Somewhere between 80 and 100 thousand unionists and supporters blocked the centre of Melbourne, filling Bourke Street from Elisabeth to Russell, and Swanston Street from Collins to Lonsdale – not as many as last November, but still a very respectable turnout for what was not in fact a stop-work protest. (One group at least among the protesters believed it should have been, with calls for general strike following the example of workers in France – see photos below.) Marchers assembled first at four points – Trades Hall, Federation Square, Parliament House, and Spencer Street (Southern Cross Station) – where various speakers addressed them, before converging on the Bourke Street/Swanston Street intersection for the main event. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley, Trades Hall secretary Brian Boyd, and ACTU president Sharan Burrow were the main speakers here, followed by, amongst others, a succession of workers telling their experiences of the operation of the new laws. The Trades Hall choir led singing of the ‘Struggle Song’ and Mark Seymour led a rendering of ‘Light on the Hill’ The mainstream media were there in force, and there was extensive video footage on the commercial channels as well as the ABC and SBS. One advantage they had over the rest of us was access to helicopters to show the full extent of the rally, and above all the truly enormous version of the Eureka flag held horizontally by an army of helpers.
The photos below are pretty much self-explanatory:
After the march we caught a glimpse of a rare conjunction: Socialist Alternative and Family First side by side: