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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 more) (see 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 collective bargaining.

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 government.

"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.

Australian Manufacturing 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.''


June 2005


For some background on these protests see Sam Wainwright's Turn Up the Heat

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