One person’s take on what March in March was all about

Over the last weekend (15-17 March) hundreds of thousands of people across Australia got together and marched against the Tony Abbott-leg government, under the banner of March in March.

There were many questions about who organised March in March and what were its motives and supposed outcomes. There was some quite good discussion about these questions in the lead up to March in March. But across the weekend hundreds of thousands of Australians marched.

They marched for various reasons.

I was fortunate enough to attend Melbourne’s March in March which started out at the State Library before heading off to Treasury Gardens. As it turned out there were tens of thousands of Australians packed into the gardens out the front of the State Library and around Melbourne Central. Some estimates suggest there were between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

It was a fantastic gathering of people from all walks of life and political persuasions.

I soon realised it didn’t really matter what March in March was all about but rather that this collective expression needed to happen.

People that had never met each other were discussing why they were there. And it turns out people had a variety of reasons but the theme was definitely overwhelming; the Abbott government is unsatisfactory and hurting people. It seemed that the people I was surrounded by were mostly there because of our treatment of refugees; our country going backwards on climate change; the expansion of CSG and opening up heritage forests to logging; and the attacks on single parents, students, aged and disability pensions.

There were others that I knew were there for those reasons and the attacks on workers’ rights and unions; and the education.

Personally I was there because:

  • Our country is going backwards in tackling climate change and isn’t moving towards an economy powered by clean energy and driven by innovation;
  • Our government has abandoned science;
  • Our government’s reckless austerity measures in the face of all evidence saying austerity is not necessary – ensuring the most vulnerable are put further at risk;
  • The policies of Labor and LNP towards refugees now sees some of the cruelest policies being implemented;
  • Of the attacks on workers’ rights and unions;
  • Our government doesn’t value the investment that education is in our population;
  • Of the increasing attacks on our digital rights and the implementation of a second-rate broadband network;
  • Of a government that panders to mining magnates and media moguls;
  • Our government seems to regularly embarrass us on the international stage;
  • A seeming lack of detail in articulating any kind of plan or vision for Australia without resorting to three word slogans.

There are definitely more but then this post would be very long and probably quite boring to read.

However I’m also confident that you can add your own reasons to this list for going to a March in March event held near you.

In the end it didn’t really matter why people were there; just that they did turn out to make this massive collective expression. I know it made me feel extremely positive and that the issues I work on and campaign for do matter and do make a difference. It was something that everyone there could enjoy – that they weren’t alone in feeling that something was very wrong with our federal and state governments.

The challenge, as noted by others, is for people working on progressive issues to turn this collective expression into further action.

For what it’s worth:

Here’s some video I took from the rally – this was well after the march had started but it was so massive it took some time before we got moving. Fortunately some street performers kept us entertained and revved up.

NOTE: This is a slightly altered version of the original post published here.

Worst government in history

Photo: Drink Tank

Photo: Drink Tank

As noted by contributor Möbius Echo,

They are racking up the worsts, this government.

Worst PM ever;
Worst FM;
Worst Immigration Minister;
Worst Eleventy Minister;

. . . and all their other ministers, everyone the worst performers in their portfolios;
the worst Speaker ever by a long shot, was also the worst Minister in all the portfolios she was bounced around, like her Health Ministership where she supported tobacco advertising;

. . . and the worst government ever in the shortest time ever.

By the way what is it with the Liberals and their support for the tobacco industry. They go on with faux concern about asylum seekers drowning but have no problems supporting an industry that kills tens of thousands of Australians each year. Bloody murderers.

And now to add to the “worst” list . . .

An organisation that has been advising Australian governments on alcohol and drug policy for almost half a century shut its doors on Friday.

The Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, which has operated since 1966, was placed in voluntary administration in November after Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash decided it would receive no further funding.

Would this be on a par with closing down the Healthy food star ratings website?  And yes it seems that it was Nash herself who was in the thick of it.

The senior government bureaucrat in charge of the new healthy food star ratings has been stripped of responsibility for the program.

The change comes after the healthy food star rating website was published and then quickly taken down at the insistence of federal Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash and her chief of staff.

No accidents there, and although Alastair Furnival became the fall guy, it was Nash herself; with Furnival clearly having her full support.

A powerful food industry lobby group says it contacted Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash to raise concerns about a Government food star rating website the same day it was pulled down.

Mike Daube, spokesman on alcohol, Public Health Association of Australia: ”It just beggars belief that a minister responsible for alcohol seems to be taking policy decisions without talking with any of the key groups,”.

Does it beggar belief?  Or rather is this decision somewhat aligned to Nash’s decision to take down the healthy food star rating website?

Mr Furnival resigned two weeks ago following revelations about his role in taking down a healthy food rating website and his co-ownership of a company that had lobbied for the junk food industry. The company had also performed work for the liquor industry as recently as 2012.

Therefore not content with trashing and the intended trashing of the working conditions and wages of all of us:  Today (19th February), data released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show annual wage growth is at the lowest level since records started in 1997 – even lower than during the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. . . wage growth is so weak, it has fallen below inflation meaning we now have real wage deflation – and clearly the health and wellbeing of Australians is of insignificant concern to this government compared with $s from those with vested interests – plus trashing Australia’s reputation on climate change, and that is aside from our reputation on the treatment of asylum seekers, there are the other issues which will only serve to reduce the quality of life plus the living standards of all Australians.

The Australian government is insulting the sovereignty of other countries with plans to dismantle its climate change policies. . .

Lord Deben, head of the UK Committee on Climate Change told RTCC that Australia’s attitude to reducing its carbon emissions was “very sad” and “something I feel very personally about.”

“It lets down the whole British tradition that a country should have become so selfish about this issue that it’s prepared to spoil the efforts of others and to foil what very much less rich countries are doing,” he said.

Worst government in history?  This is not only the direction in which we are heading, but we’ve arrived.

Abbott’s health

While aspiring to be prime minister Tony Abbott promised:

The Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has reiterated that if elected he wants to secure the jobs of today and build the jobs of tomorrow. He’s told AM there will be no cuts to education, health or pensions, and that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s talk of a $70 billion black hole will be proved wrong. The Coalition is preparing to outline how it intends to balance the budget should it win on Saturday.

The above pledge made on the 5th September must have been one of the most short-lived in political history, as by the 22nd September, and as reported by news.com:

The Coalition will also begin unwinding key “nanny state” agencies such as the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, established to lead the national fight against obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use . . .

Two major health agencies – the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the year-old National Health Performance Authority – are under review and could have their combined budgets – of around $40 million a year – slashed.

Create jobs?  Protect the health of the nation? Nanny state?  Let’s not forget the obligatory derogatory put-down, just for emphasis.  It could of course be argued that these are not cuts to health per se, just the services aligned to health such as preventative care.  It gets worse.

27th November via the Sydney Morning Herald:

One of the nation’s oldest health organisations has been placed in voluntary administration after its funding was cut by the government.

The Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, which has operated since 1966, learned on Monday its funding would cease immediately.

President of the council’s board, former Liberal MP Mal Washer, said the decision was a ”devastating blow” that would undermine years of work.

There is yet more devastation for the health of Australia, with details going mostly under-reported such as:

The loss of funding for Sunshine Coast Institute of TAFE’s $63million Health and Social Wellbeing Learning Precinct means the region will miss out on more than 300 job opportunities.

Local member, Mal Brough of course blamed Labor.

A major blow to public health followed which brings us to the precise lie, that it is not just organisations which provide preventative care and education, but that health has been cut, and cut directly to public hospitals.  It was a dire warning from some that one should look at Tony Abbott’s stint as Health Minister to note what his likely attitude towards health would be.  We have all read about the $1 billion dollars gutted from public health, but there is also this:

He (Abbott) saw health as a matter of individual choice, and ill-health in medical terms around the prevention and cure of particular diseases.

Abbott is therefore worse than anticipated, not only clearly perceiving things such as alcohol and drug prevention as “luxuries” Australia cannot afford, but has cut precisely into public health, where it is clear that lives will be put at risk:

NSW will miss out on more than $150 million in funding for vital health services that has been cut by the federal government.

“This is bad news for public hospital patients” 

People living in western Sydney will be hardest hit by the cuts, with Westmead Hospital losing $100 million over three years. The Children’s Medical Research Institute and the Westmead Millennium Institute will also lose tens of millions of dollars.

It is an expectation that in wealthy country such as Australia, that an obligation of any government would include to “tackle chronic diseases, provide faster access to newly approved medicines, invest in Australia’s medical workforce and prepare the health system for the demographic changes ahead“.  Perhaps included might be “a four-fold increase in medical research funding“.  The Millennium Institute, is one of the largest medical research institutes in Australia working on cancer and leukemia research has had $12 million slashed from it’s funding.

Note:  the above quote is  from The Coalition’s Policy to Support Australia’s Health System will . . . The Coalition will?  It seems that the Coalition won’t.