A non-partisan nationwide protest against the Abbott Government’s policies attracted 1500 people to a rally at North Wollongong on Sunday.
For some it was their first march since the 70s, but for many it was the only time they had ever publicly voiced their concerns.
Carrying placards that read ‘Hands off our Medicare’ and chanting ‘Stand up and fight back’ the crowd expressed a range of emotions from anger, frustration and embarrassment particularly over the treatment of asylum seekers.
‘‘The last time I marched was for equal pay (for women) and that was a long time ago,’’ Gerringong’s Bea Hodgson said.
The 74-year-old said she was ashamed at the way asylum seekers were treated, but was also angry with the government’s stance over climate change and inaction over educational reforms.
‘‘I have nine grandchildren and I want them to have a good education and to live in a country that looks after those less fortunate,’’ Ms Hodgson said.
While union representatives and environmentalists were present at the rally, organisers of March in March ensured that the event was not taken over by any political party. The movement, which began in January via social media, now has 45,000 members.
Wollongong organiser Nathaniel Harris said the rally was a group of ordinary Australians participating in democracy.
‘‘We’re trying to get politicians to do a better job,’’ Mr Harris said.
Jan Walsh, 68 drove up from Berry with four friends.
‘‘I think this Government has no conscious and I’m particularly concerned about the attack on Tasmanian forests,’’ she said.
It was the first ever march for 62 year old Berry social worker Nessie Barrett.
‘‘The way we treat asylum seekers has incensed me to the point where I think I can no longer not do something about it,’’ she said.
Former high school teacher Alice Weber, who hasn’t marched for 40 years, said she was outraged over a range of policies.
‘‘I’m just so disappointed with what’s going on in our country,’’ she said. ‘‘ The cutbacks in early childhood learning for Aboriginal children for example shows we’re picking on people who can’t help themselves.’’
A statement of no confidence in the Abbott Government will be delivered to Parliament House on Monday.
Abbott, Rinehart cop blasts in Sydney protest
Socialists, it seems, are not made of sugar.
Thunderstorms followed by drenching autumnal showers did not deter a loose collection of anti-Abbott government activists from gathering at central Sydney's Belmore Park on Sunday to protest Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stance on asylum-seekers, the environment, industrial relations, free trade and gay marriage.
The gathering, which was matched by similar events around Australia, was a left-wing echo of the infamous ‘‘Convoy of No Confidence’’ rallies held against Julia Gillard's former Labor government, at which Mr Abbott and other Coalition MPs appeared alongside offensive signs, to much public criticism.
The signs at the rally ranged from those comparing Mr Abbott with Hitler, to placards calling him ‘‘gutless’’ and one simply portaying a pair of Speedos with a giant red line crossed through them.
Another referred to Mr Abbott’s history as a boxer, reading: ‘‘To a pugilist, every problem looks like an un-protected head’’.
Seven speakers addressed the crowd before marching began, a number which seemed a little cruel given the inclement weather.
Emcee Matt Wakefield, a Sydney comedian, warmed up the crowd with a reference to the ‘‘shameful, racist, homophobic...f--king a--hole that is Tony Abbott’’.
British singer Billy Bragg, currently on tour in Australia, was a surprise guest. He sang a song and lamented the recent remarks mining magnate Gina Rinehart made praising former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
All mentions of Ms Rinehart’s name were met with booing.
Cat Rose, the convenor of Community Action Against Homophobia, said that ‘‘it’s pretty clear that Tony Abbott’s homophobia alone disqualifies him from government’’.
March in March national convenor Tim Jones said according to initial reports from ‘‘news sources’’, 112,000 people had attended about 20 marches around the nation, with 12,000 turning up in Sydney.
No official police figures on attendance numbers were available.
smh.com.au, Jacqueline Maley