26th March 2014
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
From 15-17 March 2014, a new and unprecedented protest movement took to the streets of cities and towns all over Australia, a response to public discontent with the leadership of PM Tony Abbott. Brisbane March in March lead organiser Matthew N. Donovan explains its significance:
I want to provide a wrap up of what was a very successful March in March weekend. But before I do let me say just one thing…
Well done Brisbane! You came out in force and in solidarity with others who are just as concerned about Abbott’s far right agenda, a lot of which wasn’t made clear in the Federal election campaign. You should be very proud of yourselves!
Never in the history of Australian politics has a leader fallen from grace so quickly. Why? Simple. He’s too extreme. He’s too out of step with modern Australia. He’s too arrogant. He’s too immature. He’s too divisive. He’s just not up to it or worthy of it.
He’s a man who can be completely bamboozled by a class of year 9 students.
The idea that he has a mandate for all of his agenda makes me laugh given most of it was hidden or has been abandoned following the Federal election. For a promised “no surprises, no excuses” government, he has made a shocking start and people are angry about what he has done or plans to do. They are embarrassed to have him ”’ as gaffe-prone as he is ”’ as our leader. And they just don’t trust him and his secretive ways.
When it comes to politics, both sides have people who will vote for them no matter what. The battle is always for the middle ground — but Abbott is nowhere near the middle ground. He won because the previous Government was its own worst enemy. People didn’t vote for the Coalition as much as they voted against Labor.
It is clear that, under Abbott, vested interests get a look in above all else, while he takes an axe to health, education, welfare, foreign aid, community services and public transport infrastructure funding and much more. His obsessive rush to financial surplus risks plunging us unnecessarily into recession, as our economy softens. Hockey has no idea what he is doing and regularly misrepresents Australia’s economic position, seemingly for political purposes.
Whether it is on purpose or not, who knows?
This is the sentiment that underpins the March in March movement.
The right-wing media are angry we have organised such a successful broad based protest movement, so they have gone into attack mode to protect their man in Canberra. They tried to ignore the fact that 110,000 people marched nationally but eventually they had no choice but to cover it or look foolish and irrelevant. The coverage they chose to give it was not surprising. Buried in newspapers and quick, dismissive reports on television and online.
They endeavoured to smear us. They attempted to whip up anger over a few ill-conceived signs, shirts and buttons. 2GBs Ben Fordham and the Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair attempted what could only be described as a self-interested political bucket job for John Singleton. They took a few offensive signs and talked about them for 10 minutes hoping to outage listeners sufficiently. Typical 2GB really.
Fordham was put back in his box immediately when national March in March organiser Tim Jones came on air. Tim told listeners that offensive signs were not welcome and that some people had been asked to leave as a result. You could almost hear Ben deflate as he regurgitated all his hysterical questions regarding this small minority of March attendees.
Tim Blair said it was a significant percentage of people causing issues. This is rubbish. Wishful thinking. Did he actually attend the event he was talking about? Given Blair’s record, this kind of unfounded and overblown venom against the Left is no surprise.
The blackout was most obvious in newspapers and television news. Online news ”’ especially independent news ”’ wasn’t too bad. The right-wing media purposely and systematically under-reported our attendance, by up to a factor of 6, to diminish the movement’s significance in the mind of readers, viewers, and listeners.
Let’s be clear. 110,000 thousand people of all ages organising and marching within 6 months of a new government is unprecedented. In fact, I can’t think of a bigger protest movement against a single politician in Australia’s history. In my opinion, these are the most significant protests since the Iraq War protests of 2003.
I had the pleasure, as Brisbane’s lead organiser, to hold our lead banner with a lovely 71 year old lady. It was her first protest and she was a trouper during what was a long march. Inspirational!
Many people have a visceral reaction against Tony Abbott. I, for one, can relate to that. The idea behind the movement was the rejection the entire Abbott Government agenda. Of course, this left room for people to take up their own varied personal issues and that has opened us up to some criticism.
The placards were great. I saw no offensive ones at Brisbane. Everybody was well behaved and there were no arrests. Not just in Brisbane, but nationally!
Not bad for a bunch of “looney left greenie extremists”, huh?
The right have been rattled by our ability to organise ourselves. No doubt about it. Despite Abbott’s smug response to the historic protest movement, we know he has been watching our numbers. He’s on notice.
According to Queensland Police, Brisbane attracted 20,000 marchers. Not the anaemic 3,000 News Corp Australia and some other outlets deceptively misreported.
We were honoured to have an impressive list of speakers, including refugee advocate Frederika Steen, ALP State MP Jo-Anne Miller, Greens Senator Larissa Waters, ETU state secretary Peter Simpson and written statements (both since published on IA) from prominent economics Professor John Quiggin and barrister Stephen Kiem SC.
There were a few teething problems relating to our PA system. The crowd that turned up was just too big for the provided system.
It was an uncomfortably hot day. We had no shade and I was very conscience of this throughout the day, given there were elderly people and kids present. All in all I think all went well.
I will now go back to our national committee and decide with them where we go from here. We will be sticking around. We will continue to build our numbers. Many decent Australians are relying on this movement to give voice to their frustrations. They feel that their concerns and views are being ignored; that their way of life is being destroyed.
The more the 70-percent-Murdoch-owned right-wing media kick and scream about Abbott being held to account, the more we will continue to speak out about the wrong policy direction and lies of the Abbott Government.
Matthew Donovan is a former Labor candidate for the seat of Surfers Paradise in Queensland, as well as a political commentator, freelance journalist and active campaigner. Matthew studied Journalism, International Relations and History at the University of Southern Queensland and plans to study Political Science in the near future. His interests are progressive politics, policy development, media and social media strategy.