Today is not the beginning of the start. Today is the start of
the end for the Prime Minister, isn't it?''
"We're ready . . . we'll
take your job if you want to take our job. Good on ya." Australian
Education Union state secretary Mary Bluett said the legislation was
unjust and a return to a "master-servant" era under a bullying
"Just as we saw (former
premier Jeff) Kennett on his way in his union-smashing agenda, we will
also be here strong and in large numbers when Howard is kicked out the
door," she said. Unionists rally in Swanston Street.
Workers Union secretary Dave Oliver said he had a message for employers.
"We'll continue to fight
this. We'll down tools, we'll go out into the street,'' he said. "Don't
use these laws, or else.''