‘March in March’ – the Melbourne Rally and March, 16 March 2014

Melbourne responded to the callout (see http://marchinmarchaustralia.org/ and the Melbourne march Facebook page) with one of the largest rallies since the 2003 protests against the war in Iraq. Figures varied widely, as usual, but we are rather inclined to the upper end of the claims, or towards 50,000. It was also one of the most varied, and in recognition of this we are posting the largest selection of images so far on this site for one event. There is also a choice of thumbnail/gallery or slideshow, the latter comprising lower resolution copies. It may be in order to post a few separately:

Part of crowd at start of rally

A very small part of the rally at the State Library

Black and red flag

The holder of this flag told us it was 45 years old – dating back to moratorium days

Placard in German - 'These crimes, your blame'

International contribution

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Going Backwards under Baillieu – protest at Parliament House, Melbourne, 13 November 2011

Environmentalists gathered at Parliament House to protest at the Baillieu government’s retrogressive policies, symbolised by a backwards march down Spring Street to the Treasury Gardens, where they were welcomed by members of Occupy Melbourne. Before setting off, they heard speakers including Mark Wakeham of Environment Victoria, one of the groups organising the event, along with the Victorian National Parks Association, The Wilderness Society, and Friends of the Earth; Kate Tubbs, Bacchus Marsh teacher and farmer defending her farm from coal-mining;Luke Chamberlain, Victorian Forest Campaigner, The Wilderness Society; Cam Walker, Campaigns Coordinator, Friends of the Earth; and Matt Ruchel, Executive Director, Victorian National Parks Association. There is a report by Takver on Melbourne Indymedia and photos on the FoE Flickr Photostream. See also http://www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1024 and http://www.environmentvictoria.org.au/media/backwards-march-urges-baillieu-government-change-direction-environment

Mark Wakeham began proceedings by listing the ‘shocking decisions’ the Baillieu government
had made, inviting the rally to ‘vote’ by boos to select the worst. The list ranged form the return of cows to the Alpine National Park, support and approval for the new HRL coal-fired power station, through extending the duck hunting season, logging the habitat of endangered species, imposing crippling restrictions on the building of wind farms, and so on and so on. See further http://www.environmentvictoria.org.au/blog/posts/baillieu-government

Kate Tubbs recounted how there had been no objections to the mining exploration at Bacchus Marsh, simply because no-one in the are had known anything about it: “There are 29000 people in the Moorabool shire, and not one person objected against this exploration licence, because we did not know it was happening… The stealth stunned us. I was the first one to find out because they actually needed to come on to our land and I had refused…” (See article in The Age and Moorabool environment group website)

Cam Walker discussed the government’s wrecking of the wind energy program in Victoria. Wind energy was one of ‘only two so-called environment policies which the Coalition had brought to the last election, and they had implemented it in its entirety, which was entirely bad news for Victoria. He saw it as clearly based on political deals and ideology and not on common sense, not on good science and certainly not on best practice management of anything. (There is a detailed analysis of the implications of the Baillieu government’s wind energy policies on the FoE website – What is the real cost of Ted Baillieu’s wind energy policy? ) He was loudly applauded when he said that under the Baillieu government’s policies we would have no more community wind farms, and for his own part, he would rather a community cooperative owned his energy and sold it to him rather than International Power down at Hazlewood…

Matt Ruchel stressed Victoria’s unique richness in terrestrial and marine species ‘but it’s also one of the most stressed places in Australia’. Many scientific reports over the last 20 years had shown that Victoria had a high number of threatened species, with very little native vegetation left compared with other places around the country. ‘But what we’ve seen in the last 12 months is a real concerning trend – the first act almost of the Baillieu government when they came to power was to essentially sneak cattle back into the Alpine National Park in January last year’ [subsequently blocked by the federal government]. He went on to list massive expansion into the green Wedges -’the lungs of Melbourne, but also some of the last remaining areas of grassland, the most endangered ecosystem in the country’ with as little as 1% left; attacks on the national parks, emending red gum legislation and abolishing the ban on collecting firewood. See further http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-22/anger-over-firewood-collection-plan/2911004 and generally on the VPNA website.

Luke Chamberlain dealt with the government’s record in the forests: ‘About two months ago .. the Baillieu state government, through its logging apparatus VicForests, sent the bulldozers into Leadbeater’s [possum] habitat (http://leadbeaters.org.au/)and started trashing the forest at Sylvia Creek outside Toolangi (loud boos). (See eg report in Green Left Weekly). These forests, he said, were special, they were the last home for a myriad of endangered species, this particular area was one the small amount of forest that did not get burnt during the 2009 fires … See more on the website of the Wilderness society and here.

Excerpts from the speeches on YouTube:

Stop HRL Protest – Treasury Place, Melbourne, 11 April 2011

Banner at Treasury Place - 'Don't fund more coal power'

The Stop HRL collective called a rally at Federation Square for 9.30am on Monday 11 April, but what they didn’t announce was that a number of activists would be attempting to occupy a Government building at that time …

The same banner at Federation Square

Setting up for the 'Rally at Federation Square'

So the event began as a rally setting up at Federation Square, but almost at once the word came to march up to Treasury Place, where five activists were now locked on to a steel ladder in the foyer of No 1, which houses both State and Federal offices. They had entered without hindrance and were now refusing to leave until their demands were met, including a halt to funding for a new coal-fired power station in the LaTrobe Valley, and the redirection of the money towards developing renewable energy sources.

Some of the activists were successful in getting an unscheduled meeting with Energy Minister Michael O’Brien – at one point it was reported that Victorian Government business had come to a halt because the whole cabinet was holed up inside the building unable to leave – though in the event he was not in any mind to give the required commitments.In terms of media interest generated, however, the action was an overwhelming success, and surely laid a basis for wider community involvement. There is a survey of media coverage on the StopHRL website, and a gallery of photos from the day at http://www.flickr.com/photos/61659025@N02/.

Once outside the building, the rally heard from a succession of speakers: Dr Merryn Redenbach for Stop HRL, Julien Vincent from Greenpeace, Naomi Hogan of Rising Tide Newcastle), Vivien Langford of Beyond Zero Emissions, and Drew Hutton of Lock the Gate, as well as updates via mobile phone from the people inside. There was also music from the Riff Raff Radical Marching Band from Sydney, and long-term activist comedian Rod Quantock was a welcome guest speaker, followed by a members of the rally taking advantage of the open mic. There was a long wait, and the police line had to be relieved at lunchtime, which meant that Beyond Zero Emissions representatives had an opportunity to repeat their presentation of the technology of solar-thermal baseload generation for the benefit of those who had missed out the first time round. It was reported at one point that the minister had agreed to come down and meet the protesters in view of the rally, but this was later withdrawn, and eventually there was agreement that he would meet three in his office, and the others would leave, along with supporters who had kept them company inside. The whole process lasted the best part of four and a half hours, and the five certainly deserved every cheer they received when they emerged.

The media summary on StopHRL includes links to TV footage, but longer excerpts from the speeches and other parts of the action will be posted here shortly.* There is also a report on Melbourne Indymedia, sourced from Friends of the Earth and others.

From the callout:

The company HRL is planning a new coal-fired power station in Victoria, and the state & federal governments have committed $150 million towards it. This money should be funding Victoria’s future renewable energy industries.

Over the last couple of months the Stop HRL campaign has been building community awareness and preparing to mobilise in the likely event that the EPA approves this new power station. The latest news is that this application process has been dragging on because the EPA requested more information from HRL before completed their assessment, and HRL has been very slow in providing this information – the EPA is still waiting.

The Stop HRL collective was originally planning to respond once the EPA had approved the project, but this delay has enabled us to go on the front foot.

This coming weekend, the 3rd annual national grassroots climate summit is on in Melbourne (which we highly recommend – check out the program & RSVP here: http://www.climatesummit.org.au). As part of this summit, climate activists will be coming from across Australia to join our protest.

The action will be the culmination of the national grassroots climate action summit.

It will be a rally with a range of impressive speakers. And to kick off our media campaign, some people will take peaceful, dignified and inspiring direct action close to the rally to highlight the strength of community commitment to stop this proposal.

Please sign up to our contact list at http://www.stophrl.org, forward to your local group members and ask at least one friend or colleague to sign up too.

Drew Hutton speaking

Drew Hutton of Lock the Gate

Activists in foyer seen through window

Shaun Murray, sitting, and others locked on to ladder

Activist fronting the media outside the building

Media interviews afterwards

*

Stop HRL banner - link to video

Click here for video