Workers show anger at Industrial Relations legislation

Last week, we reported on the half-day general strike and workers’ rallies in Melbourne, on 30 June, in protest at the new Industrial Relations legislation brought in by the right wing John Howard government. This legislation is an attack on workplace conditions and rights and is widely opposed. This is indicated by the big fall in support for Howard. According to an ACNielsen poll, published by the Sydney Morning Herald, the prime minister’s approval rating has suffered its biggest single fall since he took office in March 1996, dropping 10% from a month ago to 49%. As the Financial Times remarked: “A plan by John Howard to turn Australia into one of the world’s most deregulated workplaces has cost him.” (FT, London, 6 July, 2005).

There were also protests across Australia, on 30 June. Anthony Maine rounds up the activities.

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Nation-wide workers’ protests against government

It is difficult to estimate how many turned out in Perth to protest against the Inland Revenue (IR) attacks on working people. Some estimate between 15,000 -20,000. It was certainly one of the biggest rallies in Perth for years. What is not hard to estimate is the widespread anger and determination to fight these IR laws. The turn out was far in excess of what anyone expected, especially since many right wing unions did nothing to inform their members and even some supposed strong unions! The more militant unions had excellent turn outs. Building and Maritime unions were in force. Unions representing workers in mining have had excellent turn outs through out the state in places like the Pilbara.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President, Sharan Burrow, told protesters their rights and wages would be stripped away under the laws.

But, hypocritically, WA Premier Geoff Gallop pledged his government’s support to the protesters. "We will fight for balance, we will fight for fairness, we will fight for the great state of Western Australia," he said. This while fighting to keep down wages in the public sector and not investing enough in services.

Despite all this, there is a mood in WA to fight back against this Howard government. Now it is time to fight for a 24-hour national strike. The mood is there for a huge response.

There were also large demonstrations in other major cities, including an estimated 15,000 converged in Brisbane, 10,000 in Geelong (regional Victoria), 7,000 in Adelaide, 4,000 in Hobart and over 1,000 in Darwin. Many other smaller rallies were held in regional centres across the country.

New South Wales had a demonstration on 1 July, which saw about 20,000 workers march through Sydney to the Harbour Bridge.

Committee for a workers' International publications

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