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.

When will the Liberal Party come clean about their IR policy?

NOTE: This was first published on my personal blog on Thursday 16 August

There has been a lot of talk this year about productivity, calls for more ‘flexibility’ and strong words about the balance of the Fair Work Act.

If you only read the major daily newspapers in Australia you’d be forgiven for thinking that workers were endlessly taking industrial action and deliberately sabotaging productivity.  That is certainly the view that big business lobby groups like the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry would like to have you think, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Indeed the recent review into the operations of the Fair Work Act showed that the legislation was working as it should be working.  ACTU assistant secretary, Tim Lyons, noted in his piece on R@W News last week:

“It’s important however that we separate myth from reality on IR and productivity.  While Australia has issues with productivity it is for reasons almost entirely unconnected with labour law.”

And this

“Australia’s relatively low productivity growth is a matter for concern. However, this is a long term problem. WorkChoices didn’t fix it, and Fair Work hasn’t made it worse. Labour laws are not the cause of our productivity problems, and they’re not the solution.”

In all of the commentary around the Fair Work review and productivity, we are still yet to hear from the Liberal Party about the details of their industrial relations policy. At the 2010 election voters were told that we would be given the full details of their industrial relations policy. Instead the Coalition went into hiding on IR with Tony Abbott meekly declaring that WorkChoices was “dead, buried, cremated”.

In more recent times, a lot of things have been said about industrial relations by Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and the Liberal Party’s IR spokesperson Eric Abetz, yet we can’t necessarily take what has been said to be policy because we’re regularly told that details will be released before the next election. It certainly reminds me of Tony Abbott’s now infamous line about not believing him unless it’s written down.

However we can start to build a pretty good idea of what the Liberal Party’s industrial relations policy may look like. The most recent commentary comes from Eric Abetz and according to reports the Liberal Party is considering changes to unfair dismissal rules that would force a worker to pay court costs if they lose the case.

But this is only one such example. There are plenty more.

Back in February Tony Abbott was telling Victorian members of the Master Builders Association that a Coalition government would return to the Australian Building and Construction Commission regime. And in July this year, Mr Abbott was busy telling the Tourism & Transport Forum that he understood their needs; their needs for more flexibility with individual flexibility agreements to be more flexible.

Not only did Mr Abbott tell employers he’d deliver more flexibility he then, a week later, declared that if the Coalition were elected at the next election, workers would find he would be their best friend. Remarkable given it was only a few years ago that John Howard was declaring he was workers’ best friend before introducing WorkChoices.

With all the talk about productivity and the Coalition’s constant reference to flexibility, it’s about time the Coalition comes clean about their IR policy.