Illawarra workers join Bust the Budget rally

Hundreds of Illawarra workers joined a sea of protesters in Sydney’s CBD on Sunday to march against the federal government’s budget.

Strong contingents of the region’s nurses and teachers, as well as the Save Medicare action group, attended the so-called ‘‘Bust the Budget’’ rally, which assembled at Town Hall in the early afternoon.

Up to 15,000 protesters turned out for the march and aired their criticisms on a variety of controversial budget measures including the $7 GP visit co-payment, changes to jobless benefits, a higher pension age and the deregulation of university fees.

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said the event was a chance for the community to show the Senate their outrage.

‘‘We call on all Senators - but in particular the new Senators - to take note of the outrage in the community with this attack on the Australian way of life and to remind them that no-one was elected to do this,’’ Mr Rorris said.

‘‘They need to represent the people because the federal government certainly has not.’’

Protesters listened to a number of speakers, including union secretaries, students, health professionals and welfare rights advocates, before marching with placards in-hand along George and Market Streets.

Mr Rorris said the large number of protesters was indicative of how unfair people consider the changes.

‘‘It was a very pleasing [turnout] from the Illawarra - strong as always - and it just goes to show the depth of feeling in our community about this unfair attack on working people in this country,’’ he said.

‘‘If we can get these numbers now when the affects of the budget haven’t come in, then this government is in for one hell of a shock after people start feeling the pain of the measures that they want to bring in.’’

The Bust the Budget rally was one of several being held simultaneously in major cities around the country.

Abbott puppet leads rally cry against budget

Concept instigator Matthew Armstrong, performer Hemlock Mejarne and director Robin Davidson work on the final touches on a Tony Abbott puppet. Picture: JEFFREY CHAN

Concept instigator Matthew Armstrong, performer Hemlock Mejarne and director Robin Davidson work on the final touches on a Tony Abbott puppet. Picture: JEFFREY CHAN

Tony Abbott will be seen standing tall at a rally on Sunday, but a puppet made in the 28th prime minister's likeness won't be flattering.

About 10 "creatives", from musicians to theatre crew, incensed by the federal government's first budget in May, have created a three-metre puppet which will have red LED lights and a smoke machine delicately inserted in its rear end. 

The man behind the idea, early childhood teacher Matthew Armstrong, said the aim was to make a policy rather than personal point. 

"The intent of the whole puppet is not to demonise Mr Abbott, just to present a character with pants on fire," Mr Armstrong said. 

'Pants on fire': The Tony Abbott puppet during the Bust the Budget rally on the front lawn of Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday. Picture: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

'Pants on fire': The Tony Abbott puppet during the Bust the Budget rally on the front lawn of Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday. Picture: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

"There's been some times where's there been some gross puppeteering around ... and [older activists I've spoken to] said, 'don't play the person really hard'."

The puppet head, made from lightweight foam and complete with an unmistakeable Abbott grin, still had to have a painted muslin skin added when Mr Armstrong joined two others to finish the construction on Friday morning. 

To add some drama, the mask-wearer at the rally will repeatedly rip up velcro-bound signs echoing Mr Abbott's "no cuts" pre-election promises.

Mr Armstrong, who said he's no longer a union member, offered the puppet for the Unions ACT-organised Bust the Budget rally at the lawns of Parliament House from noon. 

Speakers will include St Vincent de Paul chief executive John Falzon and the Refugee Action Committee's John Minns. 

The Coalition has been widely attacked for breaching promises with policies including a $7 GP co-payment, an increase to the fuel excise, and future changes to the pension age and rates. 

The government has said the measures are necessary to return the budget - which has a $49.9 billion deficit this year - to surplus by 2018-19. 

theage.com.au

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