‘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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Rally and march against the Napthine Government’s ‘Silencing Act’ – 18 February 2014

The Napthine Government’s Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 provoked a vigorous reponse from unionists and others who see it as an attack on their rights to assembly, to express their views in a democratic society – in other words, to protest. The following statement issued by the Human Rights Law Centre sums up the position:

New Victorian move-on powers unreasonably limit free speech and protest rights

30 January 2014

Proposed new ‘move-on’ powers for police in Victoria will unreasonably limit human rights and are susceptible to misuse.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, said protest rights and free speech are particularly threatened, but the proposed laws may also have an impact on young people and the homeless.

“These laws go too far. Police already have considerable powers when it comes to handling protests and public order issues. They don’t these additional wide reaching and vague powers to move people on. The potential for misuse is very high,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Victorian Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee is currently reviewing the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 which will significantly expand the grounds on which police can order a person to move-on from a public place and will wind back safeguards that limit the use of move on powers in protest situations.

“Police will be able to move someone on if they suspect that the person has committed any offence in a public place in the last 12 hours. There is no requirement for any connection between the offence and a threat to public order or safety. So for example, a protester could be barred from an area if a police officer simply thought that in the last 12 hours they had done something as basic as jaywalked or failed to validate their tram ticket,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Bill also allows police to ask a court to make an order excluding someone who has been subject to multiple ‘move-on’ directions from a particular public place for up to 12 months.

The HRLC is particularly concerned about the potential for the move on powers to be used in protest situations as the Bill winds back existing exceptions for picketing and protesting.

“Police already have a range of powers to arrest, detain and charge people for things like trespass, obstruction, breach of the peace and property damage to name a few. The Government simply hasn’t made the case that these new, broad, sweeping powers are necessary,” said Mr de Kretser.

Under the Bill, a person who breaches a move on order can be arrested and fined over $700. A person who breaches an exclusion order can be imprisoned for up to 2 years.

“Following on from the excessive Queensland G20 legislation, this Bill is another example of governments across the country eroding Australians’ right to free speech. The Bill should not be passed,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Government has acknowledged that the Bill has the potential to restrict the rights to freedom of movement, assembly, expression and association but argues that any restriction is justified under Victoria’s Human Rights Charter. The Committee’s role is to report to the Victorian Parliament on whether the Bill is compatible with human rights.

A copy of the HRLC’s submission can be found here.

A copy of the Bill can be found here.

Reports on the protest give the numbers attending at variously ‘up to 2000′ (The Herald Sun – an account not entirely free of loaded language) and ‘Several thousand’ (Nine Network). The Victorian Trades Hall Council, which organised the event through its We Are Union network, claimed ‘nearly 4000 unionists and community activists’. The footage immediately below shows the march in its entirety passing a single vantage point, which should give a fairly good idea of its size.[Note - the opening caption reads 'Marching up Bourke Street'. Obviously this should be '...down Russell Street'...]

The march was preceded by a rally at Trades Hall, where it was addressed by Brian Boyd, VTHC Secretary, and MUA Secretary Kevin Bracken, and ended at Parliament, where there were further speakers:Father Bob Maguire, Anna Brown (Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation, Human Rights Law Centre), Greens MLC Sue Pennicuik, and Paramedic and Union Delegate Morgyn McCarthy. MC was Luke Hilakari, VTHC Campaigns Industrial Officer.

All these speakers were inspiring, but there was as always something special about Father Bob, and for that reason his speech is recorded here in full (camera work a little shaky at the start, but there was a lot of competition for spaces up the front…):

CFMEU Grocon Rally and March, 30 April 2013

Banner at head of march - Safety for Grocon Workers NOW

The march starting off from Trades Hall

In defiance of threats of thousand-dollar fines for taking part, as many as ten thousand construction workers rallied at Trades Hall this morning before marching to the sites of recent fatal accidents involving construction giant Grocon – the collapse of a wall in Swanston Street where three passers-by were crushed to death, and the Myer site in Lonsdale Street where long-time CFMEU member Bill Ramsay fell to his death on February 18th last. The march was self-disciplined and silent, in addition to the observing of a minute’s silence at each of the locations, with only a short burst of chanting at the end, outside the offices of WorkSafe in Exhibition Street. Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Brian Boyd addressed the rally briefly at the start, and at the end introduced the Victorian Secretaries of the CFMEU (John Setka), the ETU (Troy Gray), the PTEU (Earl Setches) and the AMWU (Steve Dargavel).

As well as the construction workers the rally was joined by members of a range of other unions, and banners of, amongst others, the MUA, ANF, TCFUA, NTEU, AMWU, ASU, CEPU, CPSU and United Voice can be seen in the photos below. There were also representatives of the IWW, The Socialist Party, and Socialist Alliance, as well as members of the public and university students – two of those killed by the wall collapse were students at Melbourne University.

Some reports of the rally:

The Age
The Newcastle Herald

The Australian

The PTEU website

The CFMEU website

See also http://www.cfmeuvic.com.au/your-union/message-from-the-secretary/the-community-deserves-answers

More background:

http://www.theage.com.au/photogallery/victoria/brick-wall-collapse-20130328-2gwuq.html

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/like-some-bomb-going-off-two-killed-as-wall-collapses-in-winds-20130328-2gxam.html

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/french-family-visit-wall-site-20130406-2hdva.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grocon#Swanston_St_wall_incident

http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/53801

Union workplace safety placards

(These shots can also be viewed as a slideshow on YouTube)