“Stop work and Rally” said the posters, and they did – certainly the largest protest on Melbourne’s streets since the anti-war march of 14 Feb 2003, and biggest union demonstration since the Kennett days.
Proceedings began according to tradition with speeches at Trades Hall, beginning with Mary Bluett for the education workers – today was their 10th birthday – and Lisa Fitzpatrick of the nurses. But the streets were already crowded long before, with the largest assembly of MFB workers anybody could remember seeing, massing further up Victoria Parade before joning the march with their magnificent banner. But the length of the march still took me unawares – it set off pretty much at the scheduled time of 10.30, and the tail end arrived at Bourke St at 11.38 – and the rest of Swanston St was then blocked as far as Flinders St station. By the time I got down to Flinders St via laneways the speeches – including an address by Federal ALP leader Kim Beazley – were just winding up, and I had met quite a few marchers who had evidently decided to go home rather than listen to him … (I overheard one saying he had been hoping to see him – Beazley – dragged off the truck.) That was also when the rain began to kick in.
A feature of this rally, like the big anti-war one, was the number and range of groups represented, including a large number from regional Victoria, and also the number of individuals who had taken the time to express their feelings through home-made placards.
At the major anti-VSU rally back in April, CFMEU leader Martin Kingham issued a challenge to students to support this rally, saying “Your fight is our fight”. I saw one group that had clearly answered the call, and there were obviously a lot of young people in the march, but surely room for improvement on that score.
[Other reports of the day originally referred to here, eg on Melbourne Indymedia and the Trades Hall website, have unfortunately since become unavailable.]
Even before the march set off the leading banner was well down Russell Street towards La Trobe Street. Health workers led the way:
Education unions, especially the NTEU, were a major component of the rally, along with construction workers and the health sector:
As well as the representatives of the TCFUA there was also this reminder of a particularly vulnerable group – outworkers: